Déjà vu

I’ve been having something of a writer’s block these past couple of weeks. Partly due to a sense of ennui as the blog enters its third year and I feel that the issues I want to discuss often border on the same old same old… But I must recall Larkin again- the there and that of been there done that are no longer where they were or what they were, and so its best to begin afresh. With a request for your indulgence if it seems like some of this has been said before.

For reasons that are too obvious to mention, I have been worrying a lot about our campus these past few weeks. Since the rains have been good to us, it is a corollary that the campus is very green, but it also becomes painfully evident that we need to constantly maintain it. Pruning, clearing, cleaning, culling… And picking up litter- there seems to be no spot on the campus that is free of plastic or paper waste. There are some simple and straightforward rules, banal enough to not be worth reiterating, but it seems they must.  Respect nature. Don’t litter. And don’t expose yourself to danger.

42I recall a conversation I had with Meenakshi Mukherjee, at one time on the faculty of the Department of English at the UoH. She was a good friend during the many years when we both were at the JNU- as it happened we moved there at roughly the same time. One day when I met her at Ganga Dhaba, apropos of nothing particular (more than usual that is) she said to me, you know, our campuses are the new colonies. Explaining herself, she added, it is like we academics create an enclave that is removed from the rest of the country, where different rules apply.

I have often thought about what she said, not just this but many other things (she introduced me to the poetry of Agha Shahid Ali, for one. And encouraged me in my misguided efforts to learn Portuguese for another: learning a language is a very pure skill, she told me, but I’m still not sure what she meant…).

I feel that she was essentially right in her perception that a university campus is a special place and a special space, but also that in such enclaves there is a lot of privilege, and it is all too easy for us to slip into a colonial mentality.

imagesThis post is not just about littering or preserving the (physical) environment, it is also about the more general question of how we behave on the campus. For instance, there is a lot of helmet-less driving of two wheelers on campus. Seeing three students on a two-wheeler is not that uncommon. Some of the driving tends to be rather rash, and a positive danger, not just to others but to the driver as well.  The traffic rules that apply elsewhere should apply here as well… Similarly, in public spaces Smoking is a No-No and Consumption of Alcohol is a BIGGER No-No.

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There are the laws that apply in the country, and then the special rules of the campus itself, and both need to be respected. This is not to interfere with personal choices, but there are laws that apply to educational establishments, and infringement of these draws some very unwelcome attention as we have seen in the past weeks.

The campus is always under threat, it seems. We have many well-wishers and much to be grateful for. But there are also others who are not slow to sit on judgement, others who are quite happy to show up all our weaknesses. Preserving and protecting the campus space is a full-time job, and its a job for all of us. It is a huge responsibility that we all have, to keep this place as one where generations of students can come to learn, and generations can use the freedom and the opportunities that this space offers to grow and develop.

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8 thoughts on “Déjà vu

  1. What are the reasons? who are responsible? and who are responsible & have powers to take corrective and preventive actions to avoid the above?

    However, Some likely solutions to at least reduce pollution & save environment/cleanliness. I suggested these measures in the recent Transport Committee meeting held last week.

    1) Keep bicycles at common places like Main Gate, Small Gate, Library, Guest House, South Campus, Ladies Hostel etc. discourage vehicle movement as far as possible.
    2) Explore possibility of procuring battery/solar operated vehicles/vans to operate within the University.
    3) Stop all outside vehicles at the Main gate/small gate etc.
    4) Operate shuttles/buses between Main gate/Gopan pally gate &Campus School, this will reduce movement of outside vehicles coming to drop & pick up students. At the same time, it will be convenient and useful for the school children as University does this as a social responsibility.

    • Operation of shuttle buses or battery operated buses inside University and stopping of outside vehicles will not solve the rampant transport problem unless the drivers are accountable and management is in place. They run away without stopping even when waved to stop and even when the bus/van is entirely empty, they do not ply on time, when the time should be 9:50 a.m. they leave at 9:45 a.m. or 10:00 a.m. with the result we do not know if the bus/van has gone or will come, and our work suffers due to walking long distances and we can get very tired as a result. Further, the frequency will have to be increased from one hour intervals to 15-20 minutes intervals if outside vehicles are to be stopped. No autos, no University bus/van on time, no following of rules by drivers, no conscience on part of drivers to pick up people on the way, no monitoring from transport department, long distance walking leading towards leg pain and tiredness at work =Total chaos!!

      So, please first experience yourself about the transport system inside our University, then think and then act accordingly.

    • For the umpteenth time, the van driver ran off today even when he had clearly seen me waving, and the van had just three people inside. I had to wait several minutes before another full van came and I had to come to office standing and stooping for some time inside the full van.

  2. Well written sir. But perhaps now it is time the campus administration did something about it (the littering, and waste management in general). One should keep in mind that a vast majority of the students who come to HCU come from backgrounds where there is little or no sensitisation about engaging with our environment responsibly. Higher educational institutions are usually the place where such issues are thought about and values adopted.

    Why not have a full-fledged campaign on littering? On managing waste… On segregating waste… With our multi-crore budget, it shouldn’t be too difficult to divert a few lakhs into procuring good dustbins and starting waste segregation at source. And following it up with a waste management programme (the so called Zero Waste Management in campus as of now works by dumping all the waste behind the NTS quarters and burning it).

    It’s not too hard to segregate general waste into dry, wet, and paper. A widespread campaign once the systems and dustbins are in place will get the cogs turning. It might take some time, but it can be done. And I believe that if the admin comes up with such initiatives, there is going to be quite a number of students who take up the cause. So please,
    1) Waste segregation, and management
    2) Campaign
    3) Waste bins at common non-built-up areas around the campus (We have a beautiful campus, and students use it. We sit all over the place. Some people find it convenient to drop off whatever they are carrying right there rather than carry it back to a spot with a dustbin. Providing dustbins there will help… Really!)

  3. I agree with M. An initiative to clean up campus will be met with a lot of support. Waste management is a very important part of the administration’s responsibility, and a simultaneous campaign for awareness among students will work wonders.

    Alongside this, though, I would question the need to prune, clear and cull in a bid to ‘respect nature’. Cleaning up our waste is of pressing importance, but let’s not interfere with what’s left of the forest more than we have to. The sheer volume of new constructions on campus shows that not much of it is going to remain undisturbed for long… but let us leave the forest alone for as long as possible.

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