This was not the kind of colleges my generation of Indian women went to.
What has changed? What has made teachers in some Indian colleges so disrespectful towards girl students?
This email is heartening because the email writer refused to see this as normal or right.
This was a notice posted in the girls hostel of my college.
Here’s what this notice says:
The girl students in the Hostels are advised not to use skin tight dresses, fancy costumes, jewels etc. They should be decently dressed in the campus and in the Hostels. They should not interact with the boy students after working hours, and if any girl student is found talking with boy students after working hours for unduly long hours or if she is found in secluded spots talking to the boy students, she will be dealt with strictly and her parents will be informed about her behaviour.
After the first time, disciplinary action will be taken against her.
These people think they can/should dictate what a girl wears, whom she talks to and where and when. They know most parents would support them. I feel ashamed to be an alumnus of such an institution. But what I am ashamed of most is that I never revolted against any of this all because, “I didnt wanna risk my career”.
Oh by the way, this place is run by a *** trust. This sure looks like a place where they worship women, doesn’t it??
I’m going to share some of my worst experiences in this college. So this might be a long email. No, actually let me start from the beginning… School perhaps. That’s where the whole brainwashing started.
I come from a regular family with both parents working and are fairly liberal in their views. The most important thing was that both my parents believe in and practice gender equality. I never had “girl things” or my brother “guy things” to do. We just shared all the work and so did my parents. Naturally I assumed the rest of the world was the same and it took a long time for me to open my eyes.
Just when I was about to start high school we had to relocate to a new city and I chose to join a girls school (just because it had the biggest playground and the largest number of extra curricular activities). This is when things started to change and the “good girl” training began. This school was run by an old fashioned, narrow minded missionary institute. We were asked not to wear low cut blouses for ethnic days and not encourage boys from the neighboring boys school to talk to us and stuff. Also, certain alumni were not allowed to enter the school because they got pregnant while still in school. Somehow it did not occur to me (or the other girls) to question these. We just thought who cares about all these when you get to do whatever you like outside school and anyway the teachers know whats best for us.
Then I graduated and joined a junior college. It was one of those places where you stop eating/sleeping/playing for 2 yrs and just concentrate on getting a seat in a top engineering college. Now don’t ask me why I chose such a place. It was peer pressure perhaps to join the rat race. Again, we were not allowed to talk to boys and not wear jeans to college. But who cares about all that when you have your “life deciding” exams to prepare for?
Finally the day came when I had to choose my engineering college. I didn’t score well in my CETs and the only good college where I got an admission was this one. This place had a reputation of being strict and everything. But then again it has good faculty and placement record etc and I didn’t want my parents to buy me a seat anywhere. And of course those are more important right? In fact, things weren’t so bad in the beginning or so my good girl training told me. We had a dress code-girls in chudidars/long kurthis, guys in formal trousers and full sleeved shirts. We could only go out from 4:30-6:30 everyday and had to take a gate pass to go out during the weekends.I accepted all these without a second thought.
Then one day, my brother came to meet me and we stood talking at the entrance gate. The security guard started blowing his whistle asking us to leave. Both me and my brother got really pissed off and got down to a fight with the guard. He finally let us be. That was the first time I questioned the logic behind all those stupid rules. But I just pushed them to the back of my head. Then day by day the rules became stricter and stricter. We were forbidden to come out of our rooms (even to go to the next room) after 9. We were banned from sitting with guys in or around the canteen. We weren’t allowed to group study with guys even in the library. Dupatta became compulsory. We had to get a fax from our parents to stay out of the hostel over night. Shorts and capris were banned even in the hostel. Birthday celebrations were banned. I don’t know what the breaking point was exactly. Mobile phones were banned. The wardens had a right to just barge in when they please and read our personal SMSes and see the pics on our laptop and punish us for anything they found inappropriate.
But my friends and I decided enough is enough. We started rebelling against them in small ways. Our college is run by a trust. So, we wrote letters to her explaining the situation. We even met her and told her about our concerns. We raised a voice against things we didn’t think were correct. Result? We were labelled “bad girls” who have no respect for elders and Indian culture. We were shown as bad examples to new students. Finally they threatened to suspend/rusticate us if we refused to change. By this time we were in the 3rd year. Having already invested 2 yrs, we didnt want to risk spoiling our career and reluctantly gave in. Since it is a private institution they could formulate their own rules and suspend students to their liking. We did not have the right to form a student union. The security guards check out and scrutinize each girl’s clothing. In fact, when I went to collect my degree certificate I was denied admission to the college because I was in jeans. I sat down on the road and refused to move until I get my degree. They finally let me in.
Mind you, my parents were always supportive and they never had a problem with my clothes or me being friends with guys or staying out overnight or anything. So one thing the college people couldn’t do was to threaten me saying “We will tell your parents that you roam around with guys all the time”. Sadly that was not the case with most girls. The reason they are able to do this to students is because most parents approve of such rules. In fact some parents admit their kids in this place because it is strict and so their kids wont get spoilt. Like I tried explaining through this very long email, children are brain washed from an early age and very subtly. So, we just accept things as they are and by the time we realize something is wrong, it is usually too late.
The girls never broke these rules because they couldn’t without facing strict disciplinary action. Going to college without a dupatta could result in the loss of an academic year.
The teachers wore sarees which was their dress code. The male teachers wore formal trousers and shirts.
A lot of students were in a relationship. Some ended in marriage, some didn’t for various reasons including disapproval by parents.
Some girls like me felt it was wrong. Others found it right and thought we were”modern” or “cheap” or “shameless” to want to wear jeans or be friends with guys or date. I am considered a shameless girl by many of my peers because most of my friends are guys and I am open about my relationships. They feel going for long trips or partying with the guys is a mortal sin. But you know what? I stopped giving a damn to them long back!!
Oh by the way, these “traditional” ones also did date guys but most secretively. Openly being in a relationship was considered slutty. Anything is fine as long as it is kept a secret. [IHM: That’s the mantra for Indian culture, I agree]
Sorry about the long rambling. But I get really emotional and angry when I think about college and it gets difficult to stop the flow of thoughts.”