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An addiction called JNU

In 2008 August as I  was standing on the steps of the International Guest house in JNU, I could hear somebody strumming the guitar and singing John Lenon’s ‘Imagine’. The song flowing gently from a distance on that muggy evening brought back a thousand splendid memories of my own JNU years even as tears welled up in my eyes. JNU is not just a university where you come for a degree. JNU is a world which can change your life for ever if you are open to embrace it in the true spirit.
When a senior journalist friend of mine asked recently ‘How did you remember the beginning?” I said ” Tinannemein square massacre.”  He found my answer funny. But that’s how I see the beginning.
After spending soporific years in Orissa, getting into JNU was a liberating experience. That was for the first time, I was staying away from home. The bougenvella laced red brick structure at the first meeting looked enchanting, enticing and quite alluring too. There was an intense desire within me to soak in the atmosphere that smelt of liberal outlook, unbiased attitude and most importantly a heaven for women.
And for the first time, learning was not just limited to classrooms. The hostel mess which gave us our staple meals thrice a day turned into a place for intellectual discourse on varied subjects post dinner. Ordinary meals turned into gourmet meals thanks to the stack of pamphlets on various national and international issues kept in the hostel dining hall. And before I could even realise, within two months of joining JNU, there I was contesting the elections for the post of councillor, School of International Studies (SIS). Well, I still continue to be the only person from my family who has ever contested the election in their student days. More than winning the election, the lessons learnt from the process have stayed with me even after two decades. Fighting an election without a single penny was like biting a slice of heaven. As a newcomer, I had my first taste of endless election debates on Cuba, China, Soviet Union which went on till wee hours. It took me some part to understand it all but nevertheless I soaked it all, revelled in it.
There’s a classroom every where in JNU, the last range of the Arravalis. From the Ganga dhaba, Jhelum lawns to the Social Sciences Auditorium, there was always something new to learn, something to cherish for all years to come. From the Dalai Lama, George Fernandes to late comrade Vinod Mishra, I enjoyed their speeches and the question-answer sessions. The doors were always open for an alternate view. Even without a murmur, JNU always gently made ways for letting thousand flowers bloom in their own ways.  I effortlessly fell in love with cotton kurtas and kolhapuri chappals and the love for cottons has only become more intense over the years. From a class obsessed society in Orissa, I moved to a whole new world where I learnt to respect people for what they are rather than from where they come. The bhaiyas in the hostel mess became guardian angels who gave me always extra servings of potatoes from the sabzi and lovingly also called me “aloowali madam.” Camaraderie became the new word in my dictionary. Subconsciously I learnt to embrace values of love, dignity and compassion sans any caste, class and religion.
It’s difficult not to fall in love when you are a part of this beautiful campus. So there I was soaking in the beauty of love with a guy who (true to JNU’s reputation of being left bastion) believed in changing the lives of millions through an armed revolution. We belonged to two different political worlds. Yet that never took away the elegance of the relationship.
I consider my JNU years more special than many others because in those years we were witness to the disintegration of Soviet Union, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Mandal Commission report and most importantly the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992. Those historic events which happened outside the campus created ripples within JNU and needless to say  all those absorbing discourses and debates I participated and listened to changed the way I perceived India, identity and self.
Today it’s a different story. I have moved away from JNU in which I discovered love, tenderness, political understanding and a larger vision of the world outside. Today I have found love and companionship in people I have met at work in different cities or through a mutual friend or at an art workshop. And they all have opened their doors to let me be a part of their world. Without seeing bougainvillea laced red brick structure on the last range of Arravalis. Without having an inkling of how I looked those days.
I am married to somebody who is an outsider to that intimate world called JNU. I have also mellowed down a bit from my student days. And at the end of the day, I am still very happy and content without owning that LCD television or that swanky car. I am happy listening to the same old songs of  John Lenon, Bob Dylon and Cat Stevens which filled up my top floor room in Ganga hostel years ago. And on days when I feel low, I still pick up a collection of Pablo Neruda’s poems from my bookshelf which brings back a smile on my face. And one of my close  friends is the same guy whom I loved intensely and could not marry for different reasons. And we still argue for hours on phone on issues relating to gender and identity in contemporary India. Well, could it have ever ended in this beautiful way had I not been a part of that wonderful world called JNU. I think, it would  not have been. Thank you, JNU.

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About Deepika Sahu

I earn my living through writing stories, editing what other people write (in simple terms I am a journalist). I dream of opening a cafeteria in the mountains, owning a beach home on the shores of Bay of Bengal... but right now, they all seem like wild dreams.. A gypsy at heart --- am passionate about life, music, words, cooking for people I love, soaking in the lashing rain and just looking at the changing colours of the sky.... And I am a great fan of the Indian Railways and I long to travel in First Class AC coupe across India.....with my man

One response to “An addiction called JNU

  1. Aakriti ⋅

    Wonderful read. You write with passion and soulful nostalgia.

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