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.