I’m currently reading a book ‘Walkabout’ by Bill Bryson, wherein in his elaborately elegant style he writes about his experiences in two geographically different places – America and Australia, but portrays them to be quite similar. In America, he traverses (or at least tries to) the great Appalachian Trail, and in Australia he gets to visit many sight-worthy areas on land and sea all of which are fraught with utmost perils. Both are areas which have vast expanses of untamed land, full of life-threatening fauna (and in some cases flora), inhuman environmental conditions, and an inhospitable terrain.
What really struck me while flipping through the fascinating account of Bryson’s was that, I’ve been through many of those dire situations, albeit a slightly toned down version in our own campus. We have extensive ‘untamed’ land within our compound walls where you can see the occasional snake and who knows what other critters waiting to catch you unaware. Environmental conditions can aptly be described as ‘inhuman’ and some would go so far as to say, “If you’ve survived NIT-T, you’ve survived the worst.” (Actually, no one has said that, but I guess everyone would readily echo the same throughout their lives). And the terrain is every bit as green and lush as many of our professors’ heads. To add to all this, we live in hostels where our Fundamental Right to Daily Amenities are routinely violated. So what do we do then?
Which brings me to my next bit: why I think each one of us can survive out there in the wilderness, like Bryson did. Or more like Bear Grylls. For some of you, who haven’t heard of this rather inspirational figure who has his own TV show – he is a man who teaches you how to make your way through the world’s various challenging terrains. It’s quite captivating to watch, more so because of the marked English accent he speaks in. Seeing him split open frogs, rabbits and the like to eat, rather puts our lives in quite a different perspective.
But I’m veering off topic aren’t I? So, why do I think that each of us is a Bear Grylls-type of survivor? It’s because we are forced to think on our feet. To elaborate:
What do I do when there’s no water at the hostel and there’s an urgent need to address nature’s call?
What do I do when I have to walk across the campus in the blazing-hot sun, just because a sadistic architect thought “Why don’t we build Amber at the end of nowhere which is near some more nowhere?”
What do I do when there’s no power and you’ve got to study for tomorrow’s semesters like crazy (because we don’t want a repeat of the fiasco that was the CT’s now, do we?)
These are just some of the many contingencies that an NITT student would’ve to handle to survive in college (truth be told, only these three popped into the author’s head as he was trying his level best to concentrate over the incessant traffic noise of a busy Indian road. Come to think of it, we would have dealt with noise pollution in our hostels also. And that’s contingency number four; so there.)
As Bear Grylls would have said in his all too British voice, “The line between life and death is determined by what we are willing to do”.
Even if it means taking a long walk to go to the exam centre far, far away in the afternoon Trichy sun to just write an exam you’re already sure of flunking.
– Sriram Raghavan