There are schools, colleges and buildings where people are taught. And, then there are institutions. I know with an opening like that I just put myself in a corner and lost a lot of latitude for this article. But it needed to be told. I have never studied at JNU (I am a DU product, highfives J), I have always been there as a trespasser for cheap food, the walks and the parthasarathy rocks. Lately, my wife has started working there, so that lends some legitimacy to my years of sneaking around.
If you have ever studied, at JNU or DU, you will understand the difficult relationship that the sisters share. One is Adidas side sling bags, another is jholachaap; one is about the latest fashion, another has stuck to kurtas; one hangs out at Mac Donalds, another vouches to throw it out of the country; one has corporate aspirations, another dreams of non-profits and civil services; and the most important of all, one shuts down at evening, another stays up all night. Strange as it may seem, none of these are stereotypes. If they sound like one, truth has never been more stereotypical.
Even politics, which is known to unite the whole country in its similar looking filth, plays out differently across both the campuses. DU is all about glamour, car rallies, fancy promotions and airbrushed candidates, JNU one unfolds at midnight hostel meets, chaiwallahs and passionate divide along the issues. I don’t want to imply that my alma mater is the blonde to JNU’s brunette, but I can’t deny that completely too.
In DU’s defense, we guys are hardworking, more connected to the world and such awesome cool dudes! Show me a single guy in the whole of JNU who can dare to put his butt crack on display in low slung jeans. And it’s not even the north south divide. Our folks at Venky are so much more happening than their neighbours. All these JNUwallahs do is sleep through the day, wake up at night for faltu political talk and cheap tea, take 5 years to complete their masters and a lifetime for their PhDs.
In fact, it’s a shameless West Bengal in the heart of South Delhi. The place is so left they might as well have their right hands amputated. If there is a dam being built in China, a journalist put in jail in Russia or a mine awarded in Rwanda to some American company (are there any mines there, really?), you can expect the JNU guys to go on a protest. If the students are not protesting, the staff is on strike or the teachers are in a symbolic state of dissent.
But I love JNU, with all its leftist leanings and every other idiosyncrasy. It reminds me that it is important to protest, it is important not to do an MBA, not to eat a burger, not to go to a coffee chain, not to have air conditioned classrooms, to have a college campus that’s only for its students, to let boys and girls roam around in all night in dark and safe places, to have mom and pop stores whose back ends are not tied to multinationals and to have a stage in life when you can be a full time student and nothing else.
Most of at DU thought that the protected life in JNU failed at preparing them for the life outside. It made them sanctuary intellectuals, didn’t give them the wherewithal to make money, that it tuned them out of the current times. We forgot that the world is a big place, there are no misfits, there are no us and them. Just as there should be room for alternate viewpoints, there should be room for alternate lives.
And, you see it on display at JNU. There are these beautiful, evocative graffiti all over the walls. I had taken a day off at work to put up posters across the campus for my wife and came across all these artworks. They are not done by commissioned artists, they will probably give way to a new one in a few days, be painted over or wash out in the sun and rain in a few years. But, they will be here. Come back when you need to take a look.