It's not a good time to be a Mumbai Varsity student today.
In fact it's been some time, since the situation has become undesirable. Examination woes, leaking papers, students being distributed papers of a totally unexpected subject, instead of the planned one, careless crashing of servers that handle examination entry paraphernalia like hall-tickets, last minute exam venue changes disregarding geographical truths, and I keep praising the Lord for being a student when I was and escaping from all this chaos.
While I myself never had occasion to be certified by the University of Mumbai, my experiences with it may be a lesson of some kind.
For a person, professionally qualified through a Mumbai University affiliated college, working and subsequently doing a postgrad in the US, the university there insisted that the real degree certificate be submitted before one could register for the second semester, and the provisional certificate , an insignificant looking paper wouldn't do. An SOS came to me in Mumbai. The application for receiving the degree certificate by post was more than six months old, nothing had moved, and one needed to go shake things up.
The first day I went to the examination section at the University, I went through a bunch of metal mazes outside, to face a window, where a voice told me that I had come on the wrong day. Different days for even and odd numbered graduation years. I returned home in a blowing monsoon to return on another day.
This time, there was no one at the window, and I waited. Finally, was given a scrap of paper with a name on it. And asked to show it to the guard at the elevated platform where the main entrance was. Predictably , the guard said that people were still trickling in to work, and I needed to wait. For some reason he was unwilling to let me in.
Just when I was about to crib in a raised voice (it often works) , a gent pointed to an officer type coming out of the main door, and told me to ask him, as he was the head of the entire examination set up. Naturally I went up, identified myself as a member of another (highly regarded) educational institution and narrated my woes, and told him that some one's entire educational expenses in the US would be wasted unless I got hold of the degree certificate, which should have actually come ages ago. The gentleman asked me to walk right in and see a Mr A, in some section.
I spent the next hour chasing Mr A, as he flitted from section to section, missing me by seconds. I also realised that the offices were constructed around a central panel used for storage of paper records, and that I was literally and figuratively going round in circles. It so happened that Mr A finally took notice, spoke to me, took hold of the reference paper (with application details) I was carrying, and disappeared after requesting me to sit in an office , where folks were still walking in to work, cribbing about train delays, rain et al. No one seemed to be any hurry to start work.
I was getting worried about losing my precious reference sheet detailing the earlier application for the degree certificate. Someone suggested, that I go and come back. Maybe have a nice tea. I sunk further in my folding metal chair . In the meanwhile, a fellow with some flower garlands and a lit lamp came by, left some wrapped stuff at the desk, distributed some tiny bits of coconut as prasad, and disappeared into the next office.
I was finally seeing some action. Somewhere. A young man pulled up a chair, removed his footwear, and climbed on to the chair , just so he could reach out to some photos of Gods high up on one side of the office. He lit some incense sticks, garlanded the gods, moved the incense in circles in front , rotated around himself once on the chair, did namaskaar, and got down.
I envisioned another tangle with the security at the gate, conversations with unseen voices at windows, and sunk further into the chair telling them that I was sitting right there till I saw the degree certificate. For two hours I saw folks opening thick registers, getting signatures, passing it to some desk , having someone carry it somewhere.
Suddenly a person came in with glasses of tea. There was a combined tea break. I was offered tea, which was gracefully refused. There was a lot of extraneous conversation happening. I joined in, playing my role as a minimally educated lady, overcome by the university portals, yet fighting for some one's degree certificate, and pretended to be unaware but unduly impressed by office procedures and pleased by the dedication to the divine in the room. (All this in the approved "old lady" manner)
Asked them if they celebrated the annual Ganpati festival for their section there; upon which , a superintendent type smiled and gave me an indulgent look similar to that given by a posh Mumbaikar, to a hilly billy provincial , say, from Kokan. No, they didn't celebrate Ganpati in that section. Then I made some calls, telling folks where I was, and my tentative arrival time at my next stop. Someone would suddenly come by and ask about the year of graduation, and the name , and I would repeat it again. I thought someone was doing calligraphy somewhere on some preprinted degree certificate template.
After a while, to my immense amazement, Mr A suddenly landed up, had me sign in some register, and showed me where the degree certificate was emerging slowly on a deskjet printer. I was stumped. If the data was online, what stopped them from printing the certificate at some window right in the beginning, once they had the reference key ? They could charge a fee, and do this in real time whenever anyone asked. But no. The data was not online. If it was, they were not aware of it or linked to it. They just had a simple degree certificate printing program, where you inputted the candidate details prior to the printing.
I had come in at 10 am. It was now 3 pm, and I victoriously came out of the main entrance, clutching the aforesaid degree certificate, to enjoy my first intake of fresh monsoon air, after a tension filled 5 hours.
Suffice to say that this was my first, last, and final interaction with the University of Mumbai-examination section.
But there is something that really has no explanation.
In my late in-law's house there are assorted sepia photos on the wall , of serious looking gents in robes,collars and graduation headgear, holding a scroll of their degree certificate, looking in a dignified manner at the camera, and posing next to a small table with a flower pot and curly legs. This, in an age, with minimum mechanization, and big box cameras.But an age , where the University took pride in giving the degrees and certificates on time.
With there being such big gaps in applying for and acquiring the said degree certificate now, there are no such photos in my house, of anyone celebrating their first life degree.
Another child attended another university in Mumbai, with a much similar experience; that is another story.
But we just do one University at a time on this blog..... :-)