In Photos | The Class of 2020

The Class of 2020 was all set to leave their mark in the real world.

The preparation to finish their school/university life in the best way possible had started months ago. The excitement to begin afresh, however, went in vain in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The world, which was to welcome them with open hands, was tossed into chaos. With uncertainty raging high, their future and career are in limbo.

The delay in semester exams is not the only thing which keeps the Class of 2020 occupied. No notice for various entrance exams, frequent change in guidelines, a shrinking economy and widespread mental health issues spurred by the pandemic – the list of worries seems to have no end. With zero room for relaxation, the Class of 2020 is left with a little hope and is striving to find a way to get back on track. The emotions vary from betrayal, depression to feelings of being neglected.

This photo essay narrates the story of the graduating Class of 2020 and looks at how the pandemic has changed their lives in various ways.

Tushar, 22

I didn’t expect to lose my job considering I had just started working. My family had been so happy as I was working in a job in my chosen field – that too with a pretty good package. My workplace was also close to my home.

Everything changed in one go. I was shocked when I was told that I was being let go. No clear reason was given. It took me some time to accept it all. I feel fortunate that my family understands my situation and has helped keep my spirits up.

Tushar was pursuing an MBA in Supply Chain Management at a reputed university in Noida. In February, he was placed in a well-known company in New Delhi. The first student to be placed from his batch, he was ready to kickstart his career in an industry he had dreamt of working in since Class 12.

He joined work immediately in early February and was looking forward to supporting his family. The happiness, though, was short-lived. In May, Tushar received a rude shock when the company terminated his services within three months of his having joined.

Now, he helps his family in their confectionery business and works part-time from home in networking. He hopes the job market gets back to normal in 2021. In case it doesn’t, he has filled up forms for vacancies in the Delhi police as a backup.

Harshpreet, 18

I have always loved computers. I scored well in my computer classes and was studying hard for the subject and aimed to study computer engineering at a good college. Unfortunately, my board exam was cancelled in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in India. As a result, I knew that my declared result would not be the same as I would have scored had I given the exam. I felt helpless and betrayed when I scored less than 75%, which has made me to reconsider my dream of pursuing computer engineering.

Harshpreet finished Class 12 this year in the science stream. He was clear about his goals – do well in the exams to get admission into a good engineering college. However, mid March, the board examinations for Class 10 and 12 were cancelled. As coronavirus cases surged, the government imposed a nationwide lockdown, which particularly affected students whose subject exams weren’t held. Eventually, they were awarded marks based on an average score of exams held before the lockdown. For now, Harshpreet hopes to perform well in the JEE entrance exam.

Also read: The Covid Impact on Twenty Somethings in India’s Most Expensive City

Diksha, 21

Almost done with our course work, I was waiting for submissions and to fly to the other country to start another semester. I knew that cases were rising in the west but never thought that it would turn out in this way. In early March, all of a sudden, we were advised to fly back to India when we got to know that the Indian government was imposing a nationwide lockdown.

Thousand miles away from home and family, I was worried and helpless. I spent days calling up the Indian embassy and authorities for immediate help, but got no response. After hustling a lot, I finally managed to get tickets but for thrice the usual fare.

Diksha, a student of journalism and mass communication, was in London for a Study Abroad Program when the government announced the lockdown. She had dreamt of joining the programme for two years but had to come back in the middle. She flew back to India in the nick of time. Her flight from London to New Delhi landed on March 18, the day India put travel restrictions on international travellers.

Back home, Diksha struggled to submit her assignments online, which were essential to complete the programme. At the same time, her semester exams are still pending and she has got no notices from her university. Diksha is worried about her future. Her plan to study cultural studies in Germany, she says, looks impossible at the moment. For now, she is hoping to find a job related to her field to avoid a career gap.

Kashish, 22

Since the lockdown happened, there has been a drastic change in how I see my future playing out. I now see things more practically. I had been interested in the field of research and always wanted to become a researcher.

But I have decided to switch my career plans and go to a B-school to pursue an MBA instead of applying for a Masters in Bioinformatics. I think, instead of investing six to seven years pursuing a career in research, it would be better if I get into the corporate world.

Kashish was pursuing BSc in Biotechnology at a private university in Gurgaon. Six months ago, he started preparing to get admission into a reputed government institution for a masters course. Being a meritorious student, he felt confident about his choice to pursue a career in research.

But the pandemic has affected Kashish’s best-laid plans. He hasn’t received any update regarding the entrance tests from the universities he applied for. After losing hope about getting into a government institution, Kashish has taken admission at a private college for his masters to avoid wasting a year. At the same time, he is preparing for CAT – which is scheduled to take place in November – to get into a good B-School. He says that he will drop his ongoing course if he manages to bag a seat at a good B-School. The intention comes at a cost – of putting his dream of a career in research to bed.

Rashi, 21

I was working on my final project for the past six months which would add a lot to my portfolio and play a major role in boosting my career. Suddenly, all of it came to halt, especially at the time when I had to execute my project and finish it. I came under stress for my project which includes more of practical work than theory. Although I completed my project and presented it online, I feel dejected because I think I couldn’t reflect my work the way I had anticipated. I believe somewhere this will affect my career because the recruiters and clients assign us on the basis of our portfolio, and they won’t understand why I couldn’t execute my work in the best way.

Rashi graduated this year in communication design from an institute in New Delhi. She had put all her effort into make an impressive portfolio. Her project was in the final stage when the lockdown snapped into place in March and months of preparation came to nought, derailing the career plan she had charted which involved seeking job experience for a year before heading abroad to pursue a masters.

Also read: To the Class of 2020

Yashika, 19

Earlier this year, I had decided to pursue fashion design. Hence, I started preparing and making a portfolio well in advance. However, amidst the chaos of the boards and the pandemic, I missed the application date for the entrance. Nevertheless, I planned to do a course in arts and apply for the entrance next year again.

But my board result came as a shock to me – I scored in the seventies. I had appeared for all the exams, but I feel a sense of discrimination towards students whose all exams were conducted successfully, as we didn’t get any relaxation in marking or the overall score. I have dropped my plan to pursue design, seeing people around me struggling to keep their jobs. Rather, I have started to prepare for government services for a secure and stable career.

Yashika finished Class 12 this year and had made up her mind to pursue a career in fashion design after school. But her plans changed entirely with the lockdown. Now, after analysing the situation, she believes fashion design as a career is a risky choice. Consequently, has now decided that she would like to works towards the civil service exams.

At present, Yashika hopes to get admission in a political science course at Delhi University, but fears she may not get a seat as the cut-offs are higher than ever.

Ashish Kumar Kataria is a freelance documentary photographer based in Gurugram. He can be reached on instagram @ashishkumarkataria.