It started in college. Scorching heat. Temperatures around 45 degrees Celsius. A 20 minute walk from the hostel to class. No shade.
This was the way of life at NIT Kurukshetra. Somehow, the administration didn’t think it worth their while to spend some time planting trees on the sides of the road or put up artificial shades. I don’t blame them either. As long as the average placements are above a certain threshold, I don’t expect them to give a shit.
So, 45 degrees Celsius. I wanted to go to the class or the library or the Computer Lab. I wanted to wear shorts; to be comfortable when I was reading something so that I could focus. Most importantly, I wanted to make the ordeal from the hostel to the library less frustrating.
But the people sitting in their AC rooms had other plans for me. What will happen to the image of the institution if students are seen going to the classes in shorts? No No! We can’t allow that, can we? Students must always maintain the decorum of the college.
No shorts, no sleeveless shirts. The “image” of the college is more important than the comfort of the students. In this situation, we got into the habit of wearing full-trousers. Since it was so hot (and the people in their AC rooms probably forgot to add the clause that banned slippers), we’d always wear them to class. And that is how it began.
We’d wear shirts and trousers as per the college rules but we’d not be completely subdued. Our little revolution came in the form of the cheap slippers we wore. Of course, we didn’t think that way then. The slippers were just more comfortable and they were cheap because we had other priorities regarding what to do with our pocket money.
Fast forward four years and I am working in IT. The company HR tells us during our first day that flip flops are not allowed, however, floaters are. What I heard was “Adidas is allowed, hatti chhap chhappal is not allowed”. I didn’t have the time to buy floaters so I continued wearing the flip flops I’d bought a few days back. Friends commented on them but I always gave them some stupid reason so that they wouldn’t bug me.
I’ve bought a new pair of shoes and its probably time to make the switch. “I need to look professional. I’m no longer in college. “, is what I’ve been saying to myself the past few days. But today during my morning run, a thought rushed through the neurons of my brain in the region that deals with the Indian Sub-Continent. The cheap slippers may not look professional, but they keep me on the ground. They remind me, everyday, of my humble beginnings. They remind me that I am living in a country where some people’s monthly budget is less than the price of the shirt I am wearing. Most importantly, they remind me of our little revolution which was also our style statement in college.
I will buy better shirts and better trousers as I get richer. But the slippers will be the same. As I climb up the corporate ladder, I know I will face criticism from my colleagues and mentors and I might even budge. But for now, the slippers are here to stay.
What every college must do is hold up before the young the spectacle of greatness. -Henry Steele Commager