Life at TISS - Final Year Begins

Every now and then, it is beneficial to pause and look back. Especially at the end of the first year of a two year master's program. Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote this post describing my first impressions of TISS. That post received a lot of positive reactions and also some negative ones, the comments, as is the norm nowadays indicate the furore that it caused. In retrospect, my hunch about TISS was right. It is indeed about re imagining futures.

Photo Courtesy: TISS HRM & LR Forum 
A year later, I find myself sitting here typing on my laptop (I managed to replace the old one), while a gentle breeze blows outside my window, swaying the old palms in the middle of the night in the Friendship Park that I call home. A strong cup of filter coffee, courtesy of in the inhouse master Barista Ranjit is sitting tall. From living on my own, in a home away from my home, studying odd hours, working in teams, having discussions over chai and at times, perfecting the art of doing nothing, the year was filled with memories pleasant and otherwise. 

Academic life can be both stimulating and boring. It can be arduous, tedious and sometimes, gratuitous. So much so that one begins to question the rationale of many tasks involved. But the grind makes you disciplined, the knowledge that you gain is invaluable and sometimes if harnessed well, even powerful. The professors work very hard on every session and unlike undergrad, attending classes and doing assignments (most of them at least) doesn't seem like a chore. Some of the best minds teach us here.

However, the beauty of studying at TISS is that you are never away from the field.

Enter, fieldwork. Every student from almost every course is deputed to intern at an organisation relevant to their course. So while budding HR managers head to corporate offices and industrial plants, budding social workers work with NGOs and other organisations working on the ground. The idea of fieldwork is what sets TISS as a university apart. Every student returns with a humbling, real-life, first hand experience of the ground reality that may not always be captured in the classroom. They are exposed to the urban dystopian world that exists in the slums of our city or the cut throat environment in the air conditioned glass and steel buildings in the business districts. 

Every week students come back with tales which has a familiar narrative, that of struggle, suffering and also hope. Each one strives to make a difference in their own little way. I worked at an oil refinery, then with a company that sold printers that print the 'Best Before Dates' on packaging, and I came back with solid insights into the oil sector, how B2B Sales happen, how employees are at the heart of businesses and people and not products drive revenue. Through my peers in social work, I learnt how organisations are working with the community to drive change despite the pressures of the city, how working closely with government agencies in fact is the way to go to create a lasting impact.

I also began my work with Prayas - a brilliant field action project run by TISS since 1990 that works towards improving the conditions of undertrial prisoners by working closely with the prison authorities, with juveniles in conflict with the law under the JJB and with women rescued from trafficking and sex work. You can read more about it in this article I wrote for the National CSR Hub magazine. 

A vibrant university offers multiple opportunities for extracurricular as well as co-curriculars. So while every school organises their own cultural festival, the sleek convention centre, the conference halls also hosts multiple conferences on diverse topics including training for Group A officers from across India. There's always stuff to do, that stimulates your mind. And the year ended with a two month long internship at Altisource, where I studied the life of a BPO worker in Bombay - something that I had only looked at from afar. That is a story for another time.

Our penultimate semester is nearing an end and while I began writing this draft much before (in June!), the headline still remains relevant as I sit in my Manthan T-shirt and ponder over the year that was. I can only think of the harbour line. A year at TISS has been like a train journey on the harbour line (Up). The harbour line, at least southwards from Mankhurd is a relic of the past. Small stations, old rakes, and dilapidated structures towards the east are synonymous with this line. Literally running across the harbour, on the eastern seafront of the city, the harbor line overlooks on one hand the Bombay Port Trust land which is stuck in a limbo. While on the west, one sees silent mill chimneys interspersed with steel and glass towers. This is the contrast that all of us here at TISS experience, with rich traditions and classical ideas confronting the modern neo-liberal way of life, one strives for balance between the two. Which can be exhausting, just the way a ride during peak hours feels like on the harbour line. But while the journey on the harbour line culminates into the beautiful terminus with gothic colonial masterpieces looking down upon you, I don't know how this journey will end. We shall find out next year.

There are several exciting things and opportunities in my head that I want to pursue and you will find out. Until then, #LifeAtTISS continues to surprise, sometimes sadden but mostly delight. Follow the tag to follow our journey into a reimagined future.

Read part one of this post here. 

My Friends and Classmates - Batch of 16-18

Soni Sori addressing the audience at an event held at TISS

My workstation at Fieldwork

                            Library - Oh so many books. Such little time.

                                                   My friends at TISS

                                                   Placement Day Rides

My workstation at the Youth Development Centre, Prayas at Mankhurd


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Suited Up - Batch of 16-18

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