Pretty difficult. As I found last month while looking for a decent, mid-range laptop for a friend.
What Seems to Be the Problem?
You would think that all the guides, discussions in various forums, and video reviews on YouTube would come in handy when you are looking for a computer. But that’s not the case. Especially if you are like me, someone who does not keep track of the latest laptop models. For instance, I have no idea what’s the current highest standard when it comes to a laptop’s processor or why Alienware computers are so damn expensive. Or is it Apple that I am talking about? I know Apple boasts about its design and centres its marketing around the quality of the work that you can produce using its products. But I don’t know how its MacBook it different from, say, a high-end Lenovo laptop other than the operating systems they use. I just want to be able to work, play games, and listen to some music, that’s it.
You could call it ignorance. And I am not proud about my lack of knowledge about these technologies or that I haven’t yet figured out the difference between 32-bit and 64-bit systems. I plan to do it, but it’s just farther away in my long list of things to know and learn about.
But that is exactly my point too. I don’t know what the best laptops under 40,000 rupees are. So, I would expect tech bloggers, reviewers, and influencers to tell me. They are better equipped with that information and they understand the terms that are used to gauge the usability and functionality of a laptop. Plus, I am the exact audience they are targeting. Unfortunately, none of the guides or reviews that I read or viewed helped me make a decision. While the blame is partly on Google for burying honest pages in the nether search results, I would think that the quality of such guides and technology review in general in India is subpar.
How Difficult Is It Actually?
There is no Wirecutter or a Tom’s Guide for Indians. The closest we have to those dependable review havens is NDTV Gadgets 360, but even it resorts to paid promotions. The sponsored posts automatically diminish its overall dependence. A lack of credible source is why the difficulty stings.
I had a hard time finding a decent laptop for my friend because of two reasons: no idea about what’s selling (or what’s worth buying) these days and the paradox of choice (or overchoice). The requirement was for a mid-range laptop for heavy office use (spreadsheets, Outlook, at least three different VC apps – you know the drill these days), heavy web browsing (over a dozen Chrome tabs), some moderate video gaming (GTA IV and Among Us, maybe Phasmophobia), and decent portability. So, naturally I started by searching for models in the price range. Then, I compared brands, sub-brands, and features. I entered the rabbit hole and came out with more questions that I couldn’t answer.
Should I go with Lenovo, Dell, or a third brand? Or should I go for a notebook? How is it different from a laptop? What about a tablet that doubles up as a laptop? All this while HP and Apple were staring at me with their ads about laptops. I started losing patience. No luck.
So, I created a spreadsheet and added into it the features, pros, and cons of the top five laptop models that I found satisfactory based on their marketing texts. This is when a new problem appeared. All the models had similar features, were within a narrow price range, and seemed good enough against the requirement. But the problem? Polarizing user reviews. Each one of those models had almost equal number of critical and positive reviews. The aggregate ratings didn’t help nor did individual reviews by tech bloggers that I wrote about earlier.
I stopped putting any more time on the exercise, forwarded the spreadsheet to my friend, and moved on. I moved on with the hope that my current laptop (by HP) never dies on me. So far, so good. TN.
In February 2020, I took a day off from work to drive to Pune with my entire family to collect my Master of Arts degree certificate from IGNOU at its 33rd annual convocation ceremony. Call it a stupid mistake on my part or a sheer lack of luck, I was denied my certificate. Morose and disappointed, we cancelled all our subsequent sight-seeing and luncheon plans and decided to drive back to Mumbai. On our way, our car broke down and we spent nearly 4 hours waiting at an unfamiliar place before it was ready to roll on the road again. It was an hour shy of midnight when we reached home.
I don’t think I have had a day as disastrous as that Monday in a long time. Making me look back at it now and assess its potential to be perhaps the worst day of my adult life.
Preparing for the 33rd IGNOU Convocation
After taking the decision to pursue Master of Arts in English Literature (MEG) via the distance learning program of Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) in 2017, I was successfully able to complete it – while working full-time – in two years, the minimum course time. It wasn’t easy but I didn’t come out with flying colours either to boast about it. If not a good score, I was just happy that I had completed it without having to take advantage of the ATKT rule, reassuring me that studying while working was still a manageable enterprise for me who is a lazy bum.
