It was about this time last year , the spring was about to set in and we were just heaving a sigh of relief after the long dreadful winter, when this happened.
I live in a 6 storied building in the university’s dormitory . Every room is shared by two individuals. Our winter exams had just got over and we were getting ready to spend the 45 day vacation in our dormitory eating, sleeping and watching movies .
The unpleasant announcement:
One night when I was returning after my evening walk I saw something on the notice board. It was an announcement from the office saying that the following week we had to move into four bedded rooms.
It was obviously a very unpleasant announcement. The new notice had caused hullabaloo everywhere. Everyone was worried about why the management had taken this decision. I went to my room and told my bestie about it. She was going mad over this. We were not ready to share our room with 2 more girls. Not that we were being ani-social but it was just not acceptable. No one seemed to agree with this. That night an urgent meeting was held with the Class Representatives asking them to negotiate with the college authorities .
The next morning the CR’s tried to speak with them but they did not seem to give an ear to it. The rooms are not big enough to be shared by four people and the office knows it but still they wanted us to adjust so that they will have rooms for new admissions. It was not fair of them to be doing this at the cost of our comfort.
We had been promised that this was temporary and we will be provided with better living facilities soon, as they were going to build a new dormitory in the coming year. But having heard the same for the past 2 years we were not ready to believe that this was a temporary change.
Signing up for the protest:
The following morning the bunker beds were supposed to be brought in. We organized ourselves and decided to stage a protest against this change. My friend knocked at my door around 7 am asking us to come to the lobby immediately. That morning about 300 students showed up at the dormitory lobby at 7am . It was surprising to see such a large crowd at 7 am because it is extremely odd to find overseas students outdoors so early. We had decided to sit there the whole day and not move our asses an inch . Our Ayi ( as we call our warden) informed the office about the protest by the overseas students. The college authorities showed up in an hour and were awestruck seeing us .
The first thing they said was “This is not India , don’t you know that organizing a protest in China is a criminal offense.”
But no one was ready to leave. Mostly because we were all stupid and did not realize what after effects it could cause. It was like someone was snatching our birth right from us and we were all ready to do anything to have it back. We were actually risking our career over this . Suddenly every Indian felt as if they were Gandhi’s disciples. We were behaving as if we were fighting for our freedom all over again.
We all knew that the office could do anything from chasing us back to having us dismissed from the college but dismissing the whole university was quite impossible so we decided to stick with each other. Few of my African friends had showed up with their admission letters. They were arguing about the contract written in it.
I had NO Hope:
I stood among them in denial. I was being very pessimistic. I knew that all this was of no use . I felt like they were all fighting for something which was never going to happen. We were protesting because having come from one of the world’s largest democracy made it nearly impossible to understand the communism In China. Here there was no voice for the people. Once decided by the authority that was the end of it. We were not ready to live by it. Little did we know that by protesting we were actually fighting against communism. To win the authority’s favor you have to play along with them and not against them. The office tried to manipulate the CRs to their side. This was like a war between the university and the students. I had no hope , I knew that eventually we will have to give in. The cops were summoned .By the time the cops came it was noon, there were about a 100 students in the lobby now. The remaining students had gone for a break. I thought the police had come to arrest us or at least there would be lathi change. I had again forgotten that this is not my India. The whole dormitory felt like a wedding hall where the wedding had just been called off. The commotion was real .That day I spoke to people I have never even said hello before. It felt like we had a deep connection.
When our problems are similar it’s easier for us to even connect with strangers.
We had been living in the same dormitory , attending the same classes and not once had we exchanged smiles or said a hello.We hardly could recognise each other as classmates. This is university life.
That evening some of my juniors tried to contact the Medical Council of India and the embassy to inform them about what was happening here .
This went on for about 3 days. The workers would come each morning to find us blocking the door. They would park their load trucks outside and inform the office about us. Then the laoshi ( as we call our tutors) would come and try to talk to us. Anything like this had never happened in the university’s history so the management didn’t know how to handle the situation.
We won the battle but:
Finally in the Morning of the fourth day we woke up to find that the load trucks were being sent away. My Wechat group was exploding with messages that we had won our protest. Later we got to know that the Ministry of health had investigated and found that the living facilities were not sufficient to take new admissions. After about 2 months we heard the news that MCI had black listed our university and there would be no new admissions for the next two years.
This was a victory to us. But we also knew that the management has lost the battle and now we will have to face their revenge. In the following year about 15 students were thrown out of the college when they broke the university laws. Had this happened before our protest,those 15 students would have been excused on mercy. Two among them were my best friends. We now knew that we had lost the management’s favor.
This is what happens when you stand up against the governing authority. This is what happens when you try to imply democracy in a communist country.
Was it actually worth the fight ? I still don’t know.
True to the proverb “When you are in Rome , be a Roman.”
Jehosheba is a final year medical student and a blogger. She hails from the Southern tip of India and currently calls Shandong province of China her home.