Our country India is a melting pot of cultures, regions, religions, and languages. And a slice of it was visible in BITS Pilani as well. There were students from all over India. From Kashmir in the north to Kerala in the south, from Gujarat in the west to Bengal in the east.
Though a couple of states did dominate, the other regions tried to hold on to their identity through cultural associations. I was a part of the PCA, but that did not preclude me from joining in when other associations were celebrating their festivals. Quite a few of my close friends were from Maharashtra, thus, I became an enthusiastic participant in the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations that the Maharastra Mandal of BITS Pilani would help organise. From the day of the sthapana of the idol to visarjan, we would be a part of each day’s event. One year it was double the fun since the Ganpati was kept at my day scholar friend’s house. Similarly, quite a few of my friends would tag along with me for langar and Lohri celebrations. My Odia friends taught me the importance of Saraswati Puja, while the dandiya during the Sharad Navratri was a time for fun and frolic. Holi and Diwali was the time when all of us would come together and celebrate these festivals.
The mess of BITS Pilani introduced me to the specialities of South Indian food that I probably would not have tried otherwise. Even if not 100% authentic, it opened my eyes to the variety of food available in India. Through my Kashmiri Pandit friends, I learned more about their exodus than a recent politically motivated film. Their stoicism and the urge to do well in life hid the pain of leaving their homeland. The local population of Pilani was steeped in tradition. It showed me the earthiness and the raw beauty of a small hamlet in India. But it also made me aware of how important the education of girls is in breaking years of patriarchal rituals. It made me realise how lucky I was to be given the advantage of education and the rural-urban divide of India.
There were a few students, like hubby dearest who refused to join any regional association. He, in fact, took advantage of the diverse states that his friends belonged to. He travelled the length and breadth of the county during holidays to visit the hometowns of his friends, discovering the beauty of our homeland.
It was not all peaches and roses, though. Being a private college, the fees of BITS Pilani are on the higher side, making it out of reach of quite a few students. Only families above a particular economic threshold can think of sending their students to BITS Pilani. This was one of the reasons why we all wanted a “good” job, a job that would pay well. I know of friends whose parents had mortgaged their ancestral property to be able to afford to pay the fees. In defence of BITS Pilani, they did offer generous scholarships to deserving students, but only after a student had taken admission.
A few months back, I read an article about the inherent casteism in the BITS Pilani written by a former student. It is true that BITS Pilani does not have any reservations except for the BET staff. It might be my privilege speaking, but for me, rather than caste I think there was a problem of regionalism. The students of the two states that dominated BITS Pilani did not really mingle with the students from the rest of the country. While exceptions are always there, the students from these two states already had their school friends/seniors there, sticking to their cliques and groups. Hence, they did not feel the need to step out of their comfort zone.
For students like me, ones who didn’t really belong to a particular region, BITS Pilani was a place to make friends from all over India!
This post has been written as part of #BlogchatterA2Z where all through the month of April I will be writing about BITS Pilani.
I’m participating in #BlogchatterA2Z.
Psst. My book “Xanadu: Three Souls Searching For Their Paradise” is now available on Amazon, do check it out!