aI have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep, miles to go before I sleep.a Robert Frost might well be cringing in his grave but his classic words served as an election slogan in the student body elections at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) campus. The picturesque campus was neatly dotted with posters for the hotly contested university student elections. Election propaganda was present all over the campus: Canteen walls, trees, railings, phone booths, lamp posts, you name it! Interestingly, unlike Delhi or Kolkata where college walls display evidence of many years of campaigning, the propaganda here was neatly arranged and quite easy on the eye. I soon found out why.
aCandidates have been given two days to canvass for themselves and all the posters that you see right now have to be removed within an hour after the deadline,a informed Sandeep Karande, a second year student of the Human Resources Management and Labour Relations (HRMLR) programme.
The first thing which strikes a visitor is the quaint stone decoration which is characteristic of the buildings here. As one walks into the instituteas campus, the sound of the roadside traffic grows faint and eventually recedes into silence. The institute operates out of two campuses, the older one of which was established over 70 years back. It is clear that the administration has attempted to strike a balance between the times. While the campus buildings are equipped with all required facilities and the convention centre strikes one as being close to state-of-the-art, the greenery present all over the campus and the stone walls bring about a healthy blend of modernity and nature. Chairs and tables which earlier served as classroom equipment can be found in the college canteens and other areas of the campus.
TISS offers Master of Arts degrees for all its courses in the School of Business Management which has in addition to the HRMLR program, the courses of Social Entrepreneurship and Globalisation and Labour. Sandeep Karande says simply, aTISS is not a business schoola. aOne may say that it is a school of management,a observes Syed Saqi, second year HRMLR student. aCorporate is not really a sacrosanct word here and there is a strong social sciences perspective towards studies here.a
TISS students stress on the diversity present at the institute with nearly all Indian states being represented in the student population. A student in the HRMLR program puts forth an interesting point when he says, aWhile the diversity present here is undoubtedly good, it sometimes leads to people becoming too analytical and judgmental.a Healthy camaraderie exists between students here with there being little competition across departments and even sharing of information regarding placements. aMy resume has been prepared by students of the HRMLR course and I in turn have helped a lot of them in preparing their contracts for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Itas about mutual benefit and using each other strengths,a says Varun Ram, a second year student in the Social Work program
In the first two semesters of study here, all students attend foundation courses in which subjects are taught from across the various programs present at the institute. Says Shweta Dingra, a student in the Hospital Administration program: aStudents also fail to clear some of these courses as they find it difficult to study areas of the social sciences which are completely new for them.a Students also say that these courses help provide a holistic understanding of society which they believe is required in todayas working scenario. aThe present economic slowdown has forced a rethink on the model which follows a single minded focus towards profit maximisation. At TISS we practice to achieve a blend of capitalism and socialism and the difference this makes can be gauged from the fact that, even in these times, over 90 percent of the batch stood placed in February end,a comments a student of the School of Business Management.
The institute though established by the Tatas has strong governmental linkages and shades of these linkages can be found in aspects of campus life. A student who wishes to use the library photocopying facilities has to purchase two forms to do so and the cost of these forms may exceed the amount needed for the photocopying itself! Class representatives who wish to implement certain measures in the classroom may have to route their requests through departments of sound, maintenance and security. aLife can get a little slow here,a concedes a second year HRMLR student.
There are a few interesting means by which students unwind and let off steam. It is not uncommon for them to play late night cricket in hostel corridors with writing pads and sponge balls serving as bats and balls. aWe are looking at moving out of this stone age culture and using proper bats and balls,a dryly remarks a student. Students have also not been averse to aborrowinga an LCD from the class representativeas room to watch movies through the night. aKurtas and slippers are quite the fashion here at TISS. Weave even had first semester students coming to class in shorts and being warned by professors,a quips a female student. A night canteen has not been set up so far and foodies have identified various local eateries and their specialties to address late night pangs: Sandwiches at Govindi station, Tapri for Maggi noodles, egg burji at Hotel Ajay, Hotel Rani if a full meal is what you want and Hotel Raj for drinks.
It was close to nine pm when some students and I were walking through the old campus when we passed the old Dining Hall where TISSians were chattering gaily and enjoying their meals. The scene was quite different from the charged atmosphere of a few hours back when the hall was filled with students with candidates making passionate speeches and rigorous interrogations taking place. One of the students remarked with tongue firmly in cheek, aWhy donat you go up to a group and randomly ask them questions about life here. You could even say that youare standing for president and ask them to vote for you!a