By Vaidehee Thakur, Batch of 2022
Note: While this article is written from the perspective of a DASA student from a Gulf country that is not UAE, the other DASA people will also find it highly relatable, she promises.
It all began on that fateful day, when a bunch of NRI kids, including me, gathered at NSIT for procuring an official letter confirming that we would finally be thrown out of the desert into the jungle.
The succeeding week saw tearful goodbyes being bid by us to our families. They departed for the clean countries where we were raised, leaving us all by ourselves to battle the mosquitoes and goodness-knows-how-many-more creepy-crawlies in the hostels. This was the week, when we had to reluctantly learn how to make the switch from thriving on a perennial supply of mineral water to surviving on the cooler water; when we went from ‘I love only 1080p videos and high-speed fibre optic internet’ to ‘144p bhi chalega bas video pura dekhne ko mile’; and when we underwent the transition from worshipping squeaky clean pest-free living spaces to (un)happily coexisting with lizards and beetles in our rooms.
Being a DASAite meant that my time here was never insipid; rather, it was spiced up by DASA student-specific challenges and wholesome experiences. Day 1 of classes revealed to me that my class was almost entirely comprised of Delhiites. It was a far cry from my class back in school, that could be described as ‘diverse but having a greater fraction of mallus(as we fondly called our Keralite friends back there)’. As I looked around, it dawned upon me that Hindi is the prime medium of communication. Until that point, I had only ever spoken in English to all my friends, acquaintances, and fundamentally every single human who was not a family member. Friends were meant to be spoken to in English, and speaking to potential friends in Hindi was a new concept. I embraced the idea anyway, and as I started conversing with my new classmates in Hindi, I faced a new unforeseen trouble. Let me present to you, the aap-tum-tu conundrum, wherein the DASAite has to haplessly shift from blindly using ‘you’ to cleverly choosing the right Hindi version of ‘you’. A classic example of how haywire my mind (or for that matter, any DASA student’s mind) could go due to this language quandary is the following sentence that I’ve unwittingly uttered a couple of times:
“Agar aap abhi SAC jaa rahe ho to main tere saath chalti hun.”
(Yes, I know you cringed hard.)
On the first few days of college, this is how a typical first-time conversation with the JAC freshers looked like:
JACie: So, where are you from?
Me: I am from Bhubaneswar….
JACie: Oh wow! So are you an Outside Delhi candidate?
Me: (faces identity crisis) Uh no, I was born and brought up in the Gulf…
JACie: Oh, DASA student! Which country are you from?
Normally, a DASA student would respond with an ‘Oh it’s near Dubai’ or a ‘Never mind just assume that I hail from Dubai’. But I am a solidly abnormal person who cannot let others live in the dark about the country I’ve lived in and loved for so long.
Me: Look no further, I have saved a map of the Gulf in my phone… (enthusiastically fishes out the phone from the jeans pocket) …and look at this beauty, this is Oman and it’s bigger than UAE, which is right here, and there is Yemen and Saudi…
I can say with confidence that I’ve educated at least 30 people by now about Oman and its geopolitical neighbours.
The other kinds of conversations I’ve had happen to be recurring incidents in the lives of other DASA students as well.
JACie: So, you are a DASA student?
JACie: Wow you know how to speak Hindi.
Me: Sure, I talk in Hindi at home.
Me: As it happens, I’ve studied in a CBSE school.
JACie: Wait is the CBSE over there the same as the CBSE over here?
Me: Why yes, all CBSE schools outside India come under CBSE Delhi.
JACie: Are you an Omani?
Me: Nah I’m a legal resident of Oman but I’m an Indian citizen.
JACie: But in the US….
Me: I happen to be raised in the Gulf (cries internally).
JACie: Why did you come to India? India me aisa kya dikha?
Me: Indian colleges are pretty good, while colleges in the Gulf aren’t up to the mark, and attending any of the ones abroad would’ve drained my pockets. Besides, I specifically like NSUT. And well, I want to live in India anyway.
JACie: But isn’t the life abroad better?
Me: ….. (thinking that non-NRIs have delusionary views about ‘foreign’)
JACie: NRIs are rich.
Being a DASA student means that we just cannot get over our habit of mentally converting the cost of every item from INR to *insert the currency of the DASAite’s country of residence*, and then yelling in delight, ‘Holy smoke sab kuch kitna sasta hai!’
It means getting used to hearing more Delhi-specific Hindi gaalis over fancy English cuss words.
It means saying goodbye to having variations of summer throughout the year (back in the Gulf), and welcoming actual seasons (read monsoons and winters).
It means laughing our heads off when Delhiites scream at the sight of chipkalis, even though they’ve seen them before and we haven’t.
It may also mean, for some, to have an imposter syndrome initially, on being surrounded by those who have been admitted through JEE.
Above all, it means feeling empty on weekends, when the day scholars live at home anyway, the other hostelers visit home, and we just patiently wait for the vacations, because for us, home is in a faraway land.
The authoress wishes to inform the readers that she had penned down the above article two months back. Two months of mingling with the NSUT mob has mangled her NRI perspective and she has metamorphosed into a Delhiite. She feels more integrated and resonates with the label ‘NSUTian’ more than the tag ‘DASAite’.
She, however, still hasn’t adjusted to the variations in seasons, and lets her mind lollygag in the memories of Muscat sunshine, which stands as an oxymoron in Delhi’s winter.
She can still easily launch into a session for nerding out about Oman, if triggered.