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Pune Memoirs (III): Protesting against reservation, ideology and friendship

Pune Memoirs, 2005/06:

Third year in Pune

May 28, 2006:

The TYBA (Third Year) exams were finally over. Everyone waited in anticipation for the results that were delayed forever. I was constantly making this stupid joke of pulling a Rang De Basanti (RDB) climax at the University, reeling under the effect of the film that could be a mass movement in college. I was not the only one under the effect of RDB, it seems.

We were all counting the days, sitting and whining time at our college hang out in Savera with the gang. A bigger movement was taking shape all over India and it spread from one city to another, that ultimately reached Pune. Students all over the country, from  MBBS, engineers and arts, were angry over the latest measure announced by the Government and the HRD Minister Arjun Singh to go ahead with the reservation of 27 percent seats in premier institutions like AIMS, IIT and IIM for the OBC castes. We were young and reckless. After all, 20s is the age to protest against discrimination, misplaced merit which we viewed as negative discrimination to garner a vote bank.

It was a Sunday. I was bored sitting in the flat.  On that day, I took off early morning at Savera, picking up the morning newspapers and sipping countless cups of filter coffee and chai. I received an sms from P who became a close friend during the last year in college, where we were hanging out together at Savera to puff and indulging in gup shup. I walked back to the flat that was minutes away from Savera on FC road to take a shower and hastily walked back to my favorite restaurant for a quick meal. I met Sudhendhu on my way out when P buzzed, asking me to wait outside since she is on her way in the rickshaw where I’ll be picked on FC Road.

The movement was hosted by Youth For Equality and everyone would assemble at Saras Baug, Bajirao Road near Swargate where we would march from Saras Baug to Tilak Road, Deccan Corporation to end our march at Shanivar Vada. As we reached the venue, we could see flags flying against reservation and cops surveying the students’ movement with rumors spreading like wildfire that students were lathi charged.

Fortunately, nothing of the sort happened the time we reached post lunch at 1 pm and things started to move fluidly where we walked peacefully and in a disciplined manner following the crowd on a line on the bustling roads in the city. It was quite a long march and can’t remember the last time I plodded my feet for so long. We strongly believed in ideology and a quest for a better and equal India that shouldn’t have a room for discrimination.

Image credit: India.
An outside view of Sambhaji Garden off JM Road in Pune.

Today, it’s a different story that my ideology has shifted drastically away from the misplaced capital system where I find myself more in sync with leftist socialism. Needless to say, I have a significantly altered view-point on the whole reservation issue after reading several scholar articles on groups lacking access to education and there is a certain ground reality that we cannot ignore.

As we sweated it in the sun, we indulged in discussion on the whole issue between sharing fags and P rightly observed that this march wouldn’t make any difference to a chai or paan wala who is more concerned to make both ends meet, ensuring that his children don’t sleep on an empty stomach and on how to send them to school. It’s a valid point that has relevance even in today’s times. Time was flying fast on this otherwise boring Sunday where it didn’t struck us that it was almost past 4 pm as we sat at the Chattrapati Shambaji Garden on JM Road sipping chai and resting our tiring legs.

It was fun times to be in the city. I constantly pulled P during the entire year in Savera and she would get angry, protesting at my antics and the next breaking into a cackle of laughter. But, we were thinkers who could also have a passionate debate about issues. We spoke about a classmate who was planning for DU (Delhi University)  and has boasted about how he will never go through reservation under foreign quota, but would rather give entrance exams. But, sometimes, ideology fails when it doesn’t suit your interest. The man who faced the truth about the DU exams decided to opt for a seat under the quota, ultimately. It can happen with people where all their self-claimed ideologies go for  a toss. I found it ludicrous. Why boast about ideology when you will ultimately choose the easiest route?

At that time, I was trying for Mumbai University to do my Masters and was eligible under the NRI quota but decided that I am not going for it. As a proud Indian, I told the administration that trying under the merit list suits me when my results will come. It was either a do or die situation for me. It was one of the reasons that I was anxious about the result getting delayed and desperately praying to secure a first class. Ultimately, I sealed my seat in the Second Merit List at Kalina Campus. Delay meant not being in time for admission and there was always the risk of being royally fucked in the ass. I shared it with P who told me, ‘I am so proud of you Vishal.’

