Schools and colleges have remained shut for over a month now due to the coronavirus lockdown. Online classes and exams have replaced the ventilated classrooms; Zoom class notifications gives a rush of nostalgia for the college bells that often chafed us; beds and sofas of our house are nowhere similar of the crooked benches where some wrote their stories/radicalism, while others created memories; the room and halls of the home have taken away the feeling of freedom and freshness we had when we loitered in the fields and Lawns of the colleges or even on the lanes of Kamla Nagar. Though there is no idea when the pandemic situation that the world is going through will let up, we can take a breath of relief that someday we will certainly go back to our colleges. True, this might not be a relief for many but isn’t it better to get back to normal life before we realize that the unusual situation has caused us losses more than we estimated.
Going by the UGC guidelines, our colleges might open from August, that is, three months from now. While it is certain that things will not be as normal as before when the lives will resume after the lockdown, what changes can we expect in colleges? Since there is still no vaccines or drugs to eradicate COVID-19, we will have to live with the danger of being infected. Social distancing and other precautionary measures we have been following till now will become the norm. We will all be responsible for our own selves and not get infected or become a carrier of COVID-19 for our families and friends. It might not be wrong to say that from August we will wake up to socially-distanced college life. So how would this “socially-distanced college life” look like? Maybe like this!
To begin with, the metro travel, first chapter of a normal day in college, might not be the usual “me-time” that most of us enjoyed. There might be constant anxiety and suspicion about the transmission of the virus from the person standing or sitting next to you, the rods that you hold for support, or the escalators. Masks would be essential, even if it is suffocating and loosens your spectacle! In fact, we might not even see the crowd at Rajiv Chowk or Kashmere Gate that made us wonder about the country’s population. This means then we might be free to walk and not be pushed by the person behind; no more scrunching up of the nose on the smell of sweat, no more people peeping into your phones, no more groping? Well, let’s see!
Once we enter the college, with masks on, can we expect the guards at the gate standing with sanitizers? Maybe. What might be more unusual and uncomfortable for most of us is putting on a mask throughout the day- in class, in lawns, and even when we chill out with friends at the canteen. We might find ourselves more skeptical of the sanitization of areas around us though before sitting on the stairs of the college or the metro was fun! We will also have full-fledged classes since the semester will run late by a month. Students who had two days weekends, gear up because you can expect classes to happen 6-days a week. Besides, to ensure social distancing in classes, the sitting arrangement in the class might also change. Rules like one student per bench, benches kept at a certain distance, two-three additional rooms for the same class, or lectures held in two sessions to avoid over-crowding of the classes can be expected.
Last but I think the most important, will the quality time we spend with friends change too? Unfortunately yes. In the times of social distancing and the danger of COVID-19 continuing to threaten the country, we might avoid unimportant outings. Even if we go, we will be extra careful about everything- where to eat, where to go, and what to eat. Though it was fun to sit in CP, sip chai and listen to someone randomly playing guitar, this carefree nature will have to certainly change. We might not be so comfortable to have tea at our favorite tapris outside the college, or the favorite street food we have been craving for so long. The spontaneity with which we stopped by the momo counter while walking back to the metro station will not be the same.
But what might remain the same is our friends, professors, and the air of freedom within the college campus. In fact, due to the lockdown, the air will not be contaminated and we can all breathe in freedom with freshness, a combination very rare in metropolitan cities like Delhi.
So, let us go by the saying that changes are good while we wait out the lockdown and go back to our classrooms.
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