What If…?

Edited by Jai Santhoshi.S

Designed by Rohit Reddy

Time. Space. Reality. It’s more than a linear path. It’s a prism of endless possibilities. Where a single choice can branch out into infinite realities, creating alternate worlds from the ones you know. Each, a reflection of what could have been. I am the Watcher. I am your guide through these vast new realities. Follow me and dare to face the unknown and ponder the question: What if?

Picture this: in another earth similar to ours, life has been brought to a standstill by a pandemic. Sounds familiar? Wait for it. In this world, Tim Berners Lee is the owner of the successful Wild West Wok chain of restaurants, beloved for its delicious entrée L’Internet. What change does this make to the cosmological continuum, you may ask? Well, long story short: the dot-com boom as we know it here has never occurred in this world that I speak of. That’s right, the internet, as you may know, has never existed in any form besides a dish. 

Now, having gotten that out of the way, let’s move on. With no viable mode of teaching directly to thousands of students across the country, the insti admin is under pressure, like other educationists worldwide, to take quick action to continue the course of education. This might come in the form of building new hostel buildings, installing hundreds of computer systems and taking measures to facilitate social distancing amongst 8500 students along with faculty and staff on campus. Will the vast, sprawling 617-acre campus be too small to handle these cosmic demands? Within eight months, we have students returning to campus, ready to rough out the second wave inside the safety of the Insti bio-bubble. 

What about classes? To avoid mass gatherings in tinier lecture halls, the administration develops a system involving pre-recorded lectures. In the eight-month sabbatical that the students were on, the professors were hard-at-work recording semesters’ worth of lectures from their homes: a herculean task for them to become familiar with technology and practice so different from the norm. Behind every 50-minute lecture was a very bewildered professor, wondering if the video was even recording or how to edit out the part where he gets interrupted by a family member (most often, a clueless toddler). These lectures were pre-loaded into the computer systems in the Digital Learning Centre and can be accessed on a slot-wise basis by the students, who can either access them directly or copy them into USBs to watch them on their own PCs. 

Course registration weeks are perhaps the only entertaining week in terms of academics. The elective casino at P.G. Senapathi Center buzzes with all kinds of students – the studious first benchers who would know exactly what they would need for their career, the nitpicky folks who are desperate to boost their CG with ‘peace’ courses, and the weary final years who are there merely to finish their credit requirements. Everyone lines up (following the social distancing guidelines, of course) at the respective booths for the courses they aspire to take and sign up for the SEAT lottery – leaving their fate at the mercy of the probability gods.

The new Moodle postal system is indeed a revelation, perhaps the institute’s attempt at retaining its proud premier status in the country. The smooth logistics enable weekly assignments and doubt discussions in a flipped classroom fashion. However, the monsoon season sees an unfortunate increase in the number of crashes of Moodle postmen – especially around the patchy roads near OAT.

Lab classes continue per usual abiding social distancing rules facilitated by the teaching assistants. The coupling of double-layered masks with the goggles and lab coats compete for the ultimate PPE kit experience. VIVA sessions observe the semester’s first and last physical interaction between the faculty and students, both parties oblivious to each other’s existence until that point. Workshops proceed in a similar fashion in the ever scorching Chennai heat for the B.Techs, who envy the students in other disciplines enjoying their time with card games and the radio in the comfort of their rooms.

Indeed, an institute taking all this effort to combat the pandemic without any hassle whatsoever would certainly not miss out on the evaluation side of things. As always, the library comes to life at its destined time – with students rushing to find a seat before crossing the seat limit set as a precautionary measure. The contention for the seats on the fourth floor of the library remains the same. Peer circles nervously discuss their shabby, barely legible notes while the RGing maggu smirks under his mask in a cosy corner, with the only available copy of the textbook in his hand.  Many anxious faces temporarily greet the otherwise lonely wooden desks at Kendriya Vidyalaya during the quiz and end semester weeks. It’s not quite clear why they decide to keep it in KV and not the usual institute buildings – perhaps it is a unique obsession across the multiverse?

The administration does not officially ban sports, thereby giving the students a loophole to casually exploit. On the bright side, fitness and recreation do not have to be compromised. Schroeter and Dean’s Trophy garner more participation than ever before – thanks to the much-needed break in monotony it provides to the exhausted students.

Freshies make their way into the campus with their fresh energy (read enthu) after receiving their acceptance letters two months later than in a typical year. Getting single rooms as part of the pandemic protocol turns out to be a blessing in disguise, both for the introverts who like their privacy as well as the extroverts who wouldn’t have to worry about the easily perturbed roommate.

With all the students on campus, LitSoc continues as usual; however, Saarang and Shaastra remain cancelled. The students find other ways to bring in the bouts of joy and enthusiasm that come along with insti’s most beloved fests. The hostels play music, allowing students to come out on the corridors and dance as they would have during EDM night. 

Sounds too good to be true? Well, it could be the reality on another Earth, or maybe it’s just my crazy imagination. Nonetheless, one can still wonder. 

Disclaimer: The above article is an op-ed. The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect the position of T5E.

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