As a journalism student, Ravish Kumar’s “Ishk me sheher hona” was one of the first books I read after coming to Delhi. Somewhere tracing the journey along with the protagonist falling in love with the city, many outstation students in Delhi carve out their own stories.
Getting into college is one of the turning points in the life of a student. Things change drastically as you are still a student but now you are at the forefront of life with a lot of planning to do because within no time you have to start looking at career options. Undoubtedly, the start of college is challenging. Within those challenges, though, is hidden the most beautiful phase of your life. However, I believe that the complete college life is only experienced by an outstation student. Not only are you supposed to experience the complete transformation from school to college but you also have to navigate a whole new city!
I come from the small city of Dehradun located on the foothills of the Queen of hills, Mussorie. With a simple life, pollution free environment, picturesque landscape and millions of hangout spots, Dehradun is the best you can ask for as a school student. Not surprisingly, some of the best schools in India are located in Dehradun. However, after school ends, the real struggle starts. Among the string of elite schools, my city does lack quality colleges.
Almost every student, thus, has one dream – Delhi University. Most of the times we don’t even know that DU is not a single campus but has multiple colleges! However, every student aspires to be a part of it. Thus, most students who are not in some fancy coaching burning midnight oil to gain the heavenly pass to IIT or AIIMS are toiling for a good percentage in their board exams to clear the sky scraping cutoffs of Delhi University. Most of the times, students themselves don’t know what they are getting into when they enter DU but clearing the cutoffs still feels like the realization of a long lasting dream. All your parents need to say to your relatives is “Dilli University me padh rha hai” and that gives them enough leeway to boast of their child’s achievements.
One downfall of growing up as Indian student is that Karan Johar creates false expectations about your college life that are never met. No college in DU fulfills the standards of the Karan Johar dreamland. So when I finally reached Delhi and had a look at my college, I was majorly disappointed. Preceding that though, is the sea change I felt in the complete transformation of surroundings from Dun to Delhi. The refreshing air of Dehradun was replaced by a pungent air smelling of industrial pollution, the number of vehicles was almost double of what I was used to seeing, the number of people was uncountable and completely opposed to the scanty population in our hill city. The hustle and bustle of the national capital completely overwhelmed me and all the fancy DU dreams suddenly turned into fears and doubts.
When you are an outstation student, though, you soon forget those doubts because there is so much you still have to do. The first step in this long journey is to find a place to live. Most outstation students opt to live in a PG in their first year because your responsibilities get reduced and all you got to take care of is studying and being alive.
I began by dissing everything about the city – from its people to its dirty streets to its polluted air. Going from college to PG and from PG to college was my daily routine. This is the beginning of most outstation students, but eventually the city begins to grow on you. You begin to see beauty in the chaos. You begin to realize how all these people are just like you from all corners of India looking to realize their dreams. You realize how Delhi is India in a nutshell with DU housing people from all states, religions and communities. Actually on a 100 meter stretch in Chandni Chowk, you can find a temple, gurudwara, mosque and a church. Old Delhi requires an article of its own, for all the treasures that it carries.
There are some unique situations, however, that only an outstation student in DU faces. Being away from home makes you a treasure for your family when you come back and you get a hero’s welcome. You get to eat your favorite dishes everyday as you rant about the bad quality of PG food. Amazingly enough, abysmal PG food makes you like everything your parents cook for you. Plus, a wave of sympathy in your favor. PG life though gives you your closest friends as they practically live with you and become your extended family. Another dilemma that only we can relate to is internships! Most of them are available during the summer break which is your only opportunity to go home for a long period. However, we somehow manage to juggle between our career and our families.
Being an outstation student in Delhi University shapes your personality in a way few things can. You become a decision maker, you learn to survive the ups and downs of life without your family supporting you, and you discover yourself as you get in touch with that side of yours that was lost due to others doing your work for you.
From the narrow streets of Old Delhi to the high end cafes of Connaught Place, from the crowded bazaars of Sarojini Nagar to the historical heritage of Delhi’s monuments, this city makes you its own. Its diversity assimilates you no matter how resistant you are. If you are lucky enough like Ravish Kumar, you find love and the city’s beauty takes an altogether different form. Everything about Delhi University and Delhi becomes a part of you. That’s how my journey as a DU student took shape. From tracing the journey of Ravish Kumar’s protagonist to carving out my own journey.
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