Capital times – 2

Sunday evening saw me settle for an Udupi restaurant, instead of Bengali market. Got ek-plate choley-batoorey packed. Nice restaurant in Munirka – one of the first of DDA (Delhi Development Authority) residential complexes. Used to be called Munirka-gaon (munirka village), before the city expanded and gobbled up the village. And in that place now stands this dense cluster of old flats. The planners of the place never did think that the residents would need real space to park all those cars twenty years later…Place has cars like a swamp has mosquitos. Just all over the place, and quite a nuisance. It is difficult to even walk, considering that there is only so much space left in the road, which, incidentally, is needed by cars as well, and with your average Bunty driving like a circus horse leaping through a ring of fire….well….

So it was, that I set off, plastic-packed choley-batoorey in one hand, and my laptop bag in the other. Did that laptop bag weigh a ton or what! Somehow, passed it from one shoulder to the other, and walked across to Jawaharlal Nehry University campus….Fondly known as JNU, it is a garden of Eden….a badly lit garden of eden….

It was dark, and the street halogen lamps beamed an excuse in terms of lumens…you could barely see the ground, but you couldn’t blame the authorities, for the lamps were functional, altho at very sub-optimal efficiency…Low voltage…Now, who owns that one?

Eyes slowly attuned to this twilight zone, I came across many groups of students…..near the shanty-eateries, chai shops, cigarette shops…on the rocks….

One group was just sitting in the darkness, with a fellow singing a song from hinterland India. A Bihari folk song…He was leading, and some of the more enthusiastic fellows were joining the chorus, and a few others were keeping time clapping….lovely…

As you walk along, you hear so many languages spoken…Assamese, Bengalee, Tamil…sounds from every part of India…. JNU is a real laboratory of cross-cultural India. A sort of compressed-Delhi. With students coming from all over India, it is a mini-cosmos of the wonder that is India.

A professor told me that the entrance test is pretty tough…Folks from all over India compete, and compete hard. Quite a few students hail from places where education systems have all but totally broken down…Many are from economically disadvantaged backgrounds….And so it is that you get this diverse lot of young Indians, different strokes, all talented, all hopeful, stepping into this garden of eden….

And they flower…the alumni of this place has sent ever so many prime-movers into the Indian economy…People who make a huge difference, most of them ever so quietly….social workers, leaders  of NGOs, teachers, diplomats, writers, bureaucrats…then, of course, the noisier ones – the politicians….

Someone told me that JNU is one of those few, select, universities of India, where the teachers havent yet given up…the system hasn’t killed their initiative….Must salute these teachers…After teaching twenty years, I doubt if they draw a salary that is more than what a rookie engineer draws, when he joins his first job. 

Eden may be poorly lit. But eden is eden.


7 Responses to “Capital times – 2”

  1. bala Says:

    beautifully written. Brings back memories of when Munirka used to be Munirka and not the crowded area it has become. The first change I can remmber was the Jan Sangh local government that saw to it that there were passable roads to traverse the whole RK Puram, Munirka area. There used to be only three bus routes that served the entire RK Puram area 17B, 45 and I believe 46. Those were the days I used to ride more on the back of a bus rather than in it, a practice that I continued (as well as some of our classmates) till we finished high school..


  2. Srinivasa Says:

    I object. You can’t call the DDA Flats as tenements. They’re MIG Flats, you know. People who lived there were professional people, more or less. For you reference, here’s the meaning of ‘tenements’.

    Before 17B etc, there was in Munirka a ‘chakki’ which used to do the necessary grinding for sambar powder, rasam powder etc. Even Lodi Road did not have this chakki at that time. The undersigned remembers running those errands on the footboard of the good ol’ 46.

    The other thing is in JNU you should have heard some Telugu sounds. Even in the early 80’s, 50% of the JNU population was from AP.

  3. gkamesh Says:


    why not you write a post on Lodhi Road? Hainji? Prakash Studio, Meherchand Market and all…hain ji? Aji sunte ho?


  4. bala Says:

    Interesting post from Srinivasa. I dont see tenements in the original article. We must have shared the same footboards on route 46.. Looks like we were around there the same period…do enlighten us about yourself..

  5. gkamesh Says:


    I had used the word ‘tenements’ in the first draft…about the flats…edited it…and called it ‘complex’ instead :-)…

  6. ramey Says:

    this srinivasa is my elder Bro’s batchmate… you must have even met him in DU…

    sorry.. sri.. if i spelt out the beans…

  7. Srinivasa Says:

    Ramey – thank you. I suppose Bala and I do know each other. Kamesh will have to establish this.

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