First impressions: the Mumbai chapter
When I came to Mumbai with my dad to have a look at all the prospective colleges and institutes, we had a certain image in mind. My father had been to most of the colleges many years ago and I had never been to any. It did give us a bit of a critical edge. We were a little less judgmental than we would have generally been. But there was also the fact that neither of us had ever really travelled in Mumbai and had no idea how big the city really was. After taking down a few addresses from my Uncle, we embarked on our little scouting trip.
The first college we had decided to look at was Sir J. J. College of Architecture. Since it was very old and a heritage structure, my dad was pretty sure it would still be the same. What he hadn't counted on was how much everything else around the college had changed. After a few failed attempts at finding the main gate, we entered the campus through one of the side gates. Once inside we followed peoples' instructions and finally arrived at our destination, only to find that it was a holiday and there was no one there who we could talk to. Shrugging off this minor inconvenience, we walked through the building and took in the campus as best we could. Without any students or faculty, it seemed as though even the building was taking a nap. Everything was peaceful and silent. And cool. Cool is a rare thing in Mumbai.
We were planning to stay longer but we remembered there were still other colleges we had to scout.
The next one on our list was Rachana Sansad. It was a ways away from J. J. and it took us some time to reach Siddhi Vinayak Mandir (the closest landmark near the college). After getting out of the cab, we started walking in the direction shown to us by the panwala on the corner. We walked along the road for what seemed to be a long time without seeing anything even remotely resembling a college. After walking for about 20 minutes we decided we must have missed something and backtracked. After reaching the place where we had got off, we decided to walk in the opposite direction. No luck there either. After backtracking a second time, we went to that panwala again. He seemed to understand what had happened and smiled. He told us that the entrance we were looking for was rather small, and there was no compound and no campus, so to speak.
Once again we walked in the direction he had pointed us in, and 2 minutes later we found ourselves in front of a small gate opening onto a small porch. Not sure if this was the building in question, we went up to the watchman and asked him where Rachana Sansad was. He looked us over, seemed to decide we weren't joking and informed us that we were in it. This time we looked him over. There was no way anyone would believe this to be a college. There wasn't even a hint of an open space. No campus whatsoever.
We could see through the entrance and into the canteen. There was a ground beyond that with a fence separating the cafeteria (sitting space) from it. There was a wide staircase just on our right and an elevator next to it. On our left, there were panels displaying the journey of that institute and some of the people that had a hand in it. As our luck would have it, even Rachana Sansad had a holiday and there was no one there to talk to either.
After leaving, my dad told me that the last time he had seen the place it was no more than a factory shed and he had been a bit apprehensive at first to even consider it. But now, he was still trying to process the change that had taken place there. I, on the other hand, was a bit taken aback. I had always believed that any college building had a campus. And yet, that image had been challenged. How could this place be an institute?
That night we decided to return to Pune because we realized that most of the colleges were closed. And we had chosen a bad time to come scouting. But the next day, we left a bit early and my uncle drove us around a bit to show us more institutes and colleges. We just saw them briefly from the outside, but it was enough to drive home the fact that most of these colleges were buildings in dense neighborhoods.
While travelling back, I had a lot to think about. After all, my image of the college had been shattered.