JNU has a very special place in my heart. I studied a year there & spent a very large part of my youth almost every evening inside the campus, drinking tea and on good days with a samosa too.
My then childhood best friend who is now Bureau Chief New York Times, was as confused as me. Those days we were unsure where life would take us. Were we liberals or were we conservatives? We didn’t know. We were teenagers. We did scrunch our nose at some of the most gorgeous, intelligent, sexually liberated women scholars inside JNU that we met. We did not have the guts to be like them yet we looked at them with awe. We watched TV actors including Sharukh Khan in the campus walking around, mostly quite nonchalant, all trying to find a place under the sun.
The university was Left led with SFI as the elitist, just the right guys to back those days. We were idealists and anyone spewing Das Capital seemed so fabulously sexy. The women were left leaning intellectuals who wore their feminity with such pride. Shoulder to shoulder smoking with the left men and the Khadi Kurta and the cloth bag with big books, the powder huge bindi and Tilonia chappals. I was in awe. My mother has and still does, always got most stuff on sale I had Lalji sweater and FUs jeans. It was embarrassingly unfashionable. To fit in I wore the kurta, wore my 50 paisa powder bindi and carried the bag and had that tea. JNU had a vibe. Women were safe forever.
I have met Habib Tanvir and watched in awe as he taught theatre in that campus, I cried my lungs out in protest when Safdar Hashmi died. I wore a badge that said STOP MURDER OF CULTURE. Safdar’s wife was a Bengali woman called Mala. We learnt as we went along religion isn’t divisive.
I could sit till 2.00 am inside the campus and was safe as another man.
I agree hiking fees is terrible when you construct statues worth crores across public spaces. But there are students living inside that campus who claim to be appearing for civil services since last 8 years and publishing their Phd papers. How do you weed out those perpetrators? Another deserving candidate from a lower income group could use that hostel space. Does a minimal fee hike help in weeding out the uncles who should be kicked out of the hostel rooms and bringing in better library services? I don’t know.
Every govt has been accused of building lakes, statues to fool the ignorant of good work. Sometimes a statue in a small town acts as a landmark.
I don’t recognise this India of vandals today. I cried as I saw the Lathi wielding men inside the campus footage. I don’t recognise my youth of JNU. I don’t recognise this India anymore. Students unions have fought but women were safe forever in JNU.
I have given up belonging to any ideology. Met the greatest entitled intellectual leftists looking down on the shopkeeper who keeps ledgers and met obnoxious right wingers for whom religion and culture remains as the only identity.
I am heartbroken to see this change in my childhood home of Ganga Dhaba and Godavari hostel .
My college crush was an extremely intelligent, handsome idealist who would never compromise on his decency ever. Most of JNU was like that. Where is that Campus today?
I use my iPhone and am addicted to the camera and have given up on the hypocritical behaviour of going around saying I’m a leftist. Because I feel dishonest in that.
I would hope education institutions would still remain the bastion of ideals and higher thinking. Because eventually life catches up and when we grow older we become part of this compromise called growth and economic success. We sometimes murder our culture, our sense of identity in this idea to belong.
I pray JNU becomes the campus that it always was. My best date ever was on an evening when the sun was going down and labourers building the new library were walking back singing a tribal tune all in one row. I watched that magical dusk hour, walked up to Majnu ka Tilla and pondered where life would take me. I pray, JNU don’t change character.