There is this feeling in JNU…. that everything here talks. Each wall, all buildings, the stones, the rocks, the birds, the dogs, all have a story to tell- to teach you life lessons. And so I embarked on this mission to try and listen to the inaudible but omnipresent spirit of the campus.
The thing that strikes you in the very first visit to the campus is that its environs are not tamed. There are no beautiful gardens, manicured bushes or trimmed flower pots. But infact, JNU thrusts you into this untamed jungle where you step out of a building to find a completely dried up tree, with not a single leaf to speak of, proudly beaming down on you. And you wonder, why is it still standing, why has it not been brought down yet. You would want to scan the vast open area in front of the convention centre, but then, right in the middle of the ground, a family of crooked tress and some stoic rocks have decided to take over the place. They wouldn’t budge for the sake of a beautiful sight. You maybe roaming around hostels cursing the dilapidated structures, and out of the blue, a ridge-like rock springs into sight. The rock has braved all kinds of pressures and managed to stay put. With sheer stubbornness as its only weapon, it has forced the ‘higher beings’ to alter their plans. So now, the buildings are raised on either side of the rock. The human will had to bend, when faced with the immovable rock.
Then there is the site of the campus itself- a huge undulating jungle juxtaposed with the clutter of metal, brick and mortar that make up Delhi; the jostle of the city juxtaposed with the stillness and vastness of the campus; the voices of protests running amok and shrieking at power right in the heart of the capital of the nation.
All these things call out loud to me, teaching me what JNU stands for. It is a place where weirdness is norm, a place where you are expected to not fall in line or rather encouraged to fall out of it, to stand out and stand unique, to stay ugly but beautiful in your own way, to be crooked, ungainly, stoic and solid, so long as you know your base is true. To stay strong and impregnable under pressure; to move only when you think that is the right thing to do and not merely because everyone does so.
And when you finally see Nehru, coated in black, striding with a baton under his arm, you do realise that ‘the march to freedom never truly ends’ and that there are miles to go….