Wake Up to the Noise Around You

It was 7 pm and we had all just finished playing a game of “nerts” for the tenth time that night. Everyone sat at the eight-seater table in the common room, dealing out six decks of cards while someone’s Spotify playlist played in the background. Lucia was my partner and we had just won for the second time in a row, which we celebrated by giving each other a high-five with our damp palms. The room was steamy as we had to keep the doors leading to the terrace closed to make sure no mosquitoes got in.

“I think I’m gonna sit this one out, guys,” I said to the group as I leaned back in the red chair.

The others nodded their heads at me. They were already shuffling their cards in preparation for another game. Sweat dripped down their faces and onto their collarbones as The Black Eyed Peas played. I looked at each of them and was overcome with a feeling of appreciation. This group of sixteen people had all chosen for whatever reason to study at the University of Hyderabad. Even though we came from different backgrounds, we sat together laughing hysterically as if we had known each other for years.

I walked around the table and out to the terrace so that I could watch what was happening on the street. The terrace faced a street that ran perpendicular to the main road of the University. There was always movement and sounds coming from below: motorcycles revving past, laughter dancing through the air, drums being hit. I could easily spend hours sitting on the cement railing listening to the sounds of the night.

I could hear chanting and drums coming from a distance. People from the street served as my alarm as they looked in the distance where I couldn’t see anything. A pack of five dogs ran away from the noise, all of them checking behind their shoulder to see if anyone was following.

A group of fifteen men came into my line of sight. They were holding a white banner with red Hindi words painted on it, which they raised with each chant they bellowed. One of the men was drumming along to the beat as his face brightened from the glow of the drum. I couldn’t understand any of the phrases but I felt their anger radiate up to me with each fist they pushed into the sky. They continued yelling for 20 minutes, with each person in the group taking turns saying a phrase. Some of them got more into it than the others as they danced along to the music.

They moved farther down the street and out of my vision towards the main road. I could still hear them yelling but then the noise suddenly stopped. The men started running past my hostel back towards where they come from, leaving the only sound coming from their sandals hitting the pavement. They each sprinted through people and motorcycles with people watching from around them. Everyone slowly began following them as they crept towards the men’s hostels down the road. It was as if everything had paused for a second, even the trees stopped their dancing to see what was happening.

One of my friends Crystal and I were already planning on hanging out with another student, so we walked down the flight of stairs and exited the gates that guarded our hostel. Our friend sat outside waiting for us.

“Do you know what’s going on? People have been running back and forth for half an hour now,” I said to him.

“You haven’t heard?” he said. “A student committed suicide. He hanged himself from the fan in his room. The police just found him 20 minutes ago.”

People ran past us as we stopped in the middle of the street, the fluorescent lights buzzing above us. I couldn’t find the words to speak, but our friend understood me as he simply nodded his head in an unspoken understanding, watching chaos unravel around us.

Thoughts raced through my head as I stood immobilized. What’s shocking to me is that this has been the third suicide at the University of Hyderabad in the past year, the second in the past 25 days when a girl jumped from a high-rise building. What’s even more shocking is that I’ve become numb to this.

When does this start becoming a problem that people want to take seriously? After the 6th suicide in a month? When you don’t feel any emotional response to someone taking their own life? This isn’t just something that is affecting the West. This is a global issue that I can’t understand how or why it has gotten to the point where we are at.

If this message affects anyone reading it, go tell someone that you appreciate them, that you are grateful they are here on earth.

 


Anne Berset 

INDIA – UNIVERSITY OF HYERDERABAD, 2018 FALL

Anne Berset is double majoring in Creative Writing and Psychology as well as a minor in Philosophy. She is studying at the University of Hyderabad in India for the Fall term, where she will be taking philosophy and political science courses. She hopes to gain a new perspective on culture, politics, and religion while abroad. Anne loves to watch films, go on hikes, and spend time with animals.

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A Unique Experience for Both

I was already five minutes late to the class as I ran up three flights of stairs, pushing past groups of men huddled in silent circles. The timetable for the courses offered failed to mention which room number any of the classes were in, so I was forced to run into every room and ask what course was being held. After four times of repeating my question, there was a 60% chance that they would be able to understand what I was saying through my accent. More often than not, I blindly sat down next to whoever was there and hoped it wasn’t a Telugu or Hindi course.

A man stood outside of the door to a lecture hall that seemed to be in the right location of my political science course. He was wiping the sweat from his forehead and armpits, but with every movement of his arm, more seemed to slide down.

“Western Political Thought?” I asked him as I pointed towards the classroom. He creased his eyebrows together and tilted his head, so I repeated the question two more times. He then nodded, making a grunting sound that seemed like it meant yes.

The blue paint on the classroom walls was chipping away, probably from the moisture which came through the open windows. There was no AC in any of the classrooms, only three fans pushing the warm air and flies around the room.

As I paused in the doorway trying to decide which seat to choose, I felt eyes scan up and down my body. Most of the seats in the classroom were filled by men. Seven or eight women all sat together in the first row. The room seemed to quiet as I maneuvered through the rows of seats and waited patiently for the men to wake up from their day-dreaming to take their feet off the chairs in front of them.

Immediately after finding a seat on the far left side, everyone else in the class abruptly stood up, their chairs screeching on the blue tile floor. They looked down at me struggling to rearrange my backpack so that I could stand up as well, the last one to rise. A man in a light-blue kurta and white linen pants walked down the center aisle between the desks of students, walking at a slow enough pace that you knew he enjoyed this moment. Motioning with his right hand, the class simultaneously sat down in their seats in silence.

The professor turned on the microphone that was on the podium and greeted the class. He gave an overview of what the course would look like, what students should expect, and who should be in this graduate level course.

“Before I go into too much detail of what the course will be like, I want to warn you about what many of you will face when studying this material,” he said. All of the students perched on the edge of their seats, ready for whatever hint of stress they may experience.

“You are all going to be extremely confused when reading the course material. As native Indians, you likely have no understanding or background to Western philosophies,” he said to the entire class. He then turned and faced me. “In India, we have the caste system. In America, they have Democratic thinking or individual liberty. We are all reading material written in something other than our mother tongue, so do not feel stupid when you don’t understand it.”

I looked around at the rest of the class and saw them nodding their heads at the professor’s words. A couple of students looked back at me. I could see the questions running through their minds, wondering why I was taking a course about the West’s philosophies.

The professor paused as he gauged the students’ reaction to his words. “Prepare to be confused, attracted, and perplexed in this class. This will be a new experience for most of you sitting here.”

I realized then that this would be just as much of a learning experience for the native students as it would for me. In all my classes at the University of Denver, I was taught by professors who were from the West and were expecting their students to have a baseline understanding of western politics. By taking this course in Hyderabad, I would be able to see an Indian understanding of Western philosophies and also experience the student’s opinion of it.

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Anne Berset 

INDIA – UNIVERSITY OF HYERDERABAD, 2018 FALL

Anne Berset is double majoring in Creative Writing and Psychology as well as a minor in Philosophy. She is studying at the University of Hyderabad in India for the Fall term, where she will be taking philosophy and political science courses. She hopes to gain a new perspective on culture, politics, and religion while abroad. Anne loves to watch films, go on hikes, and spend time with animals.

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