Kaleidoscope has a blogger friend, Medusa. Both of them happened to work in the same college in the port city. Medusa in 2011 wrote a brilliant blogpost: "the taking of a college" (click here) describing how through a violent means political change took place in their college's students' unit bypassing election. It was 2011, the only word that shook the world of everyone including Medusa and Kaleidoscope was the paribartan, the change, the change from CPIM to TMC in the state which had just ended the longest continuous communist democratic regime. Fortunately or unfortunately Medusa then got transferred to one of the elite colleges carrying a colonial legacy and Kaleidoscope to a completely new underprepared college in the heart of a built-in city of New Town, Kolkata. The place Kaleidoscope as noted earlier represents a challenge in teaching. The space for kaleidoscope is a perfect example of spatial liminality, see: "Challenges in teaching at a juxtaposed space" (click here).
Apart from the depthlessness in comparison to Medusa's present college, there is another difference here. Kaleidoscope's college happens to have a student's union and Medusa's college is famous for not having one. How does the paribartan behave in a different set up than the port city college? This college has a glassy architecture, a shopping plaza in front and is surrounded by posh apartments where people are super rich compared to the students who come to educate themselves. Kaleidoscope finds three forms of occupations prevailing: a) IT sector 'professionals' who are upwardly mobile upper middleclass to newly reached upper-class people residing at the apartments, b) Shopping-mall workers, security guards, and c) people engaged in informal economy. There lies a underground roaring black economy of those who can run syndicate of building material supply. The formally outside of the visible economic spheres, these people are also often super-rich, have a huge control over the decisions related to much of the everydayness of the informal sector workers, they are well connected with the local goons and party line.
At a distant and often localised hue, lies a transitional space, a meeting point between formal and informal spheres of economy where the students union etches out their positions. This has been a case for quite some time now, may be a little less during the CPIM era, but increasingly more after the paribartan. The crowd has grown, nurtured in the hotbed of colleges- no matter how newly built they are. Now that there is no election/selection in the student's union sine 2016, there are many faces of the union. It is not that there were not many at other times, but now, everyone has a say in most of the places. The activities as widely covered by a variety of news agencies range from collecting extorted money from even the valid candidates to beating up them, quarrelling with professors, so as to compel the Government to issue an order asking college authorities to stop calling up aspiring applicants to the college compound for physical verification of their merit points.
What makes the young crowd of West Bengal to assume this sort of political culture in most of the colleges:
First of all, there happens to be a good number of guardians ready with money. Its not that they are all helpless, it is that they do not want any conflict and if money can solve that they will assume the easiest option by giving it away. Anyways, still they are paying lakhs less than what they have to if they had to get their sons or daughters admitted to some private colleges. Kaleidoscope's EPW article on "Everyday politics and corruption is West Bengal" seems to have been working smoothly (click here). Yes, of course, there is a fear factor working, but fear is infused among those who were actually ready to pay in cash.
Secondly, doing students' union is quite a "Macho", masculine thing in the first place. You get to satisfy your adrenaline and testosterone but assuming power in the formation. You attract a lot of clout around you and you embody a larger than life image. Hence, 'helping' newcomers to get admitted is a win-win combination. You earn money, you become macho and you become a known face to the new crowd of the institution which you are not ready to leave even when you have completed your course.
While the union occupy an undefined position within the juxtaposed space between the formal-informal interface, the role players remain victims of the demands from the party line and administrative measures being taken. No matter how money they earn, seriously, kaleidoscope feels the amount has no upper limit, neither the amount has any lower limit. At places like that of the college where Kaleidoscope teaches, the newly built up one, has a paucity of students. However, the masculinity prevails.
PS. You know what, Medusa's college doesn't have a student's union, how can they have one, it is a girls' college of repute with colonial continuation.
Pic: GIF from the movie "fight club". taken from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36236124-fight-club