So when IGNOU emailed me about the convocation ceremony – five months after the results were out – I was elated. At first, I thought I was supposed to go to the main campus in New Delhi. I even discussed this with my course coordinator (Pema Sandup) and was excited that an interstate trip had appeared out of nowhere. But then the regional circular mentioned that the convocation for students from Mumbai and Pune would happen in the latter city. Nevertheless, I immediately registered for the ceremony by paying INR 600.
The venue was an auditorium near Colonel Point in Pune and I had already figured out the time it would take for us to reach there. The IGNOU circular also specified a dress code: students were supposed to wear Bharatiya Paridhan (Indian dress) and that is when I had second thoughts about attending the function. It confused me a little at the start but then I found out it’s not really a mandate. A white shirt would do. But, just in case, I borrowed a kurta from a friend. I was ready.
The 33rd convocation ceremony of IGNOU was scheduled on a Monday afternoon in February 2020. After a recent intense incident that had ended in a heartbreak, I was very excited for this event. Despite work pressure, I managed to take the day off. My sister and her husband also took the day off and my niece had to skip school. We all were really looking forward to the trip – sort of a day out in Pune. My mom loves such road trips. And my previous convocation – when I graduated as an Engineer from the University of Mumbai – was a damp squib.
None of us had any idea that the day was going to be a complete failure.
The Day of the Event
I think we started out before 9 AM that Monday morning. Our only stop was at the Khalapur Food Plaza for some tea and breakfast. Before 11 AM we were at the venue.
We parked the car at the lot and I stepped out to register myself. Apparently, we had to re-register on the spot and that is where I screwed up. Since the venue was designated for students from both the regional centres (Mumbai and Pune), there were multiple queues leading up to the registration desk. I joined one of the queues for Mumbai students.
Upon reaching the desk, I dished out my IGNOU ID card and wrote down my name and enrolment number. I was asked to pay a refundable deposit of INR 200 for the convocation scarf which I did. In an attempt to not hold the line up for long, I quickly asked the staff if this registration was enough. He said yes, and without questioning it, I took the scarf and left the desk. I had nearly two hours before the ceremony began and instead of verifying if I had actually registered my name on the call list, I sat at my designated seat reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake.
The Event, The Blunder
My family also shortly joined me in the auditorium even though we were sitting separately. Half an hour passed by before the delegation entered with an entourage and occupied their chairs on the dais. Happy and excited, I waited for the opening speeches to get over to finally receive my MA degree certificate.
Here I would like to highlight the speech made by the guest of honour for the convocation, Bhupendra Kainthola, an IIS officer and current Director of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). He spoke softly and with a touch of liveliness that was missing in the speeches made by those before him. He talked about his own experiences (as an IGNOU student) and then congratulated us for our feat with extraordinary panache. It was a remarkable, uplifting speech that is yet not available in the public domain.The IGNOU Pune Regional Centre hadn’t responded to my query about the video. If someone asks me if there was one thing that went well that day then I would refer to this speech. IGNOU’s Pune division of inviting Kainthola may not have been the right choiceBhupendra Kainthola is more of a film person than related to education. He was also accused of alleged harassment and for creating a ‘hostile work environment’ by an FTII student in 2018. (Student Alleges FTII Director Ridiculed, Intimidated Her for Speaking Up Against Sexual Harassment– The Wire – Varsha Torgalkar, 24 October 2018) but I did objectively enjoy his words.
Soon after Kainthola’s speech, the certificate distribution began. Doctorate students were conferred first. Students from different streams were called onto the dais and were handed over their certificates as I continued to applaud with the audience. It was when the delegation started distributing Bachelor’s degrees to students that I realized something was wrong. But I still waited, hoping to be called. Perhaps my name was last on this list?
No, my name was not on the list. I confirmed this when I walked to an IGNOU Pune official nearby and asked him why my name was not called. “Your name is not on the list. You didn’t register,” he said and my worst nightmare came true. By this time, my niece and nephew were getting restless. The distribution had moved to Pune students. It looked like I would be really ending up without a certificate.
