The partial re-opening of campus means that the campus now bears a slight resemblance to pre-COVID times. There are more students on campus, and the arrival of the UG2K20 ECX batch has seen the return of the cultural events to campus. One of the more favourite activities on campus is the Garba Night conducted by the Dance Crew, which usually saw people dressed in traditional attire perform Garba during Navratri.
For Navratri, this year, the Dance Crew conducted Navrang – a series of nine covers (one for each day of Navratri) where students from different years performed dances to celebrate the event. For students on campus, the Dance Crew, along with the Campus Life Committee, conducted the Garba Night for students on campus. The administration permitted the event on the condition that the protocols set by the CHMC were maintained. The members of the Dance Crew cleaned, decorated, and arranged diyas all around the campus. The main stage near the Felicity Ground was completely beautified with diyas and flowers. The participants were given dandiya sticks to increase the authenticity of the event and to increase participation.
The celebration started with the Lakshmi Aarti, with a pooja being done to start the event off on the right track. Unlike earlier, where most events had very few participants, the Aarti saw many people showing up. It could be that the long interlude away from campus has caused the student community to be more grateful for the events on campus, where it is possible to interact, mingle and celebrate. Everything felt normal; there were people in traditional attire, joking around, laughing, and the bio-bubble that the campus instituted felt like a different world – away from all the tensions and worries. The procession then moved to the stage where Garba songs started playing. Almost everyone started dancing around in concentric circles, trying to match their actions to the music.
This event was almost cathartic for the UG2K20 students on campus, who, in their short lifespan as IIIT-H students, had never experienced offline events with their friends and batchmates. It was the first time where they could dress up and click pictures with their friends, take part in IIIT culture and finally experience what they had been promised after the long and stressful high school journey. The dancing was not of the highest quality, but there was a lot of enthusiasm, which made the entire experience wonderful and fun. The music was loud, the energies were high, and it gave the senior batches a chance to meet with their juniors for the first time. Many introductions were exchanged, and people got to see the face behind the Microsoft Teams logo for the first time.
The last event of the day was the DJ playing the most popular dancing tunes, and it saw people dancing with every last bit of their energy. The dances were chaotic and unsynchronised when compared to the symmetric Garba circles with synchronised movements. However, these dances were arguably more fun as everyone went crazy and enjoyed the moment. This event was a perfect ending to the Dussehra festival with lights, dance, and music. It was a good change to see people dance around in chaos and laughter after two long years of quarantine. People finally interacted with those people who, until that day were just a logo on the screen that they stared at throughout classes.
The festival of lights and beginnings really felt like a beginning for the popularly termed COVID batch. Events like these were something that they had talked about with their batchmates right from when they joined college. They got to experience college culture, albeit in a very subtle manner, and for a lot of them, it was when they could finally say that they were part of the campus. For them, eventually, college meant more than just assignments and deadlines. It meant more than a screen and online meets. It was a chance to enjoy festivals with their friends similar to how all batches before them had. It remains to be seen whether this celebration was a one-off or the beginning of a much more holistic campus life with more than just online interactions.