The article has been written by Sarangan Rajeshkumar (Batch of 2018).
Here’s a parable about inefficient government that I am sure all of you have heard – The government wants to employ three people to plant trees. One man to dig holes in the ground, the second to plant seeds in the holes, and the third to fill the hole up after the second is done. After a week of work, the second guy quits his job but the other two continue doing theirs – one man digs a hole and the other fills it up.
It’s easy to see how this plays out in college too. We see pathways being laid that go nowhere at all, buildings being built for god knows who, a lawn that was laid for people to drink on, security guards to stop people from drinking on the lawn, and a ‘book cafe’ (or whatever it is they’re calling it now) so that people study on the lawn instead of drinking on it. There is also fountain that was redone seven times in the five years that I have been in college, each time with new lights that get successively uglier, and fish that keep dying only to get replaced by ones that die faster. (Maybe we should just use the fountain to grow fish the way the gym grows rabbits and hand them over to the mess; we’ll have fresher fish that way.) We have continued to adhere to hostel rules that prevent people from having sex but built a “learning centre” that is used for nothing but that. None of this is cheap – a mail from the erstwhile president of the Student Bar Association stated that the estimated cost of the cafe is thirteen lakh rupees. For everything else, we are left to estimate the costs ourselves.
For a while we were happy blaming the erstwhile estate officer for all the pointless construction; attributing it to an elaborate scheme to rob the college of its bank balance to line his own pockets. I do not believe any of that ever happened – he was one of the sweetest people that I have ever spoken to. However when I suggested this, I was told that I needed to have more proof if I wanted to disprove one of the most commonly accepted things in college. Thus, I added it to the list of things that I wanted to prove before I graduated – a list that includes proving that Rohini serves chicken and not crows, and proving that it’s ‘tort’ and not ‘torts’.
But today, I stand validated. Even after the estate officer has retired, the construction continues and we have got more funding than ever being pumped into redeveloping our campus. The sports committee is going to relay the basketball court (for the football league of course), the football ground is being modified to host parties, and the party lawn in front of the library is being turned into a study-space. All of this while we opened three new eateries because the mess wasn’t enough, bought two roti makers to cook more rotis, and then developed a disposal system because we were cooking too much food. We also made our campus completely disability-friendly by destroying two of the showers on the ground floor of Cauvery to build only one in their place – I do not understand how stench alleviates the plight of the handicapped. I have barely scratched the surface here – I haven’t even gotten to the online consumer mediation centre.
You will notice that several of the projects I mentioned here are student-driven and not a part of an elaborate money making scheme cooked up by the cunning college administration – the same cunning administration that hasn’t figured out how to use plagiarism software in five years (I wonder how much we’re paying for that). So, it is not the admin alone who is responsible for the cash that we’re blowing up; students are as culpable.
All of this may anger some of you. You may think that funds have simply been wasted away. You may wonder how many international trips we could have sponsored for our various “nego-champs” (*insert laugh emoji*) using this money. You may think that all of this has been pointless. But I beg to differ and I think there is a larger point to all of it.
Building things gives us something to do. We are driven to do all of this by the same instinct that makes us begin drinking in the evening, getting even more drunk at night, waking up in the morning with a hangover, spending the afternoon getting rid of the hangover, and begin drinking in the evening once again. Razing things down and building them up all over again gives purpose and meaning to our lives. It gives us something to talk about through the day and most importantly, it gives us the satisfaction that we have done something with our time on earth. So the next time you think about mocking the MGNREGA for digging holes and filling them up, take a moment to wonder if it’s so preposterous after all.