I kept my book on my seat and walked up to where my family was sitting. Even they had the same questions as I had. More than embarrassment, it was disappointment that I was feeling. Waking up early, driving all the way to Pune, only to be taken down by a a clerical issue. My confidence was draining and I suddenly found myself in a state of inactivity. Even when my sister and mom forced me to go up to the dais and ask what’s what, I didn’t flinch. I just sat there analysing my mistake.
I finally gathered some courage and walked to the dais. I relayed my concern to a group of officials working behind the stage. They reconfirmed what the organizer had told me. But they also added one thing: there was no way I was going to get the certificate that day. Why? Because the original bundle of certificates was already packed and ready to be sent to the respective regional centres.
Dejected, I walked back to my family and passed the information. I think more than the issue of not receiving the certificate, my family was irritated that I couldn’t be photographed in the graduation attire. And that is what eventually caused me the biggest embarrassment.
We talked to the chancellors for assistance but none of them came to our aid. They made us understand that it was not right to open the bundle now after it was packed and taped. But then my sister suggested that I take a photograph with them using someone else’s certificate. Why? Just for the heck of it. As a crown on top of all the embarrassment, that is exactly what happened.
When all of this was over, I walked back to my original seat to collect my book. To no one’s surprise, it was no longer there. Like adding salt to the fire, the missing book added to my fury. A day that was characterised by absent-mindedness on my part. It robbed us of everything that we had wished for that day. And if all of this wasn’t enough, our car’s alternator cable snapped right when we were in the middle of a busy street. An Exide guy helped us and connected us to a mechanic nearby and it wasn’t before 7 PM that we left the city. Sorrowful, tired, and desperate to get home.
This happened at the height of me losing my self-confidence. I was just doing the bare minimum at everything – at work, in personal development, and in my social life. Such a minor mistake caused by an absent mind had a surprisingly large impact on my belief in myself, causing borderline impostor syndrome. I usually am not much affected by successes and failures but this episode really troubled me. I even saw it as a precursor to me losing my mind, being unable to carry out a basic task like registering my name on a sheet of paper. It caused a small crack in me, which is why I had to write this piece to let off some steam.
It’s been nearly two months since the fiasco, but the embarrassment that it caused me still is fresh on my mind. More so during this lockdown period where I have a lot of ideas but unable to execute any of them.
After the incidents, I took the following day off to steady myself but it didn’t help much. I went back to work on Wednesday and things went back to normal as I got busy with work. I stopped thinking about it for some time until the degree certificate reached me by post. It was a bittersweet feeling. TN.
Featured image courtesy: @chuttersnap via Unsplash
Bhupendra Kainthola is more of a film person than related to education. He was also accused of alleged harassment and for creating a ‘hostile work environment’ by an FTII student in 2018. (Student Alleges FTII Director Ridiculed, Intimidated Her for Speaking Up Against Sexual Harassment– The Wire – Varsha Torgalkar, 24 October 2018)
Last week I bought my first-ever IKEA bookshelf. Here it is in all its glory.
Everyone who knows me closely knows that I have been waiting for IKEA to open its Navi Mumbai store ever since the news about it buying acres of land in Turbhe came out. But when it decided to throw open its online store before the physical one, I thought I might execute my lifelong dream now than wait for a few more months.
And I did it last week, spending about INR 3,000 for this modest, pretty-looking shelf called Nodeland that’s apparently only available in India. I quickly assembled it and put it in my living room where it breathes fresh air and holds the weight of literature, including a small part of my book collection. Check out my valuable Booker Prize winners collection (second rack from bottom). My eyes are now on IKEA’s most popular bookshelf model, Billy.
This has been one of my most uplifting moments and I thought I’ll share my happiness here as well as on Reddit. TN.
Reddit is one of the sites that I frequently visit these days, even more than Letterboxd and Twitter. And it was through the r/Mumbai community there that I came to know about the India edition of the European Union Film Festival (EUFF), a platform that showcases the best European cinema has to offer to the Indian populace and which is organized in several cities across the country every year as part of the ‘Europe in Your City’ programme through a partnership between the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (Directorate of Film Festivals), the Delegation of the European Union, and the consulates of respective European member states in India. It was in its 24th edition in 2019 and hosted 23 films from 23 European countries across eight cities between 24 June and 26 September. I managed to catch some of the films in Mumbai at the prestigious Films Division of India. This is an overview of my experience at and a recommendation of the festival for those who are interested in watching both little-known and popular European movies in a festival setting.
