How COVID-19 Stole My Last Semester of College at JNU

I wake up at 1 pm and I sleep at 5 am. It is the new normal.

And while I sleep, I dream of the bougainvilleas of my university (Jawaharlal Nehru University), which are in full bloom at this time of the year. I think about the sari in my hostel room’s wardrobe waiting to be worn on my farewell day. I was looking forward to the movie screenings and a class on Isadora Duncan and Uday Shankar that had been scheduled.

Sometimes, I see faces sloganeering, marching while holding placards with various things written on them. I try to read what’s written on the placards but reading from a distance is difficult.

After all, I don’t wear my glasses to bed.

Bougainvilleas in full bloom at JNU. Photo: Sanskriti Rajkhowa

Those placards perhaps are enmeshed with bold lines cutting sharply and condemning the violence upon those silenced; violence that still awaits proper investigation. The unprecedented turn of events makes me wonder whether we would be there to witness any more protests – like the one against the massive fee hike in our university, or those against against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens, against dismantling of Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) and against regressive power structures.

This is not how my final semester was supposed to end. For me, and for thousands of students around the country, this was supposed to be the last lap of the race. One final opportunity to interact with brilliant minds whose classes we can never get enough of, write assignments in the best possible way to save our grades one final time, engage in never ending conversations over chai, roam around the campus at night holding hands with our best mates and whine about it all coming to an end.

Also read: I Draw Quarantine Comics To Cheer Everyone Up

This was also supposed to be the last chance to say goodbye. I wanted to say goodbye to the institution that has taught me so much of what I know. Where classes were much more than classes, and didn’t happen only in classrooms; where discourse wasn’t one sided and life was just different from any other place one could possibly be.

My university is in a parallel universe where I would walk fearlessly at 2 am, undaunted. We were asked to leave the space we regard as the safest. The fear of coronavirus not only made us rethink our biological existence and well-being but also invaded all the safe spaces we inhabited before.

The lost university classes cannot be compensated but this pandemic has taught us some serious life lessons. The virus’ apocalyptic waves have swept away thousands of lives world over while some are still struggling to reach the shore. On the other hand, thousands of people have undergone the wrath of sudden lockdowns. Amidst the loss of life and livelihood, it is nothing but my privilege to be able to stay at home with a full stomach.

But I do feel a sense of loss and mourning for what my peers and I will no longer be able to experience. I am mourning our last classes on campus and the last bougainvillea blossoms that we would see while still being students of JNU. The last meals at a dhaba or the last cups of tea at 2 am that would never truly be the last.

This May, I would have been the first grandchild to graduate in my family. Many others would have their own special reason for cherishing these memories. Now all we can do is wait and hope that the postponed graduation ceremony is not cancelled entirely.

So my fellow graduates-to-be, grieve. Do that Instagram challenge, post about your Netflix binging and fill your gallery with innumerable pictures of the sky. Do whatever you need in order to process this moment. We are robbed of our memories — and there is nowhere we can complain about it.

We feel we’ve lost an essential part of our college experience, and this loss will take time to heal.

Ananya Mahir is a student at Jawaharlal Nehru University. She wishes that academic texts lose some pretence. 

Featured image credit: Sanskriti Rajkhowa