Sweat, Toil and Meraki: The Oceanvale Workshop

Alka Rakesh

There was a boy in class. The class of 1994. Ravi was his name. He was a little different from the rest. But in everything else he was like them. Not that everybody saw that. His human right to happiness was curbed by the taboo ridden world he lived in. No one knew that he wouldn’t live much beyond graduation. He died. At an age which is no age to die in. He must have been only twenty. He left behind a novel: Oceanvale.  Oceanvale was a dream region into which he could retreat and live without having to explain himself, without having to face daily harassment. More than twenty years after his death, his sister made her way to Kirori Mal College, his college, and walked into the Principal’s room with a proposal to honour the memory of her beloved brother. She made a generous endowment towards an inter-college workshop to be conducted every semester for the next five years in the first phase. The Oceanvale Workshop organized by the English Department in September 2018 was the first edition of that programme. No quid pro quo, the workshop was a passionate endeavour to translate a sister’s desire into reality, and somewhere to tell Ravi that we haven’t forgotten him, that he is still in our midst.

Excellence was what we aimed at. Nothing short of excellence would do. Who else but Dr. Sunjay Sharma, KMC alumnus, Delhi University topper in M.A. and M.Phil., Sage fellow and a Ph.D. from Cornell, an Ivy League university, could be the captain of our ship? The panel of experts comprised three distinguished scholars. Leading the team was Sukanta Chaudhuri, our resident scholar of international repute, Professor Emeritus at Jadavpur University, with a doctorate from Oxford University. The other two resource persons teach at the University of Delhi: Dr. Prasanta Chakravarty is Associate Professor at Delhi University, and has a Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo; Dr. N.A. Jacob teaches at Ramjas College, Delhi University, and he studied at Rutgers University from where he earned his doctorate.

Even before the college began its new semester in July, committees were formed and the concept of the Oceanvale programme began to take shape. With the opening of the semester, work on the project commenced in right earnest. The Oceanvale Workshop website was created, resource persons were identified, invitations were sent out to all the fifty two colleges of Delhi University that run an honours course in English, posters were printed, a meticulous time schedule was framed.