The European Union Film Festival of India
Abbreviated as EUFF India, it is one of the few annual film festivals celebrated in India. Although it is difficult to trace the history of the fest online (its website is new), it is safe to assume that it was started as a way to showcase European art of cinema to the cine enthusiasts of India and thereby bridge the gap between the artists from the two states. There’s no denying that it might even be a diplomatic activity aimed at strengthening the relations between India and the EU.
The 2019 edition was the 24th year the EUFF was celebrated across eight Indian cities: Chennai, New Delhi, Goa, Pune, Puducherry, Kolkata, Hyderabad, and Mumbai.Interestingly, Mumbai was not in the list for the 2018 edition and it ran in eleven other cities. It was not there in 2017 either. The period of about three months is also reminiscent of how seriously the organizers take the event, using the resources offered by the Government of India for the screenings.
That is why the the entry to the festival is free of cost. Delegates are only supposed to be present at the screenings (the Mumbai screening details is mentioned in the last section here) and enjoy European cinema the best way the artform should be enjoyed in, without censorship and the poor behaviour that is rampant in mainstream theatres.
Special mention to Wishbox Studio for the beautiful EU Film Festival website design and merchandise. As you all know, I am a stationery fanatic and I am not ashamed to admit that I managed to take two cool-looking coasters home.
According to the EUFF website, the annual event is meant to celebrate the vitality and diversity of European cinema and culture. The films are a heady cocktail of romantic comedy, period drama, mockumentary, satire, and socio-political thriller.
My Experience at EUFF India 2019
I, for one, can attest to that fact about the cocktail as I managed to catch 11 of the 23 films that were screened. I attended 3 days of the festival and spent over 9 hours of courageous cinema marathon with 5 back-to-back films on the first day. It was the first time that I did that, an event that I’m told is common for film critics. In a way, I broke my own record of 3 films at the 2018 MAMI MFF, a feat that involved films Widows (2018), Climax (2018), and Leave No Trace (2018). It was exhausting to say the least but when I went to bed that night, it somehow felt good.
I could not attend the entire festival because of work and some personal commitments. But, it was still fun. I liked the way the screenings were organized, very punctual, and a better crowd that the ones you find at MFF. It was not without its fair share of spectacles either. After the screening of the Austrian film Styx (2018) on 22 September 2019, a squabble broke out between a few viewers which quickly turned into a heated spat in Marathi. A group of elder enthusiasts began accusing a group of youngsters for being a nuisance. The former group got angry when the young men denied any wrongdoing. And it ended with the interference of the officials, even as the audience began preparing for the next screening.
Unlike at MAMI – the only other film festival I have attended so far – there was little time between the screenings. Although most of the titles were between 90 and 100 minutes of running time, it became really difficult to grab a bite between the shows. That is why you always carry some energy bars and a water bottle for a film festival. (Looks like it’s time I devise my own guide as I wait for the 2019 edition of the MFF.) But if you want it right now here’s a nice little guide by Berlin-based travel blogger Adam doling out some great tips to follow while at a film festival.
If finding time for lunch or evening snack is difficult, convincing your body to maintain its posture and not fidget for streaks of 90+ minutes with small intervals between them is where you’ll need a bit of practice and the ability to deviate from your lifestyle (diet and rest preferences). Active film festival attendees around the world (who visit the Big Three or other big ones like Sundance and TIFF) can do this without much effort. I have read stories.
If you are a disciplined person who eats on time and sleeps on time, then I’m afraid attending film festivals is going to be tough. It is usually very difficult to cajole the fest organizers to push a 2 PM show by an hour because it overlaps with your lunchtime. If you are friends with the organizers and somehow manage to do it, let me know in the comments. I’ll execute your bragging rights.
It should be noted that due to a lack of popularity, none of the screenings I attended were houseful. But that was a relief because in most cases I could enjoy the films in silence with no disturbance from fellow viewers. Most of the audience were discerning and did not engage in activities that are barred from my own imaginary theatre if it is ever built.
