On Valentine’s Day, a look at the campus relationships that really matter
There are some equations that define college life. These are your go-to people, whether you’re looking for pre-exam notes or a place to jam. Meet the knights who save the day, time and again.education Updated: Feb 15, 2018 13:42 IST
Think college and you think of academic pressures, hours spent in the canteen, unchaperoned parties and first loves. Whether you’re looking forward to or back at the endless days spent in and out of classroom, college is all this. But it’s also so much more. We take a look at the many, many equations that make life on campus easier, warmer, more interesting and more dramatic than anything that came before.
What’s the syllabus?
The first few days of college can feel so daunting — your friends are not around, the campus is all new, you’re still trying to find the loos on each floor. And as you get lost between lecture rooms, there’s also a list of new subjects to navigate. Many courses have no standard textbook, or expect you to pick between options. If you’re lucky, you will head into the college bookstore and everything will stop spinning. This is your one-stop shop for advice, Xeroxes, emergency stationery supplies. The guy behind the counter knows just what you need — he’s helped years’ worth of kids navigate your syllabus; he can discuss reference books as easily as paper sizes. Laxmi Krishnan, 21, still owes a debt of gratitude to her college bookshop guy. “In my first year, I wanted to know what books we needed for a particular subject in advance, so I could start studying,” says Krishnan, now in TYBA at a Mulund college. “The bookseller sensed my anxiety, and within minutes was out with all the material I would need.”
Most colleges have that one professor who will go out of their way to help the students, be it with questions about the syllabus or a splitting headache, a broken heart or a place to jam. Fr Terry Quadros, 72, is that professor at St Xavier’s College.
“To me, no matter what the student needs, it is a problem I must solve,” says Fr Quadros, smiling. Over nearly three decades, the counsellor and creative arts professor has been approached for everything from socks to headache tablets. “I’ve learnt to keep some of these things handy at all times,” he says, laughing.
“For the traditional day in college, after hours in heels, I couldn’t stand for another moment. He let me borrow a pair of slippers, and that’s how I went home,” says SYBA student Glynis Machado.
“He will help you if you need place to take a short break, or a place to play music,” adds Pranita Pandurangi, 23, currently pursuing a Masters at the institute.
Mama solves it all
It is not unusual to see alumni, after years of being away, return to their alma mater and be immediately recognised by members of the non-teaching staff. Such is their role on campus, and their equation with students. Whether you need a stapler, help with a projector, or just need to know what ad is being shot on the lawns, he will help you through it all. “I think every student shares the most important relationship with him,” says Anjali Narayan, 24, a Masters student at the school of physiotherapy, DY Patil institute, speaking of Prakash Nikam aka Prakash Mama, 42, a member of the non-teaching staff in the department of physiotherapy. “I do as much as I can,” he says. “It’s nice when they recognise you even after passing out.”
Even if he is out for a day, everyone feels it, adds Vishnu Nair, 21, a student of physiotherapy. “He is the most dedicated person, to the point that if he is unwell, we must intervene and tell him to stop helping everyone and rest,” says Unnati Pandit, head of the department of physiotherapy.
To the know-it-all
What if you realised, with just days to go for an internal exam, that part of the syllabus is just one big blur to you? Reducing the panic in such instances are the class representatives, official and unofficial, who take it upon themselves to be informed about all the things that really matter. Reading the bulletin boards, coordinating with professors… all the stuff you can get from them second-hand if you ask nicely. “Just recently, our classmate, who always knows everything, happened to remind not just us but the teacher too, about an experiment that was still hadn’t done and needed to do ahead of our exam,” says Gargi Ranade, a TYBA psychology student at a college in Mulund. “She makes life easier for the whole class, and we turn to her to cross-check all information.”
No failing with friends like these
You are five minutes from the exam, flipping through pages of notes you don’t remember taking, and that one friend comes along who could win an Oscar, if there was an Oscar for brief, comprehensive summary. In less than the five minutes, you can suddenly recall all you need to know about the Chola empire, or hypothalamus, or whatever bit of the syllabus was threatening to derail you. Whether you are the friend helping or being helped, it is one of those college relationships that never fails you.
“These relationships, these bonds which go beyond the classroom, are what contribute to the overall growth of a student,” says Ranjan Banerjee, dean of the SP Jain Institute of Management and Research (SPJIMR). “Ultimately, this is part of what they will take away too, and remember.”