A State of Affairs: KGP

It’s 7:55 when you hurry out of your hall for the class you just can’t afford to miss. It’s a cool morning, atypical of KGP at this time of the year. Birds are chirping, and you take a moment to appreciate the wind that has graced everybody by acknowledging the difference in air pressures, rustling the leaves of all the trees on your way to Nalanda. Pretty picturesque. It’s election time in campus, but the nature couldn’t have cared less. Neither could you. You register scores of students around on the road: some on their cycles, some hitching rides, some walking (but no one’s on the bus, it’s too late for that), and a few on rickshaws as well. Everybody is availing one of the best possible options for technical education in the country, waiting for their share of golden opportunities to open up as soon as they leave the gates of the institution. These options and opportunities are promised only by the virtue of passing an exam designed to test your perseverance, knowledge and ability, virtually putting you among the brightest minds of the country. Now pause and look around.

What do you feel towards this place? Not your friends, or your hall. What do you really feel about the community that KGP is? Complete with all the players that come together everyday to take care of any possible aspect of this college. You’d be lying to yourself if the answer to that question is anything but apathy. This story isn’t just yours. It’s everybody’s. And it couldn’t have been worse.

I guess I could explain in more words.

A very integral part of each of our lives here is the ‘KGP culture’. It becomes the thread which ties everything (even remotely) associated with IIT KGP, irrespective of their function or the time frame of their relevance.  Sure, everyone has their own interpretation of the term and their own meanings to give value to their stay here. What is unfortunate is the substitution of rationality and critical thinking with hypocrisy and apathy which comes with this ‘culture’.  There’s a stark gap in the sense of ownership and responsibility we show towards KGP relative to other things. The kind of accountability we demand from, say, national leaders is in direct contrast with any kind of scrutiny that any position-holder faces here. Instead we just let them get away with empty and/or repetitive proposals with zero implementation. The skepticism we show towards societal trends or traditions suddenly falls apart when it comes to taking in any ‘fundae’ that we are offered. It wouldn’t have taken much to realize (as a community) the redundancy of OP otherwise, or alternatively come up with a more sensible process to help the juniors. Even the high standards we hold ourselves to when we expect any kind of offers/opportunities falters when it comes to holding up our end of the bargain. This is, in a way reasoned by a promise of being benefited when our time comes. The fume over intolerance in the country blows away when someone releases spoofs making arbitrary (or direct) references to personal associations. We probably could’ve easily avoided the strife between a couple of MS Hall boarders and The Scholars’ Avenue last year. If only the clarity of thought they had while changing their Facebook DPs in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo persisted for a while longer.

Without aiming to sound like someone on a higher moral ground, I think this place hasn’t been able to incorporate scientific methods or critical thinking into regular life happenings. And it is things like these one would think should come easy to us. You see some great achievers around you, and you see how few they are in number, and you wonder. You wonder how even though the starting of the college is the most level ground you could stand on, a really few percentage of people are actually able to utilise optimally what this place has to offer. You wonder how in a college of more than 11,000 students, all among the ‘brightest minds of the country’, a basic quest for changing the norm lacks. You wonder about the accuracy of all the narrative surrounding the superior mental capacity of IITians, when we don’t even question the very premise of things which end up hurting us.

Here’s the thing, it’s problematic when inefficiency becomes the standard for functioning everywhere, because it inevitably adds up to give you consequences. These aren’t active consequences generally, so you tend to go along. For instance, you don’t see any harm coming out of aligning with the Pact system (or any other loyalty that you may have) for the elections and voting for a candidate without really analyzing their abilities, proposals, critiques or appraisals. Now, understand how the entire campus voting this way has not just made the entire process redundant, but has also killed any kind of accountability, expectations or inputs that would’ve been associated with the candidate post election. This significantly alters their deliverance, for worse, in comparison with the alternative environment. It’s simple logic really, the more you invest in your vote, the more you expect out of it (and the person you gave it to) and are ready to put in efforts to maximize the results. It is only when the electorate shows concern that the candidates adapt and evolve. Choose only after you understand all consequences. Otherwise it isn’t really a choice, just an illusion.

All over the world, people fight for their right to access institutions with power over them. KGP is probably one of the really few places where people have cut out their own access to such institutions. There are multiple provisions in place to enable students’ participation and engagement with administration, but all of them require some initiative on the part of the people. Which, evidently, is dead. The participation in the Student’s Parliament last year and the Open House in the subsequent semester, both organised to discuss issues specific to the students, was so discouraging that you didn’t see another of that attempt this year. Potentially, we could’ve pitched in ideas which could’ve later materialized into something all of us valued. Yet, we chose inertia. In the absence of such initiative from our side, the system that sustains isn’t the one that we can use for our benefit or even mould to our requirements.

A system based out of critical analysis always works towards optimization. Simply because it has been built after considerate choices of consequences. Building this as a part of your character will be advantageous more than getting slapped and abused by seniors in the mess. For one you’ll realize that means don’t always justify the ends, well, because there are other ways to get there. Once you start questioning the relevance of prevalent systems, answers will follow. And these answers will change dynamically in the light of pertaining questions, which’ll also be more customized to the current needs. As opposed to what we have right now with no questions and outdated relevance, it definitely will be an improvement. The opportunity cost of letting things be the way they are is huge, and is taking away from you. Everybody looks for something in their college lives to make their legacy. Make KGP your legacy, because it belongs to each one of us and right now, it needs you.

 

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