I caught the following eleven films at the 2019 EUFF India (in the order of the viewing):
Bubblegum (2017, Bulgaria, dir. Stanislav Todorov)
Tulipani (2017, Netherlands, dir. Mike Van Diem)
The Troupe (2018, Hungary, dir. Pal Sandor)
Diamantino (2018, Portugal, dir. Gabriel Abrantes, Daniel Schmidt)
The Charmer (2018, Denmark, dir. Milad Alami)
Drifters (2015, Sweden, dir. Peter Gronlund)
Styx (2018, Austria, dir. Woflgang Fischer)
Ashes in the Snow (2018, Lithuania, Marius Markevicius)
#Female Pleasure (2018, Switzerland, dir. Barbara Miller)
Me and Kaminski (Germany, 2015, dir. Wolfgang Becker)
Maria (And Everybody Else) (2016, Spain, dir. Nely Reguera)
As you can see, the festival also focuses on old films that are supposed to be essential viewing from those specific countries. Some of these European states are not prolific producers like India or the USA, which is another point that the original 23-film list conveys. You can see the entire list for the 2019 edition here on IMDb. The sole documentary on atrocities on women in the 21st century was also a good watch. It should be essential viewing for today’s youth.
My favourite film out of the lot is Diamantino, which is a satire on government propaganda and cloning experiments as seen from the perspective of an innocent, disgraced footballer whose life has an uncanny resemblance to that of Cristiano Ronaldo who is a Portugal national…
I also liked Me and Kaminski, Maria (And Everybody Else), and The Charmer. All great stories with a touch of uniqueness. (And I also kept wondering why there was no film from the UK. The Brexit deal is still not in motion so technically the UK is still a part of the EU. Right?)
Overall, EUFF India was a fun experience for me. I watched more films than I had originally intended to and was able to do it without any hiccups. I also got to explore tony Pedder Road, Cumbala Hills, and Mahalaxmi areas of Mumbai, which I have not been exposed to much. If I could, I would have attended the fest in its entirety, but that is something that I intend to do for MAMI MFF 2019 as well as for the upcoming 10th Jagran Film Festival (starts 26 September 2019) in Mumbai and the 50th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa (starts 20 November 2019).
Guide for Future Delegates
The entry to the European Union Film Festival is free. Only people above 18 years of age are allowed as the films are not censored. Most of the titles I watched in 2019 had some sort of nudity and sexual content in them with one film (The Charmer) going a bit over the top. It also did not have disclaimers, which is another quality I love about festivals.
All films are with English subtitles.
If you are interested for the 2020 edition and if they run it in your city, keep an eye on their website and social media profiles. They (EU in India) are quite active on both Facebook and Twitter.
Plan your itinerary before and make sure you reach the screenings at least 10 minutes before to get the seat that you want. Other than, it’s just basic film festival etiquette. The location for Mumbai is given below. The most economic way to get to the venue (if its Films Division in future editions also) is to get down at Grant Road station in the Western line of the Mumbai Suburban Railway (local train) and take the #155 Limited BEST bus to Cumbala Hills Post Office. Good luck. TN.
Featured image courtesy: EUFF India
Update: Added bus route option to get to the EUFF venue in Mumbai. (27 September 2019)
…I will officiate the following rules and restrictions. Patrons will be required to follow this cinema theatre etiquette charter and will be automatically agreeing to them as part of the ticket purchase.
Network jammers will be installed with a power radius of 300 meters to prevent mobile communication of any form inside and around the auditoriums.According to the Indian Telegraph Act, the use of jammers by private establishments is illegal in the country. In special cases, an approval from the Cabinet Secretariat can be procured. Friendship with folks with political influence will then be put to use or the jammers will be installed and architecturally cloaked into invisibility during the construction of the theatre (Private entities can’t use jammers: Govt – Nivedita Mookerji, Business Standard, 17 July 2015) Patrons will be informed about this beforehand; heck even the tagline of the movie theatre will be: at Nair Talkies You Only Watch Movies
Show timings will be followed strictly. If a movie is scheduled to start at 8 PM, it will start at 8 PM. As in, the reel/copy supplied by the distributor will be switched ON, and lights will begin to dim
Auditorium doors will be closed ten minutes before the show timing. Latecomers will be sent back with a full refund (minus processing charges) or with a facility to reschedule their visit at no extra cost
Ushers will make sure patrons occupy their seats five minutes before the start of the show. Uncooperative persons will be shown the exit door without an alternative and without a refund
National anthem will not be played before a show; not even the 20-second shorter version or even if certain political outfits or moralists-activists threaten to vandalize my theatre or actually do itAccording to the Union home ministry of India, “state governments have conveyed that at present there are no protocols on playing national anthem at public places.” Further, the Supreme Court of India in its 9 January 2018 verdict stated that it is up to the cinema hall owners to decide if they want to play the anthem or not. (National anthem in cinemas likely to stay ‘optional’ – Rahul Tripathi, The Economic Times, 19 June 2019)I will decide not to play it.
