Ever since I set foot in my twelfth grade in school, Dad made one thing clear: “You are not staying in Kolkata. Go to college anywhere but not in this state.” I do not know why he said this.
Maybe being hostel-educated, he thought I should learn to be independent.
Maybe knowing how easily I get involved, he wanted me to stay away from student politics.
Or maybe seeing how little I used to study, he figured I’ll never crack Jadavpur University. In any case, he did not let me appear for West Bengal JEE. When I look back today, I think that’s one of the best decisions Dad took for me.
Now I’ll be honest with you.
I just completed my third year. I am neither old nor mature enough to tell your dad what to do. But I am writing this blogpost to tell you how beautiful life outside your comfort zone is (and this is coming from someone who does not like to travel).
I study in an engineering college. My classmates come from different parts of our country, ranging from places as irrelevant to India as Kashmir, to places as significant as Chhattisgarh. I’ve also come across people from foreign places like Germany, Oman, Ghana, even The North-Eastern States of India. I’ll tell you how much it has helped me out.
Most of my friends who study in Kolkata have classmates either from Bengal, or from Bihar. With just two communities in the fray, the result is obvious. There is a mutual sense of distrust, and violent clashes are common. I’ve had friends in reputed engineering colleges in Kolkata who got beaten up in college despite being distant from politics.
When you get out of the city however, you come across far too many communities. That is when the real learning starts. When you find people from different states brought up in different ways, you do not start to antagonize them just because they aren’t like you. You learn how to get along. The way I talk to Delhiites is very different from the way I talk to Tamils.
This ability to mould yourself is something you’ll never learn in a classroom in Kolkata. Not only will you become less racist, you’ll also find your professional life easier. Just ask my Bengal-educated brother, who got into a sticky spot when he spoke a little too frankly about boozing in a workshop in Chennai. Fortunately, it was just a workshop. What if it had been a business meeting!
I could go on talking about how professional opportunities are substantially better outside Kolkata, but you already know it. So does your father.
I understand that a lot of fathers do not want to let their daughters (and even sons) go out of town. They think that it might be unsafe for them out there. Which makes complete sense if they are raising their daughters to just get a degree and a husband, and be a child-making machine for ever after.
But in the off chance that they are not, here are some of my friends who have been lucky to have amazing fathers. Fathers who trusted their daughters, and loved them enough to not hold them back.
Here are Medha, Urvi, Sohini, and Roshni.
Medha just graduated from Mount Carmel College, Bangalore, triple majoring in psychology-english-journalism. Having spent 3 years away from home, she says, “I finally feel like an adult, capable of taking my own decisions. Like people don’t think I am a little kid anymore, so automatically they start taking me more seriously.”
Meet Urvi. She was a topper since she was born, and studying History in St Stephen’s College, Delhi, changed none of that. What changed however, was her outlook. She learnt to question everything, and challenge her own assumptions. Being at the heart of the country, she learnt first-hand what drives people in power, and that it’s never enough to sit at home and share Facebook posts, hoping for real change to happen.
You’ll know Urvi is from Shashi Tharoor’s college when she tells you, “Delhi drags you in, pummels you a bit, and forces you to learn to set yourself back on your two feet. For one, it’s a lesson in grounding. I had to confront my own privilege. The sense of entitlement I grew up with at home had no place here.”
This is Sohini. An avid quizzer from LMG who terrorized half the quizzers in Kolkata, studying in Vellore Institute of Technology gave her newer grounds to conquer. Her hobby took her to quite a few cities, while supplementing her pocket money. “Had I stayed at home, I would have probably never realized how tough the competition really is out there,” she sighs.
She does not like Vellore much, since there’s very little to do in the city, but then, “If I can survive Vellore, I can pretty much survive anywhere else.”
And this is Roshni, who studies law at Jindal Global Law School, Sonipat. She realized early on that in her field, Calcutta is not the best place to work at. In internships, you’ll have to go repeatedly and ask for work instead of just having work assigned to you. People take your age way too seriously and “go all paternalistic on you”. In Delhi, you could be a first-year student or an associate, people will still respect you the same!
Thank you for reading such a long post. I wrote this post because I know quite a few juniors who are really keen to go out of town for college, but do not have their parents’ permission.
I was a pretty mediocre student in school. My only decent marks used to come in English, and Computer Science. I used to just pass Physics and Chemistry (probably because of sympathy marks). Dad knew how much I wanted to study computer science at VIT. Even though I was getting into other places for a lot cheaper (I’m talking in lakhs here), Dad let me go to the college I wanted, in the stream I loved. Mom’s constant scolding had not worked. Constant tests at tuitions had not worked. But this gesture of faith from Dad was all the motivation I needed. I’m a considerably better student now, all because of that one time Dad literally put his money on me.
I understand that parents are inherently protective. But I also believe they won’t let that cloud their sense of judgment. I’m sure, deep down they know they’ll only improve their kids’ futures by letting them go. 🙂