When rigid rules replace learning.
I am not an anarchist - I believe in laws, order, and authority when reasonably exercised. However, the extreme authoritarian culture I experienced in an engineering college stunned and disturbed me. What was intended to maintain discipline crossed lines and infringed on basic human dignity. Below, I share some of what I witnessed that left such a strong impression.
Kozhikode, Kerala (2007) - I had just finished 12th grade in MCCHSS and was looking for the right engineering college to enroll in. Growing up in a small town, I only had a little exposure or understanding of different college cultures.
Erode, Tamil Nadu (2008) - Little did I know then that this college would become more of a prison than an institute of higher education. The excessive moral policing and strict authority shocked my system, which had just entered the colorful world after school.
The rules became more and more strict as years went by. Things as basic as wearing jeans or keeping long hair were banned. You needed permission for even small decisions about your appearance. Any display of affection or conversation with the opposite gender was frowned upon. In the evening, we had separate timings for everything from classes to meal times. Mobile phones were confiscated every night at the hostel.
The worst aspect was how we lost all autonomy and freedom of choice. You can't miss a class without excuses or risk losing internal marks, and questioning any decision leads to serious repercussions like suspensions. It felt like the administration wanted to control every tiny aspect of our personal lives.
The final straw was when I wrote something on our dorm wall about our Malayalee student association. Little did we know that the principal would see it as a big offense. He called me to his office and verbally abused me for hours, trying to mentally torture me into admitting some other wrongdoing. As if that wasn't enough, the chairman asked me, "Are you eating rice or something else? Why are you so pathetic?"
It was clear who the real pathetic one was - people holding powerful positions yet lacking empathy, wisdom, or willingness to improve the system. After this humiliating experience, I knew there was no place for my voice or opinion in this administration. It was then that I decided I could not tolerate such a toxic environment.
Academic results may indeed seem superficially good due to rigid discipline. But at what cost to our mental well-being and social skills?
I regret not researching colleges better before choosing to study there.
This experience forced me to be independent and broaden my horizons. I realized the importance of self-learning instead of relying on a single authority or institution. This path helped me find a job. And in 2015, I moved to China for work.
Chengdu, China (2016) - While working at IObit, I met my then-girlfriend, now my wife. Living in a new country exposed me to diverse cultures and ways of thinking. I found fulfilling work and enjoy the lifestyle here.