We parted ways in the evening. The cherry on the cake was that we crossed the path with N who was apparently the darling of college dudes and on whom I had such a soft crush in the first year. We cheerfully said Hi to her and exchanged pleasantries, talking about the reservation march for few minutes before she disappeared.

It was one of the memorable friendships carved during the college days with P and the bond that makes everything so vivid as if it was yesterday only. How I wish time would never fly so fast! I mean, we take every good thing for granted and at that juncture in life, we never realize that nothing stays forever but the only thing that would matter are the memory, friendships, and bonds. It was the last days that I was spending in Pune where good things were escalating one after the other that would make one miss the place like hell. College life was almost over. The best in my life.






Work-in-progress, seeker and bundle of contradictions. Stubborn and Refusal to grow up and constantly in search of myself, I blurt it out on my space. Drop in and share some love. Indian by choice.

17 thoughts on “Pune Memoirs (III): Protesting against reservation, ideology and friendship

  1. I was having coffee at a place opposite Fergusson College yesterday and was thinking of what could be going onin the minds of all the students hanging out there . BTW If someone is “hanged “‘it means he is hung till dead . Hung is the past tense of hang when you are still alive after hanging . Sorry couldn’t risk pointing out this mistake in your post.

  2. This reminds me of so many things in Pune…. But I’ll keep that to myself, and just get to the point. So you participated in a rally against Reservation? But what was the outcome? Nothing. This is what I realized when around the same time I had joined an NGO which used to have open talks on things like these. They used to organize rallys, festivals, and open letters from the public to the govt on various issues. But after 3 meetings I realized there was no point to all of this unless this was a Mass Movement. Sitting in a closed office space and sharing views, or out on the open just walking, won’t get the govt. to change their views unless major public opinion is in the same vein, like in the Nirbhaya case. So if you want to bring change, mobilize the masses is what I learnt. But kudos to you that you grew up and learnt that there were some ideals which are better left to books. Also, I must say that was a very brave move not taking up the quota and going through merit! Well done 🙂

    1. Hi Pradita, thanks so much for sharing your views. I think it’s something that many of us believed at that time and still has relevance today, but I feel protesting in a mass rally is a good way to put pressure. But, at the same, this is what I felt in those days of 2006 but now my stand has completely changed on the issue. I have become a leftist. Yes, I agree unless we call for a mass movement but at the same raising the issue help to create awareness. But, I agree despite everything and all kind of pressure, the Kan Lok movement couldn’t get the deal the wanted and the Government of the day finally has his say. I told the University that as an Indian, I shall go through the cut off percentage. Yes, the Nirbhaya movement was such a huge movement for change and personally, I would like it to happen when a child is raped or killed in an obscure movement. But that’s how we felt in those days that we can be part of the change.

      1. Thank you for not taking that negatively. I do agree that mass rallies sometimes can bring a change and create pressure, but ONLY if those rallies are consistent and are huge enough to represent a sizeable chunk of the population. The reason why the Nirbhaya movement became successful is precisely for this reason, apart from the fact that the crime committed was unconscionable. As for the reservation issue, it could have never been the other way around, because the reservation issue had never been, ab initio, been about benefitting the repressed classes, but ONLY politics. So no matter how many rallies may happen, reservation is here to stay in this country.

      2. No no there is no point to look at things in a negative way. Yes, I agree with the consistency part and read somewhere even among leftissts, the reason why protest fail is because of ego and some who wants to grab the limelight that boosts inequality to make equal. I have followed the Nirbhaya movement, something that made me proud of Indian youth. There was a collective conscience and the reason why so many who tried to be there for political reason couldn’t do it. Agree, the whole issue is political. Like I said in those days, the ideology was different and now I support reservation. It’s quite a long debate and if we look at stats, how much seats OBC get, it’s still less. Also the fact, that the upper middle class have so much entitlement, right from childhood and advantages at a later stage. Education comes at a price. We are urban people who are somehow protected. But, look in villages, how much boys and for girls its worse, who get access to education.

      3. You’re right. There is a huge disparity between levels of education and opportunities between villages and cities. But my stand has always been that reservation should be allowed on economic terms, not in the basis of a caste. Those who are below the poverty line can receive full support for education, be it OBC, SC or even Brahmans. The criteria cannot be a name anymore. That is just unfair.

      4. Yes. I used to see it that way but I feel that there is a certain reality to things. Economic terms is something that I agree with you. I would later share one article with you so that we can exchange notes on the issue but do feel free to share views or articles so that we can learn from each other.

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