No intervals regardless of the duration or type of the movie
Loo breaks will be discouraged and patrons will be strongly advised to make a visit before the start of the show. Emergency nature calls will be allowed but the names and Aadhaar card numbers of these people will be recorded in a database maintained and owned by the theatre. Three strikes will mean lifetime ban
There will be no canteen or cafeteria services but freestanding water fountains (mounted water dispensers) will be installed outside the auditorium entrance and exit gates and corridors
Complaints from patrons about other patrons (loud talking, snoring, obstructing the view, sexual activity) will be taken seriously and dealt in the same way as those taking loo breaks
Special couple seats will be designed (and located towards the end of the auditorium to keep prying eyes or the morality nazis from looking) to encourage platonic but silent and non-disruptive canoodling to heighten the movie-watching experience. Those involved in sexual acts will be warned but not banned because I understand and can confirm that sexual urge (i.e. the urge to procreate) is the second-most strongest human instinct (after that of survival)(It’s Normal! – page 112, Chapter 10 – Unsafe Sex (Sex and Illness), Dr. Mahinder Watsa, Penguin Books, 2015). Couples, regardless of their intentions, will be required to sit in these seats only unless all of the available ones are already occupied
People (kids) below the age of 13 years will not be allowed irrespective of the type of the film being screened. (If a child is turning 13 on the 20th of August he will be allowed to watch a movie in the theatre from the 20th)
No advertisements will be shown and instead movie trailers will be screened before a show. Trailers of Indian regional films will be preferably played over that of mainstream ones
Patrons will be mandated to enter the auditoriums freehand. They can choose to either safely dump their personal effects at the security or come directly without bringing anything other than their entry ticket (Film critics will be allowed to carry a pencil/pen and a paper). This essentially means mobile phones will not be allowed
All patrons will be frisked (by retired security professionals who have had at least three years of stint in airport security or in the immigration/customs department of India) before entering the building and the only things that will be allowed inside the auditoriums are listed below. Everything else will need to be dumped at the security and which can be collected after the show
the entry ticket
candies and toffees and mints not weighing more than 10 grams
3D glasses (depending upon the show)
Intoxication of any type will not be allowed inside the building; films without disclaimers will be encouraged
Patrons photographically caught littering will be permanently banned without preamble or the ability to contest it
Audio and video equalizers will be continuously moderated throughout a show. No show will run on preset or general settings of the entire auditorium, including that of the air conditioning, the humidifiers, and the ventilation
There will be no restrictions regarding clothes, footwear, and eyeglasses
All patrons will be mandated to sit through the entire end credits roll even when it’s not a Marvel movie so that they can sit and appreciate those behind the camera as well as cool down from the in-movie experience
The entire building will be friendly to all types of people above the age of 13 regardless of their physical capabilities or incapabilities
Theatre staff will be made up of people hired through a lenient recruitment process which will importantly not assess the candidates based on their sexual orientation, caste, religion, or the quality of their exposure to films. Freshers will be trained by me.
But since no one will come to this theatre due to the restrictions and it will be a loss-making enterprise altogether, there will be no such establishment opening till I suddenly become a billionaire with the ability to bankroll such an enterprise without additional capital support and political influence. TN.
