Twilight at Jamia

It is rather unfortunate that the title of this piece may serve to remind readers of a certain series of novels and films centred on vampires and werewolves and their very intimate escapades. But wining the heart of an obdurately poker-faced woman was never easy now, was it?

I am at the tail end of my academic programme here at Jamia Millia Islamia. I’m going to avoid all the clichés that are generally marshalled by first and second-rate writers alike on such occasions but time really flew, didn’t it? I knew my time here was going to be momentary but I was determined to make it worth my while and not relegate it to a mere endnote in the still-in-the-making-but-once-released-a-guaranteed-bestseller, Life of Arko.

How chuffed I was on the day I saw my name on the merit list imperfectly pasted on the walls of the centre named after the former South African leader whose shirts are not tailored by Hugh Hefner in an amorous mansion. Waiting by the names of the waitlisted candidates, I was itching to summon my supercilious alter-ego but none of the persons on the list came by. So much for waiting.

At Jamia, I soon realised, we took two things very seriously: student attendance in class and non-unionism. The former for its dividends by way of more classroom interaction and better student grades and the latter to impart to the university a tranquil, almost fugue-like aura. Consequently, I was moved to tears at my inability to come to the rescue of my hyper-vegan classmate whose only grouse was that the gentleman serving tea at one of the many food-kiosks on campus was dressed in bird feathers. Good food, too, is taken rather seriously. We may not specifically cater to degenerates (Slavoj Zizek’s term for vegetarians and vegetarianism) but boy, do we serve the most scrumptious food to people who don’t mind eating dead animals. “Lunch is served”–utter these three words at the end of any seminar or colloquium and you will have the pleasure of witnessing the ultimate Shawshank moment, complete with air-punches and chest-beatings.

Over the last four semesters, I’m happy to say, I’ve learnt quite a few things. Some of them include: we are a smoke-free campus indeed, the dogs outside the Central Canteen are real biriyani connoisseurs, and I have the skill level of a Neanderthal when it comes to deciphering Urdu poetry. That’s right. In fact, someone could lace Ghalib’s couplets with Urdu swear words and recite them to me and I would still naively applaud. Truth be told, abusing someone in the Urdu language is an experience in itself. The vilest, most despicable things shoot out of your mouth in honeyed tones. I had hoped to include one particular insult in this write-up but the founder-editor of Jamia Journal would have none of it. He shot down my proposal (and you know what he said to drive home the message).

Thank you, Jamia. It’s been a thrill.

About Arko Dasgupta

Arko Dasgupta (class of 2013) is an associate editor at Jamia Journal, and a postgraduate student in the Nelson Mandela Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached via email at: arko.dasgupta [at]

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