In-line with the Online
By Rithika Abraham, Undergraduate Batch of 2020
It’s 11:45 am on a Thursday. As usual, I am ready for class 10 minutes in advance. My mind is never at peace unless I do everything early enough to give me time to panic and do it again. But I don’t have to walk all the way to the New Academic Block now, just to the study. My friends and I log in a little before our Professors do, giving us just enough time to catch up on each other’s lives. Is there a greater risk of my falling down a Google vortex since leaving the camera on is optional? Probably! But the professor probably noticed me daydreaming right in front of her in class anyway.
It’s 11:45 pm on a Thursday. About a month ago, this would have meant something a little different. Tonight, I receive a notification on a WhatsApp group, and a link to join a Zoom meeting. More specifically, a link to join a Zoom birthday party. Tomorrow would have been the last of four birthdays that a friend has celebrated during his time at Ashoka. At 11:57, we are all online, ready to usher in our friend’s birthday from across the country. Tonight, however, we managed a send the link to his friends who don’t go to Ashoka. They are, at this moment, as physically close to him as the rest of us. These are strange times, and we’re making use of every opportunity to retain structure in our everyday.
The last two weeks have been all about replicating the Ashokan experience online. “What’s the point of teaching if I don’t get to see all your faces together?” asks one Professor, after a particularly long class discussing our fears and dreams. I wonder if our classrooms have always been this wholesome, or if it was a case of distance making the heart grow fonder. Is it the same people mansplaining, talking over, or interrupting in a Zoom class, as in an offline one? Do we as a community, forced into this new territory, have to renegotiate the rules that governed our learning spaces until a few weeks ago?
Most of us at Ashoka, have the immense privilege to use this time as an opportunity to grow. I am in no position to preach about how dreadful it is that we are using a dangerous pandemic as a chance at self-care. We do what we must, to make it to tomorrow, with the safety of knowing that our next meal will come. We’re spending more time with our families, consuming more forms of art than we did before, picking up old hobbies that we abandoned, trying to become better versions of ourselves, and some of us are looking at mortality in a way that we did not need to before.
Like everyone else in my batch, I wanted a big, special, graduation. I wanted the gown, the walking across stage, the synchronized throwing of the cap in the air, and the big reception lunch in the football field. I still do, but more than anything, I just want the chance to say a proper goodbye to my friends. When the curfews are lifted, and they will be, businesses will re-open and classes will resume. Will we then have to unlearn what the pandemic taught us? That classes can be attended from afar, that resources like the ACWB, the CWC, and the CSGS can be made available online, and that each of us are responsible stakeholders in the health and well-being of others. Everything makes less sense now than it did a year ago, but for one long Hangouts meeting with my friends, everything can wait.
Featured Image Credits- Rohan Surti (UG 21)