Another nostalgia attack. While preparing a set of assignment questions on Frankenstein I happened to check the gmail archive and guess what I found there– a soft copy of a seminar paper presented by Shreya Prabhu Jindal (who was my batchmate at Stephen’s, also a co-class representative, and now a promising author) on the same novel sometime around in the last term of our BA final year. That was five years back. As much as her work makes me nostalgic, it also invokes a sense of loss and lament at the gap between an academic culture and pedagogy that nurtured us and an academic practice that we now confront at the moment. In those five years a lot has changed. That was a time when the “annual” mode was the order of the day with its three neat sub-divisions into “terms” based on the seasonal rhythm of autumn, winter and spring. We all miss those bygone autumn and winter breaks!
That was a time when we could spend months on a sonnet, where we could “itemize” (as the late professor Dr Ashish Roy would often call it) each and every imagery/metaphor in Neruda’s poems to blend a personal saga of love with a political narrative of identity. That was the time when the reading and teaching was done leisurely and yet it was close, critical, insightful and thought provoking. That was a time when several drafts had to be approved before the final submission. And that was a also a time when an emotional bond was formed during the undergrad seminar sessions where the paper presenters found support in the assuring gestures, curious questions, responses and smiles and even in moments of conspiratorial silence (in the sense – you are not to ask me difficult questions !) That was a time when pedagogy and the classroom was an immensely emotional, celebratory yet cerebral space.
And slowly things changed. “Semester” became the new word of the changing epoch. Elaborate discussions were transformed into a mechanical process of “structuring” a text, the Odyssean journey was cut short, the Woolfian moments of illumination were reduced to three months, “godot” arrived in the form of two- semester exams, students found Joycean epiphany in the “scores”.
What are we looking forward to? Marquezian years of solitude. To look back in time and to be removed out of one’s time. Nostalgia is a tale of loss-ness, even as it claims to compensate that loss. But thanks Shreya, for offering me (and for a lot of us I believe) a hope and an urge to resist the changing times, for making us “look back in anger” and also look back in beauty !
A snapshot of one of my old college assignment !