According to the Indian Telegraph Act, the use of jammers by private establishments is illegal in the country. In special cases, an approval from the Cabinet Secretariat can be procured. Friendship with folks with political influence will then be put to use or the jammers will be installed and architecturally cloaked into invisibility during the construction of the theatre (Private entities can’t use jammers: Govt – Nivedita Mookerji, Business Standard, 17 July 2015)
According to the Union home ministry of India, “state governments have conveyed that at present there are no protocols on playing national anthem at public places.” Further, the Supreme Court of India in its 9 January 2018 verdict stated that it is up to the cinema hall owners to decide if they want to play the anthem or not. (National anthem in cinemas likely to stay ‘optional’ – Rahul Tripathi, The Economic Times, 19 June 2019)
On 14 August 2019, a day before the day when half the people in India began their four-day-long leisure trip to some place and the rest half sat in anticipation to see the prime minister encourage patriotism on television, I successfully completed the Master of Arts in English Literature correspondence course from IGNOU.
A sense of pride and happiness engulfed me when I checked the results on my other computer, which dimmed a little when I calculated the final score (55.56%), a bit less than the first-year figure (60.75%). Not too great for someone who exaggerates his literary interests and reading skills, but still valid enough to justify this write-up.
There is a lot to talk about here, especially because I am originally a STEM student. But I’ll keep it to a few bullet points before I can write a detailed account of how I tackled the MEG programme and what I feel about the course provided by IGNOU, known as the best distance learning course for MA in English in India. Perhaps now tied to the one provided by Mumbai University’s IDOL (after it got the UGC accreditation recently).
I signed up for the course in 2017, two years after I graduated as a Bachelor of Engineering from Mumbai University. At that time, it felt overwhelming – no classes, four subjects to tackle in the first year, four assignments that are to be handwritten, and four paper examination in about eight months from that point of time. I was supposed to take it up using the top skill in the world: self-studying
I have to admit my interest for the course after registering and paying the fees dwindled considerably as my responsibilities grew at work. Then I received the first set of study materials by mail sometime in February 2018 and so began my actual journey towards diving deep into English literature. By April 2018, I had a fairly good idea about the course and what was required of me if I wanted to crack it
The first-year exams went by like a breeze. It was three years since I had experienced the sit-in-a-classroom-for-three-hours-straight ritual that wrecked my right-hand fingers after each paper. Yet I managed to write well as the results proved later in August 2018
The exam experience took me back to my diploma and degree days, as I saw myself mimicking my preparation and writing strategy. I have always depended on current affairs and observations around me to enrich my answers and it was no different this time
The second-year exams were tougher despite me having selected three electives of my choice (MEG 6, MEG 7, and MEG 11). That last one only because it had an entire chapter on J D Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. Laughably, I scored the least (50/100) in MEG 11
This course gave me a bit of travel experience too as I saw myself exploring the city of Bhiwandi as part of my second-year exams. On account of an error on my side, I chose a college in Bhiwandi as my exam center (because all these towns/cities were categorized as Thane and I chose Thane without realizing it) and it was probably the worst decision I made in 2019. As some of you might know, there is no direct local train from Mumbai/Navi Mumbai and you have to take a detour from Kalyan. It takes about 90 minutes to reach there which is why I had to depend on Uber while going and a combination of the good old Mumbai suburban train and auto rickshaws while coming back
One small, good part of this course was all the discussions that I had with a small group of fellow students in a WhatsApp group. When I was growing up and studying, I don’t think I had ever done group study or discussed notes with my friends or classmates. This changed during my MA and I think I enjoyed it
Probably the biggest change that this MA degree has brought in me is through its validation of my writing and literary bend. I now am more confident about my writing – as I sometimes do it professionally as a freelancer – which is what I had anticipated before signing up in 2017 even as I received puzzled looks from friends, colleagues, and family about my decision. I did this MA in English to validate and strengthen my experience and I think I got it
Lastly, I am a voracious reader now. Before 2019, I used to read less than 5 books a year on an average. In 2019, I have already read 14 books so far.
I have been thinking about this for sometime now. Exams ended in June 2019 and I still haven’t decided.
I have always wanted to take a look into journalism and mass media, so it could be something on those lines next. Maybe that, or maybe a change in my full-time job because it’s been more than four years with Publicis now. Need a psychological change.
I also have plans to go over all the study materials of the MA course just to get a better understanding. This will also help me go over the topics that I had skipped during the exams. Could be a great use of my time till 2020 when I sign up for something or the other for sure. TN.
Featured image courtesy: Sean Somics at Creative Commons