Meet our new columnist, MSc student Saurabh Varanasi. He stayed in Delft during the first lockdown, but heeded his gut feeling and is now completing his studies from India.
Saurabh Varanasi: "To be honest, when the first lockdown happened and I saw my friends fleeing the country, I ridiculed the idea." (Photo: Arya Photography Studio)

Meet our new columnist, MSc student Saurabh Varanasi. He stayed in Delft during the first lockdown, but heeded his gut feeling and is now completing his studies from India.

The country is consumed by the unsettling effects of yet another lockdown and the introduction of a night curfew.

After playing around with adjectives like intelligent, partial and hard, this 2.0 version has been touted as a tough lockdown. This extended duration of imposed hibernation is a huge blow to the social fabric of the country. While the entire nation is grappling with the invisible enemy, we, the students of TU Delft, form an essential subset of the affected community. Most of us were just coming to terms with and shaping ourselves into this new independent lifestyle thousands of kilometres away from our countries. Now, the pandemic has hurled at us the extra burden of having to fret about both our own safety and the safety of our dear ones back home.

To deal with these extraordinary circumstances, I have noticed many students availing the option of studying from their real home. To be honest, when the first lockdown happened and I saw my friends fleeing the country as if it were some war-torn zone of sorts, I ridiculed the idea, given all the risks it entailed. There was the risk of contracting the virus during the journey, the risk of spreading it to your family members and the risk of getting distracted from your coursework. On average, a master’s student pays around EUR 1,560 a month in tuition fees. It made no sense to me at all to shell out such a huge chunk of money and then not even stay around to experience campus life. With all these glaring social, economic and cultural factors, I considered it completely irrational to run away from the situation.

A certain kind of loneliness began to seep in

It took me a few months to realise that there was one crucial factor I had overlooked: psychological safety. The third and fourth quarter of my first year in Construction Management & Engineering passed without much ado. It was during the summer break when a certain kind of loneliness began to seep in. I was completely unaware of the situation when it struck me that I so dearly wanted to be in the company of family. Of course, I had friends around in Delft with whom I would make lunch or dinner plans occasionally. However, at the risk of sounding ungracious, these intermittent moments of fun were equivalent to applying a Band-Aid on a broken window pane. The problem was deep-rooted. We were all staring at an infinite space which had no end, something I would like to call an emotional black hole. Fortunately, I was interning at a company and that kept me afloat for a while. As soon as I finalised my thesis, I decided it was time to go home and be in the comfort of my family. All the risks I mentioned previously disappeared into thin air since there was a workaround for everything. And here I am, writing this article from India, dutifully fulfilling all the tasks of a student while simultaneously feeling safe, happy and healthy.

Saurabh Varanasi is from Hyderabad, India, and is currently pursuing his MSc in Construction Management & Engineering at TU Delft. A tennis enthusiast by physique and a dog lover by heart, a major chunk of his remaining time goes into conducting post-mortem analyses of old and new Indian films on his blog, where he recommends and reviews the movies that matter. He maintains a healthy balance of all the above with an inherent sincerity towards academics.