Oh, i mean Jamia Millia Islamia.
I just left a part of me there. It feels so overwhelmingly pleasing when a place you’ve spent a considerable amount of time in just clinches your heart in a loving embrace, never to let go. My relationship with this place, or shall I say, way of life, is such.
Getting into Jamia was no mean task, let me tell you. For the M.A. English course, it had close to 40 seats, wherein half of them were reserved for the Muslim candidates. That meant I was competing for just 20 seats! The very challenge gave me a minor heart attack. But, but, surprisingly, I thoroughly enjoyed taking the entrance test, only to secure a seat. Yo!
After experiencing the Delhi University vibe for three long years, I was yearning for a change. I am the sort of person who detests monotony of any kind. Change should be the only constant in life is the dictum I swear by. And I wanted to change my University, travel route, meet new people and what not! A complete overhaul was what I was craving for.
And luckily, I got the opportunity to taste change. And how!
I come from a Brahmin family. Albeit not a strictly conservative type. No Islamophobia. No drama. All were happy for the new beginning and wished me luck. But the plague of foolish strangers/neighbours never ceases to sicken you out. I had a lot of “Haww, but it is a Muslim University” reactions when I told them of my plans. And needless to say, I felt sorry for these folks. Many don’t even apply to Jamia because of the Muslim tag. My answer to them all- It’s just your loss. Your fucking loss.
Now, now, keeping aside all the negativity, I would reiterate the fact that this University was a memorable, happy phase of my life. An amazing teaching staff, fun to be around classmates and an intellectually satisfying atmosphere added to the high. Jamia being dormant in the sphere of student politics was something which made things spiceless, but I guess we came around to the fact. Nevertheless, I am excited to list out some peculiar things that hit you as you step into the campus. And they seem familiar and beautiful to you, over a period of time.
“दरवाजा कोई घर से निकलने के लिए दे
बेखौफ कोई रास्ता चलने के लिये दे”
“ऊंची इमारतें तो बड़ी शानदार हैं
लेकिन यहां तो रैन बसेरे थे क्या हुए”
-The beautiful language that Urdu is, soaking you up in Tehzeeb and Shayari it latches onto, had quite an effect on me! In no time, I picked up the common words/phrases and now I unconsciously utter Inshallah, Mashallah while speaking. My Urdu vocabulary has improved. And my ears pricked every time I heard a new thing from my classmates. Well, let me clarify, It was just me who was on a learning spree in this department. Not all my friends shared the enthusiasm, barring a few. The green spaces are elaborately named- Gulistan-e-Ghalib, Gulshan-e-Khusrau. Canteen for us is Dastarkhaan (remember that song? Dil ne Dastarkhaan bichaaya, Daawat-e-ishq hai. Like that! Hehe! ), Founders Day means Talimi Mela time! And so on…
-I now am aware of the various festivals and traditions they follow. Now I am thoughtful enough to send my friends “Eid Mubarak” and “Have a spiritually bountiful Ramadan” kind of messages, in addition to correcting peeps who mutter “Happy Muharram” to unsuspecting mourners.
-Just as we Hindus are a diverse lot. So are the Muslims. Having a Keralite Muslim, a Bihari Muslim and a Bengali Muslim as classmates, I know these three are VERY different, not to be clubbed under the same category at all. Let me not discuss the basic Shia and Sunni Muslim divide. It stokes up quite a controversy man!
-So initially I felt like I had walked in naked to college, as I would spot women wearing airy, flowy abaayas and hijaab, with only their eyes and fingers visible. But slowly and steadily it became a regular feature. I still feel wearing a hijaab gives ones face a marvelous shape. Okay, ignore this one. I just got carried away.
-One fine day, while facebooking, I noticed the Jamia Confessions Page popping up amongst the set of pages facebook pleads with you to like. On an impulse, I opened it. Only to find some hopeless lover boys doling out love confessions for the women in their class. They had visual access only to their dazzling eyes and manicured fingers, the rest of well, the beauty, being concealed in the burqa. So the craze they had developed was only for the eyes and fingers. Jolly good, haan?! I couldn’t help but giggle. It happens only in Jamia.
-I have a newfound respect for Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Ghalib and Urdu poetry in general. I used to groan in desperation to my mother- “As if the Bengali dominance wasn’t enough in Literature, I now have Urdu in my life.” This, because, in the first lecture, a student quoted a shaayar to accentuate his viewpoint on the poetry of Thomas Gray. So you can imagine… 😛
Oh yes, how could I forget! On the day of my orientation, we had some of the students starting off their introduction with an accented Salaam. And there I was, totally dying out to greet everyone with a salaam. But I imagined how desperate it would sound, and decided against it, managing with a cheerful hello. Haha!
-A lot of Muslims offering Namaaz together is just the most beautiful sight according to me now.
-The Muslim classmates had an advantage during Fridays. They did lose out on attendance, but could leave a boring lecture midway to offer the important Friday prayers. While we would be sitting with huffy expressions, they simply grinned goodbye to us before sneaking off to the mosque nearest to the department.
-If you ask for the best place where Veg Biryani is served, you’ll be laughed at. And if you are a hard core non vegetarian, Jamia is a food paradise waiting to be explored.
-I am a morning person, for whom the idea of taking exams is a morning task. But Jamia, ye cruel University, you taught me to take exams in the blistering heat and soul shattering cold, in the odd timings between 2 and 5 (in the evening, of course!)
Dr. Zakir Husain Mausoleum and Museum. One of the calmest places in Jamia. 🙂
I met so many students who had applied to only Jamia and not any other university in Delhi, say Delhi University, JNU or even Ambedkar University. It made me wonder why. But after two years at Jamia, I kind of understood the reason. It’s about how the university accomodates the religious needs of the students. Which other university has common room, complete with a prayer room for girls to say their prayers in? Or where else can a student rush off to say his daily prayers at the mosque and be back in time for the next lecture? And the food. It just isn’t a biological need but a marker of cultural identity for homo sapiens. And what is better than gorging on the food that reminds one of your home town, haan? The whole idea of being around people who are culturally similar to you sounds comforting, right? And in an age where teachers/students are told off for wearing the headscarf or the abaaya if they wish to continue their job, parents are mentally tuned towards Jamia as the sole choice in Delhi, where their girls/boys wouldn’t have to compromise with their way of life, or be victims of judgmental-ism (of folks who carelessly and heartlessly pigeonhole all Muslims as terror loving souls). And moreover, they can take pride in their identity as a Muslim. That’s my random guess as to why an institution such as Jamia is relevant today and why it has emerged as the top choice for Muslims when it comes to acquiring an education.
And I can vouch for the fact that Jamia is the most secular spaces I’ve come across in ways even other Universities cannot imagine. And that is where the beauty lies.
Tada! So, you see, Jamia was an exciting and exceptionally lucky phase for me. It was the herald of many positive and life altering turnings of my life which I’m sure shall bring me glad tidings. Now, as you would have guessed, I am eager to fly to another place, to experience something new, with a part of my soul residing in Jamia. Forever. And always.
And I guess, I should end this blog post positively by quoting Faiz-
“आने वाले दिनों के सफ़ीरों के नाम
वो जो ख़ुशबू-ए-गुल की तरह
अपने पैग़ाम पर ख़ुद फ़िदा हो गए हैं”