October 19, 2014

BHOWMICK | A Columnist’s Sesquicentennial Vision

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So I was under the splendid impression that my column was not expected till next Monday, but turns out on Friday evening, my editor let me know that it was kind of due in a day. I spent the next 12 hours soul-searching for inspiration. None. Oftentimes, real life obligations do that to you. They transform you into a passionless, jaded, clockwork object that wakes up, functions, eats and sleeps. Fortunately, this past weekend was Homecoming weekend, which accomplishes the tremendous feat of breathing life and spirit into us Cornellians — a brand of people who are too driven to breathe. On Saturday morning, I was trudging through the rain and carpet of soaked autumn leaves returning from an admissions information session, where I had effectively bragged about my incredible school for an hour, and I was trying to figure out what on earth I could possibly care to write about when a classic epiphany happened. I was walking toward the clocktower staring at the Homecoming photobooth by the Slope when the “Alma Mater” started playing on the chimes. It had been right in front of me all day. For the two hours I had been awake, I saw more people dressed in red and more variations of Cornell gear than I had ever seen in my life. The best part of it was that everyone — from those who were a couple mimosas down before breakfast to those who were making the pilgrimage to the library — had made an effort in their own way. It made me happy to think that there exists this one thing that is common to everyone at Cornell and even for a short while, Greeks and non-Greeks, interest groups, social, academic, cultural and differences emerging from varying ways of life disappear.

It is the one day that every Cornellian cares a little more and breaks the damned spell of apathy that has been engulfing our linear success-driven community of late. For me, Homecoming is Cornell’s Christmas. It is excellent to have a day when 80-year-old alumni are raising hell and frolicking to the Black Eyed Peas with 18-year-old freshmen who are just starting off. The earnest eagerness with which alumni talk to current students moved me this Homecoming. These were extremely accomplished women and men who were honestly interested in what I was doing, where I wanted to go with my life and how I felt about Cornell because they fell in love with my school once and still are enamored by it. It is just like the holiday spirit that brings together the prosperous and the destitute, and Homecoming brings together those who are enriched with so much experience and all of us who are just starting out. We have all darned Cornell at some point of time every semester, but at the same time we are all so thankful to this institution without which we would be living very different lives. This weekend is a sterling inception of a momentous period in Cornell’s history. Our university is at the threshold of change which gives us the opportunity to really take things into our hands and fix the things we dislike about life on the hill. The sesquicentennial is a celebration of everything Cornell is — the glorious aspects and the shortcomings. We need to care enough about Cornell beyond how it adds to our professional portfolio. If an octogenarian can try and give to Cornell’s community despite the immense mantle of responsibility they bear, a crowded academic calendar is really not a good enough excuse to stay aloof. If there ever was a year to tune in and get engaged, this is it. Our generation finds it very difficult to answer the simple interview question: What are you passionate about? We are too busy trying to do things right and we forget to live like real people and feel all of the worthwhile emotions. It is a mutually beneficial deal to be quite honest — we will all do much better in life as individuals if we tried to move forward as a community instead of focusing only on individual yardsticks. My sesquicentennial vision for Cornell is a less apathetic, more passionate community which truly understands the value of the dream they are living.