Forestry and New Friends

I’ve actually only been to my Media Ethics and Law class once (now twice) in these three weeks, lol. Fortunately, another girl and I have been able to get Indian students as project partners. On Tuesday, I met with Neha. Such a sweet girl. After our lunch and discussion about our project, we got ready to spend an afternoon at the Sri Kotla Vijayabhaskara Reddy Botanical Garden. (Another Dartmouth student came with us, making it a small group of three.) I hyped myself up on Google images and was ready to the lush greenery and open space. But I was heavily disappointed. Everything looked dead. The leaves were all a crunchy mess on the ground. The lawns and bushes were a dull shade of green. All the water that should have been in the ponds were dried up. But we sat on a bench and listened to the birds, talking about India, where to shop, what to see. We even got invited to an Indian wedding! But our group trip to Delhi falls on the same weekend!!!!

The three of us left the “garden” and went back to campus to explore its treasures. Neha introduced us to her friends and we all went to see the horticulture department. Let me tell you, this university quite literally owns its own forest. There are huge lots for farming on either side of the trail, which then disappeared into the trees. Everything is much brighter and alive during the summertime, so I won’t get to see that vibrancy. The place is frequently used as a hangout place at night, bonfires, birthday parties. The place gets mad lit.

That night we had our art history class, called Modernity and Nationalism in the Arts of India. This was, again, the second time we met for the class. We spent a good half hour, however, talking about the recent activities on campus around the suicide last year. Rohith Vemula had been part of the Ambedkar Students’ Association and had been protesting the death penalty a convicted terrorist involved in the Bombay bombings. Students from another political party, called the ABVP, wrote a letter accusing the ASA for being “anti-nationalist.” The letter found its way to the university’s Vice-Chancellor and a case was opened against Rohith Vemula and the other protestors. The five students were expelled by the university for “stirring up problems.” On the 17th of January, Rohith committed suicide.

This is obviously a shortened form of the story the professor told us, but what she kept stressing is how the nature of this news keeps changing. It was only after Rohith’s death that the issue became about caste and attitudes towards Dalit (all five of the expelled students were Dalits). Professor herself said it was difficult for her to take a side because of this constant shift. We were advised to stay away from the rallies and protests because of the possibility that they might become riotous and dangerous, so I was unable to gain a sense for myself of what students thought about Rohith’s death.

This is a slightly upsetting way to end a blog but nothing is always shits n giggles. It was an important event to know and I felt the need to share it.


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