Last July, I joined Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology (MNNIT), one of the most reputed Indian National Institutes of Technology (NITs). The NITs are among the top colleges in India. There are 31 NITs across India, and it is competitive to get in top ones. Non Residential Indians and foreigners – like me – must appear for SAT exam, a standardised test which comprises the topics of Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics Level II. Depending on your score you will be able to get into the best/the desired NIT and the most renowned Branches of Engineering, such as Computer Science, Information and Technology, Electronics and Communication Engineering (ECE), Mechanical, Civil, etc. I am doing the Bachelor of Electronics and Communication Engineering (ECE). This is a four-year course.
Computer Science, Information and Technology, Electronics and Communication Engineering (ECE) are branches which will give well paid engineering jobs after Placement by Software companies. Placement is a word continually revolving in all students’ head. In the final year of the course, many reputed companies come to the school to hold interviews and offer packages to students. Indians crave for good packages so that they can lead a quality life and marry the girl of their choice. Arranged marriage is a high priority. I have learned at a Nepali Briefing that we are 34 Nepalese students in the first-year class, of which just one girl. In the campus, there are around 170 Nepalese.
MNNIT lies in the holy city of Allahabad, in the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP). One can see Ganga and Yamuna, two large holy rivers, meeting at a point called Sangam, a highlight located in Allahabad city. The most famous pilgrimage spot in UP is Varanasi (Bénarès) : Hindus believe that they will erase their sins if they take part in religious activities in that place. But overall UP lags behind in development compared to other states of India.
First-year students are kept in Swami Vivekananda Boys’ Hostel (SVBH). It is a 7-storey building with 41 large rooms on each floor. The Ground floor comprises of two canteens that can accommodate 400 students at a time. Currently, around 860 students are staying in the hostel including about 60 Masters Students. The mess has just 42 workers preparing food for over 900 people. There are television and Table Tennis rooms alternatively on each floor. Ragging is strictly prohibited in the campus. If some students are found being involved in ragging they will be expelled right away from the Institute. As a result, physical ragging is not prevalent. But, on occasions, seniors grab opportunities to do verbal ragging, and no junior will dare to complain. Many believe that ragging makes you bold. I do not know to which extent this is valid.
MNNIT is strictly vegetarian. It sounds humorous but egg doesn’t fall into this category. And eggs will be eaten by people calling themselves vegetarians. There is a Mess Committee to run the mess, of which I managed to be part as Secretary. This Committee defines the menus, checks the quantity and the quality of food, the attendance of workers, etc. Along with another Secretary (who is a Master degree student) and 10 other members, I am trying my best to run the mess smoothly. But all responsibilities have fallen on my and the other Secretary’s shoulders as the other members are not active. So, every morning the two of us are running to check vegetables’ quantity, quality and cost, and every evening, we have to check milk, which is ordered for the next day, the food brought in stocks (like rice, pulses, sugar, etc.), and the cylinders.
Cost is the top priority that needs to be checked carefully. We are given cheques by the accountant that we have to cash in to give money to workers on demand. So the mess is ours! We have control over it! But I feel a bit insecure to possess about 80,000 IC every week. We can give orders to the workers and ask them to correct errors. They address us as “Sir”, which I find a little bit odd. The signature of the two Secretaries has to be put on every mess bill. It is really tough to satisfy all students with the menus. South Indians want their dish in the menus but North ones dislike their dish and vice versa. Sometimes feedbacks create headaches. Prior to the setting up of the Mess Committee, we had potato at each and every meal. Now, potato has almost been banned from the menus…
My first month at MNNIT was like being in jail…. Guards used to take us to classes and bring us back to the hostel in a line. It reminded me of Primary School. We were not allowed to go outside. Library was not allowed, although we had no books. From August 28, we have been allowed (at long last) to go outside the campus, but not without noting down our “exit” in the guard’s register. My friends and I went straight to purchase books and eat non-vegetarian food.
Initially classes seemed dull, due to language barrier and change in educational system. English is very poor at Uttar Pradesh, and some teachers use Hindi to teach (with which I am not comfortable). Moreover, teachers are not audible past the 3rd bench of the lecture hall. There are about 130 students per lecture class but no miking system. Attendance at class is given a high priority, and teachers are very strict on it. 75% attendance is a must to be able to appear at the end-semester exams. Being late or causing disturbances in class means attendance cancellation. If there was no Attendance system, lecture classes would be almost empty every day…..
