Our convocation was supposed to take place on May 3.
Finishing a year-long diploma course in journalism deserved to end in celebration – a celebration of our efforts in trying to pull off accurate and honest reports in the Chennai heat. That was how I wanted to graduate after a year of learning the basics of journalism, running around trying to get official quotes and getting story pitches approved.
Instead, coronavirus happened. We were asked to vacate the hostel premises in March. All classes were moved online until further notice.
March 17 was the last functioning day of college. We had prayed that we would get just a week off because of the newly-announced coronavirus pandemic. Sitting in our little bubble, the pandemic did not seem that real. At that time, Chennai had only one registered case and we were sure that it was going to blow over.
There were rushed goodbyes and promises to meet at the convocation. We said “keep in touch” to one another as we hurried down narrow hallways to fill out no-due forms and tie up the few remaining threads that sealed our exit from college.
March 20 was the last day to leave. Everybody was hopeful that we would meet again, that there was no way this could go on forever; that we were going to be back before we knew it.
But we were so wrong.
We then went into lockdown after lockdown. We saw the situation worsen. We were thankful we made it back home in time, but were still bitter. The world was hit by crisis after crisis, so much so that staying online meant losing your mental sanity bit by bit.
Consuming news seemed tedious and, in this profession, every story chips away at you bit by bit.
May 25 was the day I graduated unceremoniously. It was 4:30 pm and I was just about to fall asleep after a tiring day of doing nothing when I got an email from college. Titled ‘Congratulations’, it told me that my PG Diploma had been attached to the email. I was then wished ‘best of luck’ for any future endeavours.
I may as well have been on the toilet when I received the mail. At least flushing would have been a symbolic ceremony.
I am now a graduate with no job. Hello, unemployment.
I see all these virtual send-offs that are happening worldwide and the numerous efforts that are being made by several organisations to make graduation possible for their students. While checking John Hopkins University’s dashboard on coronavirus the other day, I got sidetracked looking at attempts at a virtual graduation for the class of 2020.
It’s not like the real world is welcoming us with open arms either. In the media industry alone, layoffs have become the norm. Newspapers have cancelled many of their city editions, supplementary papers have been chopped and the number of pages have been cut down. Digital media has been equally affected as coming by funding has become an issue in an ever-tightening economy.
If we thought it was difficult before this, fellow graduates, a whole new ball game awaits us.
Forget the economy for a moment. That has been on a slope for a long time now. Let’s not forget how we are also struggling with our humanity. The humanitarian crisis that is plaguing our country because of mismanagement by the government is appalling. While dealing with the repercussions of that, let us not forget the various movements that were going on before coronavirus hit the world with a heady smack and make sure they don’t remain brushed aside forever.
The sheer number of issues that have come to light are daunting and the class of 2020 is quietly stepping into a world with no opportunities but a whole lot of things to tackle. Here’s hoping that we do. Cheers.
Meghna Muralidharan recently graduated with a diploma from Asian College of Journalism.