‘Disinterested’—that’s the word that perfectly describes how I felt the first time I entered the precincts of Jamia. Not knowing anyone, and not even wanting to.
Despite the colourful atmosphere, and despite the cheerful faces, nothing gave me good vibes.
For Jamia, I only felt repulsion.
I always wanted to explore things away from home, wanted to learn how to stop taking things for granted. But the joy of finally getting that opportunity after completing my graduation at home in Kashmir, was short-lived.
I was afraid—afraid that I might not get accepted by a society that was relatively more modern and not as conservative as the one I had come from. I was worried—worried that I might not be able to adjust myself here. And going back home wasn’t even an option. I was upset—upset because I thought I wouldn’t be able to live up to the expectations my family had sent me here with. I was angry—angry with myself for having decided to come to a place away from home. I felt hopeless—hopeless because my heart wasn’t here. They say home is where the heart is. And my heart was there in my woeful vale of Kashmir, in its mourning mountains and in its bloodied streams.
Days passed by. I got acquainted with some faces. But the feelings of fear, anger, worry and hopelessness only got stronger. Kashmir became dearer to me more than ever. But I started losing myself in the crowd—the crowd I was supposed to stand out from. My world started contracting and now it was just about that one corner where I saw myself—that dark corner with no traces of light and with no traces of life. I didn’t find myself living, I was only breathing. I saw myself slipping away into darkness, and strangely, I was happy to slide into it.
But despite my “reservations,” I saw people looking at me with a broad smile and it would, in a way, force me to reflect the same. My classmates would try and talk to me even when I responded with a blank face—expressionless. I knew some strangers would become acquaintances with time, but at the same time, I was sure that those acquaintances would remain as such.
However, in time that changed; I didn’t realize how and when my ‘dark world’ became accommodating; how now it welcomed light, and how I learned to ‘live’ here. How some people entered my life and just changed the way I thought about this place. I was encouraged and helped, spoken to and cared for, even when I asked for none of it and did nothing to deserve it.
Though much has changed, some things have remained as they were. With every passing day, my love and longing for Kashmir only grows stronger. And my resolve to do whatever I can for it only grows firmer. Friends back home still hold the same importance they had held for me before. But my negative feelings have given way to hope and optimism. No more do I see myself slipping into the darkness; my friends here have become my sunshine. I am no longer afraid of losing myself in the crowd. I am hopeful and optimistic of finding a way out.
I know there are people I can look up to, people I can depend on. As I write this, sitting in front of my department, I see my friends and acquaintances pass by me with a smile on their face; however this time, I am not expressionless—I smile back.
I stare at nothing in particular; I can’t help but smile. I look at Gulistaan-e-Ghalib (Name of the building my department of political science is housed in) and all I feel is a sense of calm, a sense of belongingness. When I recollect the memories of the year gone by, I feel grateful for it, because it was a part of learning some of life’s best lessons from people who mean so much to me now.
Delhi may still not be my favourite place, but Jamia Millia Islamia has become my ‘home away from home.’ This place no longer repels me. I always see it welcoming me into its family with open arms, teaching me to fly, helping me get up when I fall, imbibing in me the will to win, the desire to succeed, giving me the strength to overcome. Strange it is, but certainly, I have fallen in love with this place and I feel proud and fortunate to be a part of it.