DISCLAIMER: All the opinions expressed in this article are of the writer’s only. People are free to contradict it either in the comments or by submitting a counter article.
This time, nearly a year ago, I came out of my room to see my neighbour look at the mirror dejectedly trying to make the best out of the hairstyle that was imposed on her. “It’s supposed to be higher,” she said, sighing as she redid it for the 5th time. Since I wasn’t going to be in Delhi during the freshers I didn’t think I had to do my hair in two ponytails. But I did it anyway ’cause, solidarity (though my ponytails were lower and I thought I looked cute). When I went down to the mess, a senior told me to re-do my hair. I shrugged it off and went to class. While all the girls were fretting about who to ask and how to ask, I sat there admiring my ponytails, because I really did think I looked cute. I didn’t notice that a few of my batchmates didn’t come to class. I didn’t notice that my class was buzzing with anxiety. Come tea break, there was an explosion of noise near the Amul shop. My batchmates were frantically looking for seniors to ask out. Since their ‘first option’ was unavailable they were trying to find somebody,anybody, to ask. Some seniors were asked out multiple times. Some weren’t even asked. 20 minutes of chaos and then class. The people who managed to get a date were either ecstatic or even more nervous. The people who didn’t, felt rejected and anxious. I was an outsider in this commotion. I didn’t feel anxious or nervous. I didn’t do my hair dozens of times to get that perfect height- the one that doesn’t make you look like a ‘dweeb’ but at the same time will exempt you from the senior’s admonitions.
This year, true to tradition we tried to change the ‘tradition’. We wanted to create a chit system where the juniors would have picked out the seniors they would take to Freshers’. Initially, we wanted to write down certain key characteristics of each of our batchmates onto pieces of paper, divide the chits by gender, put them in separate bowls, and make the juniors pick which bowl to choose from. Then we decided to just put down names onto chits, divide by gender and make the juniors pick. We wanted to oppose the ‘tradition’ of a small group of ‘good looking’ and ‘popular’ people being asked out multiple times, while others become a last resort. No matter how much you try to deny it, watching your batchmate get asked out by 10 juniors while you are asked out by a junior only after he/she has exhausted all the ‘better’ options can be very damaging to the self esteem. We thought the chit system would foster greater interaction as naturally a junior would be more likely to ask out a senior who he/she knows either through extra curricular activities in school or coaching. Not all the seniors have actively talked to the juniors. So they do have a disadvantage. We thought the chit system would level the playing field in a way. We also tried to account for the people who have social anxiety or who aren’t comfortable with talking to new people. The ‘traditional’ system results in a high stress environment where getting a date means going up to seniors, who we are conditioned to think are very intimidating, and asking them out on a sort of ‘date’. You might think that we are overthinking the issue, but there were people in my batch who just opted out of coming to class just to avoid asking the seniors out. That created a lot of problem as they were supposed to come to the freshers with a senior. It’s nerve wracking to have such a situation imposed on you when even calling customer care is a huge hurdle. We tried to advocate for a system that wasn’t as problematic as the ‘traditional’ asking out system.
Maybe we weren’t able to get our point across in the really intense and often chaotic discussions we had in our class and on the Whatsapp group. Maybe people thought we were making a big deal out of nothing. But we didn’t want this 4 year old fad to actually become a tradition. We didn’t want doing your hair into two ponytails(which, by the way, is a very classist notion. A lot of people do tie their hair in that way. You’re using their everyday lifestyle as a handicap) to become our legacy. We didn’t want oil in the hair of boys to be ridiculed. We didn’t want to force people into uncomfortable situations and impose tasks on them which are designed to make them even more uncomfortable. We aren’t trying to ride the moral high horse here. We just wanted to ensure that, if we are creating a tradition, it doesn’t include standing near the Amul shop waiting to be noticed.