The University Space

Not once upon a time
But in India today
Teachers who taught for 9-12 years were kicked out of their workplaces
While permanent professors stayed
Most of the teachers were women
Not surprisingly
The male professors remained.

Part 1: The Classroom

A beautiful place
The womb of a blossoming mind
The nurturer of academic debates
Jewel in the crown of university space
Talks of freedom and liberty
Brewing with fresh tea and coffee
Students, eager and hardworking
Flooding the premises
The classroom
A prison darker than the mind
Slaughtered of good sense
A monopoly of the privileged
Bathed in blood and violence
Oppressor of people
Terrible educated minds
Learned in terrorism and murder
A devoted devotee of fascism
Turning humans to machine
Smothering voices of truth and dignity.

Part 2: The Teacher

My teacher is an ad-hoc
A temporary filling till the college finds someone more capable
My college is one of the biggest in the nation
Yet my teacher toiled for ten long years
For my college couldn’t find someone capable, inspite of its credentials
My teacher taught me to dream
My teacher taught me lessons of liberty
My teacher gave me respect and freedom
My teacher taught me to live with dignity
She told us not to bow down to oppression
To fight for our rights and individual expression
She accepted us for who we were
She taught us never to live in fear
To fight for those who were oppressed
To stand in collective when needed
And raise out voice, loud or silent in protest
Against societal injustice
To fight for those depressed
To use our education to make good of the globe
To keep alive the memory
Of human history
Which documented struggles of freedom
Against authoritarian men
My teacher taught me something that is permanent
And shall live beyond Death.

Part 3: The Professor

The professor enters the classroom
Already tired and irate
His blood boiling hot with fascism and authority
He opens a big fat book of history
And starts calling out dates
Of great military struggles
Facts, facts, facts barks he
Like a rote parrot taught by the Administration Authority
He then becomes a motivational speaker
Then a “philosopher” with a capital P
To talk about the benefits of yoga
And harm of being in company of woman
Filled with hate
He teaches us to be academically accurate
All the while glossing about the glory of the state we are living in
Glorifying the hand which holds the gun
He breaks the pen and voice of reason
He is a coveted individual, with flowery titles
Alas! Poor, poor Professor
Students fail to remember dates
They do not recognise the military titles he taught them
Not a word of history in their cognisance
To enlighten their brains.

Part 4: A Poem of Hopeful Lament

O Teacher
You shall be remembered
In talks of dreams and struggles of freedom
The years you sowed your toil and sweat
Into the fertile fields of the university space
Shall continue to pump the student’s hearts
Even if professors seek to train our brains
With thoughts of material well-being
Of Golden Letters of Recommendation and scholarly elitism
Your perennial river of lessons shall continue to flow
To fight for Truth and Freedom
The freedom of not being a slave to scholarly oppression
The dream of nurturing independent imagination
Dear Teacher
You will be remembered in each breath
In each painful step that we take
Your story shall be told again and again
Your song shall be sung in every protest
The injustice that happened with you shall not be forgotten
Your tale shall stay as long as history remains
Your tale shall stay as long as history remains
As long as history remains.

Sristi Ray is a final year history undergraduate student Delhi University. She dreams of becoming an independent working woman some day who will stand up to fight and give voice to women oppressed by societal chains across the globe through her literary works and performances of dance and drama.