Most people always associate with the college they study in especially the undergraduate college, your first step into the adult world. It is even more special because you have always led a guarded life, protected by your parents till you move to another city to study in a college. However, I do not have this feeling of association with the college that I went to. For me, the movement was from a small town in North India to a metropolitan in down South. Bangalore was a new world for me in terms of language, culture, food and weather. It was a very big deal that my family sent me (the eldest child and a daughter) three thousand kilometers away to Christ College at Hosur Main Road in Bangalore. My father was not very sure initially when I got through but when he visited the institution with me, the ‘discipline’ really impressed him and he felt safe to ‘let’ me study there. And then began my journey in this extremely horrible autocratic institution. All my dreams of ‘college life’ which I had nurtured through Bollywood films went for a toss. Here I was back in school which was worse than the one I went to.
The college had a ‘dress code’ as per which women were allowed to wear only kurtas with leggings, churidar or salwar. Jeans was initially allowed but eventually we had teachers chucking us out of class and not giving us attendance if they “caught” us wearing jeans. Same was the case for men; they had to be dressed in formals every morning. There have been times when we sat in the middle seat with people on both sides to prevent the teacher from noticing that we were wearing jeans. You obviously could NOT wear sleeveless clothes. We sometimes wore dupattas to hide the fact that we were wearing sleeveless kurtas and sometimes a pullover or sweat shirt on top of it. Juniors who are still studying in Christ College tell me how now they are not allowed to even wear leggings because it is “too tight” and hence “indecent”. Dupattas are now a must for women.
Every morning the guards at the gate would run their eyes from the top of my body to the toe to make sure I was in ‘dress code’ and ‘decently dressed’. This would happen when I was trying to run to class at around 9 am because even if I were to be a minute late; I would miss out on attendance. Did I mention that the minimum attendance requirement was 85 percent, yes 85 percent? Attendance would be taken at 9 sharp and then at around 9:05, there would be a person from the administration office who would come and collect the attendance sheet. So the teachers could not be kind to you even if they wanted to. Their condition was equally worse; they had to punch in their thumb impression every morning at 9. I distinctly remember a professor getting fired because she was friendly with us. I know it is hard to believe but it did actually happen.
You were not allowed to comb your hair anywhere in campus except the washrooms. I remember once I took out a hair brush from my bag to comb my hair while I was sitting in the ivy hall to have lunch. It was very chaotic in there because the entire college had lunch break from 1 pm to 2 pm. However, to my surprise the guard emerged from the crowd whistling at me and telling me to not ‘do’ this in ‘public’. Hugging was also prohibited if it was with a person of the opposite sex. If the guards saw any girl and boy hugging on campus, they would start whistling.
The ridiculous dress code applied even on Sundays even if you were there to just withdraw money from the ATM at the entrance or to watch a match which your class was playing with juniors, seniors or other departments.
The latest encounter that I had with these horrible rules was two years after graduating from this institute when I had gone to collect my migration certificate. I was stopped at the main gate because I was not wearing a dupatta. The guard created a scene and when I clearly told him ithat I was not a student anymore and was just here for get my migration certificate, he responded back saying that if was an ex-student I should know the ‘rules’ even better. After much argumentation, the guard called the ‘head of security’ who took out a key from his pocket and unlocked an almirah in the small room for security at the gate. This man took out two dupattas and then he stared at my bosom for 5 seconds and lifting one dupatta in his left hand said- “wear this, this matches with your kurta”. I was flabbergasted at his audacity to do that but I had to wear that damn dupatta to enter this fucked up institution and collect my migration certificate. I promised to never come back to this institution.
The authorities in the garb of “discipline” practice the most outrageous form of misogyny. The dress code for women, no leggings and must have dupattas , all of it stemming from the same patriarchal notions which blame women when they are sexually harassed or assaulted because they ‘asked for it’ by dressing a certain way, by being in a certain space at a certain time or by indulging in activities they aren’t socially supposed to. This reminds me of my professor who was chucked out of our class with two guards pulling him out when he was trying to talk to us before he quit and tell us the reality of this institution. He told us that if they were to take admissions simply on the basis of merit, ninety percent of the strength of my class would comprise of girls. However, the ‘fathers’ of this ‘holy’ institution were not in favour of it. We ended up having a fifty-fifty ratio of male and female students because according to the administration women would eventually get married and sit at home. It would hence be a waste to put in all the resources in educating them. I cannot not mention one distinct memory that I have of the Director of our department; he was screaming at one of my female classmates because he did not like her ‘hair style’. This classmate had thick curly mid-length hair which she did not usually tie. The Director made it a point to tell her to tie her hair and this classmate actually had to tie her hair everyday so as to not ‘piss off’ the Director.
Now when I look back to the time I spent in Christ College, Bangalore I am filled with immense anger and despise. It also makes feel like a hypocrite for having tolerated all the fucked up rules and the sexual harassment and for calling myself a feminist today. I end this blog with a hope that more students and alumni raise voices against these patriarchal rules and also write about such experiences in this institution which ruined college life for me forever.