Photo: Kazi Tahsin Agaz Apurbo
Two Different Worlds
People say that public universities and private universities are two different worlds but what makes them so different. Is it the large campus area of the one and the small building area by the roadside of the other? Is it the low fees of the first in contrast to the bulk expenses of the second? Or is it the traditional curriculum of the former in contrast to the North American system of the latter? It is all three and everybody knows it but what I think makes them so different is actually the students.
Being one of the few studying in a public university with an English medium background and having friends who study in private universities, I get the chance to see both ends of the spectrum. In public universities, most of the students are from outside Dhaka so there are the obvious regional differences. Dhaka being the capital, we are exposed to lots of things (both good and bad) from our childhood that our migrated peers have not been to. As a result, we think, talk and act in a different way and vice versa. We know a lot of things that they do not; they know a lot of other things that we do not. On the other hand, non-Dhakaites and the Bengali medium people of Dhaka are said to be firmly rooted to the oriental culture. So there is that age-old fight of East versus West only the difference lies in the irony of a microcosmic division of East and West within the macrocosmic East itself.
Now what I have learnt and seen in the last two years is how this class division actually plays its brutal games. While we live in the luxury apartments of our parents and are constantly pampered by them, most of the students in public universities live in the halls away from their loved ones and in bad conditions typical of government subsidised institutions. Life is very hard for them. They do not get out of the campus much but study in the libraries or group meetings after class; at best their recreation is hanging out within the campus while sipping tea and relishing fuchka from the roadside vendors.
For the last two years, I have been constantly torn apart between these two worlds. In university, I see people whose monthly expenditure is sometimes less than the daily expenditure of my other friends who study in private institutions. I am not saying one is 'good' and the other is 'bad'. The point I am trying to make is privileges or the absence of it shapes a person. Those with privileges perceive and lead life in a certain way that is different from those without them. There is just a gap in the life style, in the thinking process.
I believe in individualism and do not judge people based on their race, religion or class but it is not about judgmental. It is just these are part of one's identity so even if we do not want, these factors create a gap that cannot be filled easily. Therefore, it is hard to make the two ends meet but then again they do not have to clash either. For those who are totally consumed in one world and do not know the existence of the other, they are lucky because they do not have to be bothered by these differences but then again they remain very ignorant. While those, like me, who gets to see both sides of the coin, yes it is difficult to balance but if you can do it successfully you can enjoy the best of both worlds.