The Guy in the Eng(H) Class
He was a Jat(a community in India)boy in my English(H) batch of 2011. He would enter the class hesitantly and will not speak to anybody, specially the girls in the class who made up for the majority in the class of 22. We would catch him taken aback by the legs flaunting from under the shorts. Once, he pointed to a girl having a smoke and said to another guy from our batch “Look, a girl is smoking.” When he couldn’t see his startled expression mirrored on the other guy’s face, he understood he had to keep his thoughts to himself. The discussions about sex and sexuality would make him uncomfortable. He would never participate, never comment, never agree/disagree. He even tried to get himself migrated to a B.Com course towards the end of the first year but low grades became a hindrance.
Provoked by our teachers, all of us tried to make him feel included. We asked him to join us for lunch where he would just stay quiet. In the class, we would try to ensure that none of us offended his sensibilities (which were clearly very different from the rest of us) by asking him about his opinion, by trying to debate with him. We would just let him be. Fortunately, for him, we didn’t have any bullies in the class and after a while it became normal for him to enter the class and exit it without even speaking a word to anyone, the only difference being, now he didn’t look that much out-of-the-place. By the time we reached the middle of the 2nd year, he no longer remained “the intimidated boy who needed looking after” but instead became “the boy who would take notes feverishly.” He would still not be a part of our conversations but now he would smile in between them sometimes.
I will now fast forward to the day of our farewell. After the usual song and dance, we were asked to share our thoughts about leaving the college. The first person to speak up was the one who spoke the least in all three years of our college. Yes, it was him. He got to the stage and immediately everybody was quiet. I was dying of anticipation for we always wanted to hear him speak, we wanted to know what he’s been thinking all that time he would fill pages taking notes, the time when he would sit amidst us and listen to everything and not say a word.
I don’t remember his speech word by word but since it is one of the most prominent moments from my college life, I guess I can remember pretty much every line. Here’s what he said:
“Thank you everyone. You must be thinking how is he speaking up today. I know you guys, specially my batch-mates always wondered why I don’t speak. It is because all these years I didn’t want to waste time speaking. I wanted to learn and learn as much as I could in this short span because the kind of learning I had here, I am very sure I wouldn’t have had anywhere else. And I foolishly tried to migrate after the 1st year!
When I joined this college I was another person. I would look at girls wearing shorts and skirts and would judge them. The idea of girls having a smoke was a shock to me. I had only seen it in the films. These women were not my idea of a woman. I had never seen my mother/sister smoking or wearing those kinds of clothes. When my classmates would talk of feminism, would talk of equal rights, racial/cultural equality, it would seem to me that they are doing it just because they want to look modern or ‘cool’. How can anybody truly believe that a woman doesn’t have to cook at all? How can one speak all those TV-script-like words in reality. That is how foolish and naive I was!
Then, when I couldn’t migrate, I started spending more time with these guys and it dawned upon me that they are not fake. They really do believe in all those things that they say. After all, how can someone put up a show all the time. Once I accepted the possibility of people with a different way of life, it all started making sense to me. I’ll give you an example. I, once, went to Deeksha’s place (a classmate). We went to her house and her parents asked us to study in her bedroom and told us they would send the snacks there. I was baffled. At my place, my sister couldn’t even have guy friends. The thought of her even hanging out with a guy was beyond the periphery of mine or my family’s imagination. And there we were in Deeksha’s bedroom, studying while her parents knew she was behind the door with a guy who is not a relative. Suddenly, I realised how it wasn’t and shouldn’t be a big deal. Not A Big Deal! That’s what my classmates would keep telling me and for the first time in my life I found myself using those words, even if it was only in my mind. Deeksha didn’t cook, neither did her mother. They had a house-help. And these two were such great ladies. You can’t imagine how I felt that day. That was the day I started converting.
Then onward, I would listen my classmates and teachers and will take notes — mentally or on a paper. I would think profoundly even about the casual discussions. How my world turned upside down! I could no longer relate to my family’s school of thought. I would often find myself thinking the thoughts that didn’t seem to belong to me, taking a stand that would seem alien to the ‘Me’ I’ve known all my life. I no longer wanted to drop and pick my sister up from tuition to keep an eye on her. I no longer wanted my mother to get me a glass of water every time I came back home. I no longer wanted my father to treat our boy-servant badly. I no longer wanted to be the “male” of the house.
Then, came the time when I started hating my previous life, by previous I mean before joining this college. I was in a turmoil. I was no longer who I wanted to be and I couldn’t be who I wanted to be. I would argue with my family and friends. Life, all of a sudden, became complicated. That was because I had started thinking.
Yet again, I found my redemption in my class. It was during one of the lectures on cultural evolution that I realised that you can’t alienate yourself from your past. I realised my parents aren’t to be blamed for they know only little. Their past and the influences in it are what keep them caged to their thoughts. That’s when peace came upon me. And life was easy again.
After today, we are all going to leave this place. But I am the one who’s leaving richer than anyone else. I have seen my life change here and have found my future course here. I have found the perspective and I, for the first time, have found friends who don’t believe in everything that I say but are still my friends. And more than anything else I have found the truth, the truth that what I think today might change tomorrow. I can be someone else too. And even then I will be good. I will be me. And that to grow is to think.”