I have developed a habit of getting asleep only after 2 am. We have lectures at 8 am twice a week. Breakfast is served after 7:30 am and there is a huge crowd during this time. So I rarely have my breakfast. But I never miss my lectures at 9 am as there are practicals. I give up my breakfast for attendance. I wake up, get ready in 10-15 minutes, and run for classes. In class I get the last or the second last benches, but I put my full efforts to listen. Teachers are not audible and writing on board is not visible. So I started listening to whatever I could get and I often ended up falling asleep…. I always crave for weekends for long sleeps of over 10 hours. Saturday and Sunday are perfect days. These two days fade away completing Practicals and hanging around with friends.
Very few teachers give notes. We have to listen to their lectures and take rough notes and study by ourselves. They want us to write whatever they speak in class. Some teachers don’t agree with answers from books, which can lead them to give zero marks for a particular question. Creativity is hardly appreciated in answers. Photocopy of teachers’ note in examination is highly valued.
We all suffered from exam fever. Mid-semester examination came so fast that we didn’t even realise, as we had no gaps in between the exams (like we have in Nepal). There was no understanding of subject matter. I managed to land on the safe side in English, Communication Skill Workshop and Workshop Technology. I have good hope for Physics, too, as I love it and I am never blank in that subject. But Mathematics and Chemistry give me lot of stress. It is difficult to get 2-3 marks in these two subjects. Chemistry, I was blank, but I managed to write something for all questions given. Bad luck, they award the marks as per the teacher’s lecture. Even if we answer as per their lecture they often like to award single digit numbers out of 20. Chemistry is the “greediest” Department in giving marks, and everyone hates this Department.
Mathematics, I have no idea till now what the teacher teaches. I often sit on the second bench to hear him but it does not help me. I asked others, they simply rot up whatever note he has given. I have a bad habit, I want to understand. If I do not understand, I do not feel like moving ahead. In the exam, I was completely blank. I even did not know a single solution. But I wrote whatever came to my mind. 2-3 marks would also make me happy. But there is maximum likelihood that I get Zero. I am weak in Mathematics because I focused on Biology in 11th and 12th grade, as Mathematics was not necessary to study medicine, which was my initial aim. Moreover, Mathematics was my optional subject in grade 12, so it was not given priority both by teachers and students.
Mid-semester ended. And we had 5 days off. I spent 5 days in my room due to frustrations. I spent most of my time in bed rest. I even did not go to have a look at outside distractions. I preferred my bed. And slowly I started to realise that I was in India, not in Nepal. In Nepal, at least, teachers award marks when we write something related to the topic. And I could understand everything in class. But here in India we have to study just for scoring marks in examinations. Teachers are in a rush to finish the syllabus, and they do not care whether they are understandable or not.
I needed rest. Now I must rise and give my best. I have just one month left for the end-semester exam. If we fail in the exam, we have to give supplementary examination during the summer vacation at the end of the first school year. It will be a big punishment as the scorching heat will cause us to suffer. Moreover, our beddings will be locked in a room, and it will be opened only when the second year starts. So we will be forced to buy new beddings. The vacation will be spoiled. I do not want to think of it. So I will start working hard after my school break. I have no expectations from teachers. I have contacted my seniors, and they are ready to help me. Moreover, I will take help from my Indian friends, too. I have a very supportive and helpful Indian brother who is a Master student. I was put in his room by chance on the first day and, since then, we have been very good friends. I have a language barrier with both of my roommates. So they are making efforts to improve their English and, for my part, I am learning Hindi.
Now I realise the importance of mid-semester exam. It is crucial to pass the semester. If we spoil it then we start counting how many marks we need to pass the semester as teachers do not give marks as we expect. The marking system differs from teacher to teacher and according to their mood. Disruptive behavior can ruin a student’s life as faculty members have control over the exam papers and internal marks. Now I am stable and I feel good after my break. I am now ready to cope with the education system and show my best part. I have found solutions to boost myself.
We always have a habit to look up and forward, we should sometimes look down and backward. I mean, looking at people who are deprived and at our past helps us to get new energy. As a matter of fact, my place in Nepal (Humla) has no facilities of education, health, transport and communication and, still, progess is very slow. If I had been there, I would now have my own family, as there is a pattern over there to get married at 16, and I would be engaged in farming. My entry into SEA broke this trend.
Views of Anga’s village in the Humla district (accessible by foot only).
I got a family and I have been provided with many opportunities. It is the unforgettable grace of SEA. There are no words to describe it. SEA gave me a second life and a chance to establish myself.
All I want to convey is : Since I am unconditionally helped, it is my duty to help needy people around me. It is my obligation to give back what I have taken. I will try my best.
I have faith in humans as humans helped me to grow. I will try my best to be a good human and to spread the message of Humanity through actions. NIT will help me fulfil this.
I thank SEA for this life-time opportunity. I will give my best to achieve fruitful results from this.