Tuesday, 8 September 2015

A Quest in the Wilderness

The sun is about to set and the night is approaching to replace the dusk. The institute bus is moving on its normal route via Argul village. Suddenly a drunken man approaches with a stone in his hand. Moments later, we have a cracked windshield, a bunch of youngsters worried about their safety and a looming threat of things to come. 

The above paragraph might be an exaggerated description of the events that transpired that evening but the way things stand right now, the students of IIT BBS need to be loud and dramatic for their voices to be heard. But, how did we reach to such a standstill? 

On 18th July 2015, Indian Institute of Technology Bhubaneswar did something which no one from the whole student population thought will ever happen in during their stay here, we shifted to our permanent campus in Argul. As expected, there was lot of buzz and excitement around because finally we had a place that we could call our own. 

No more rules set arbitrarily by outsiders, no more restrictions on our every movement and finally a sense of belonging to our institute. 

Or, so we thought. 

In 1981, the director of IIT Kanpur in his convocation address had talked about how if someone would have visited the institute in its early days, circa 1965, all they would see was a conventional country side scene of rural India. As we stepped into our permanent campus nearly 50 years later, we saw the same scenes as above. Only thing is even with all of our technology, it still took us more time to reach this stage of development than IIT K, no thanks to the hostility of the local population around us.

Once here, the students were welcomed by poorly finished rooms, bathrooms without working lights and flushes and an acute shortage of drinking water. Certainly, no one will say that a first year asking a senior about the need of personal water filters in rooms is a sign of adequate facilities provided by the authorities.

Having shifted to a rather remote location, we are in-arguably “closer to nature” and thus occasional sightings of snakes, scorpions and insects that many of us have never even heard of is going to be pretty common. All of us expected this and took precautions accordingly, but what none of us expected was that our “great” mess food had scope for more “improvement”. Since, no caterer obviously wants to leave his business in the city to come search for enlightenment in the wilderness that we call our hostel, makeshift arrangements were made for providing food for us; because it’s not like food has any major effect on our health or general well-being. Some of the dishes prepared in the mess make students question whether they are cooking food for us humans or for those infinite cows that keep on roaming outside the campus.

Of course, we have alternatives to the mess food but then most of them are only a few hundred miles away. The one alternative that we have inside the hostel in form of the canteen has been trying its best to outperform the mess right since its inception. The girls are actually better placed without the canteen than with it.

It’s a lazy Sunday afternoon; everyone is lying in their rooms and contemplating the meaning of their lives or just watching a movie, whatever. The students are passed a message that there is sports practice in evening. All of them are confused about the location of the practice as there are no grounds here, only rocky areas and grasslands. As they reach outside, they are told that the rocky area which they dismissed as wasteland is their sports ground till an undisclosed amount of time. There is dejection all around, but all authorities talk about is the intent to play but not a single word is said about the facilities. 

Murphy’s Law is an adage which states that, “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”. This has probably been illustrated numerous times in the last few days to the students of the institute.

As if we already didn’t have a big problem in our hands with the never ending commuting time between the classes and the hostel, many of the rickety buses in which we spend those uneasy hours are best suitable for junkyards rather than roads.

Moving into this remote location, not many students expected lightning fast internet facilities or excellent network coverage. But, as the continuing trend shows, we ended up getting a LAN connection with the internet speed capped at a value which makes even downloading PDF’s a herculean task.

There is an air of dissatisfaction around; a meeting has been arranged between the authorities and the students. Some people raise their voice about the slow internet connection and how internet is really important in today’s world to get a complete education. In reply, it is made known to them that internet speed will be the same for next four years if they don’t stop bugging the authorities about the same issues again and again.

The above is a just illustration of what the students have been facing since moving to Argul and how the authorities have been reacting to the issues raised by the students.

In spite of all the numerous problems in the last few days, many of the students still believe, and probably rightly so, that shifting of the hostels is the much needed first step taken by the authorities on our way to become a fully functioning, respectable institute of learning.

All we can do now is hope that the lofty promises that were made to us on the very first day after moving here are kept by the authorities and only then we will able to feel a sense of belonging to our permanent campus.

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