The first thing I learnt from running a student body is that it isn’t easy.
I’ve always asked myself “how do students motivate themselves towards a cause?” Unlike politicians or philanthropists, we do not have anything to gain, financially or otherwise. It does, however, give you some kind of social standing and position which seems to be of paramount importance today.
When I walked into St. Xavier’s college a few years ago, I had seen nothing like it. Classes filled with hundred students, girls caked with make up and nonchalant attitude of everyone around of you. Mind you, I went to the same school for twelve years, where a class of 30 was considered large. This was bit of a shock.
When I walked away from my first day, I was charged with this youthful optimism, to make a difference in my little world. I do not know how it struck me, but I thought college was the place to change your life. I was not wrong.
My first order of business was to use my limited skills as a photographer to get into the Xavier’s Photography Club (XPC). I managed to get myself into the club, which was in the middle of a revival of sorts. It became part of my identity, the boy with the camera. Eventually, I became its head and slowly with the help of a few other photography enthusiasts, we tried to propel the group into a progressive direction.
The club, unlike most other college organisations, operates with minimal staff interference. We organised our own outings and exhibitions. We did have the college physics professor to help us out with the tit-bits which were often bureaucratic in nature, like the annual college photography exhibition. The amount of paper work that goes into holding one could rival a tax lawyer’s cabinet.
The photography club however was not the place to make “the difference” that I craved, so I moved on to a slightly more ambitious project, the college Student Council. It was a long shot to even get in, and I had an illustrious group of overachievers in my year, who had never put a foot wrong in their lives, but somehow I seemed to hit a chord with interviewing faculty and I became a student body representative.
Make no mistake, I was serious about making a difference; it wasn’t some hogwash just to polish my resume. As cliché as it was I felt you had to be the change you wanted to see. Soon after gaining my position, I was elected treasurer to the council, second in command, an annoyingly difficult job. It did help to have a great general secretary for a boss and somehow we managed to pull through.
When most of our projects began, enthusiasm and ideas came from every direction. The difference was always the perseverance with each initiative, but with time the energy diminished. To keep a group motivated while achieving your objectives is no easy task. The encouraging alone took a toll on my body and often left me exhausted at the end of the day.
We did change a few things. I had had been hoping for groundbreaking changes, but I think we made a good start. We got our college library catalogue online, we proposed wi-fi in on our campus and now we have it in our library. These weren’t pioneering, but definitely proved that we were not some frivolous organisation.
The rigmarole of the council’s basic proceedings often became tedious, especially when you had to do so much. It did not help that I had to sandwich my exams and research papers into the madness.
Our biggest undertaking of that year (2011-12) was holding a corruption forum at the behest of our principal. We went about gathering speakers for this panel discussion. Ambitious at first, it slowly came to a point where we needed to settle. We were fortunate enough to get Kishu Daswani and Tushar Gandhi among others to speak on the topic. Mr. Daswani (Picture) did return this year to conduct something similar on FDI.
The first thing I learnt from running a student body is that it isn’t easy. It consists of a lot of hard work and paper pushing with little or no gratitude from any side, however it gave me the chance to change something and for that I am happy.
II BA, political science & commerce,
St. Xaviers College, Mumbai