Jamia Notebook – Reading Edward Said in Gulistan-e-Chomsky

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Jamia Nagar - Delhi's Muslim Ghetto

Jamia Millia University is Delhi’s gateway to the world’s most eclectic personalities.

[Text and picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]

What has Noam Chomsky to do with the burger eating, Levi-wearing, Gucci-buying, mall going, America-dreaming generation? Can Yasser Arafat be a pop icon?

The Delhi Walla urges you to take a walk in the Jamia Millia University. It is the Capital’s only campus where these much-ignored idols seem to be in. Institutions, centers, halls, gardens, gates and even lanes are named after personalities as eclectic and diverse as Qurratulain Hyder, Habib Tanvir and Mridula Sarabhai.

There is Noam Chomsky Complex, the big Edward Said Hall, the smaller Yasser Arafat Hall (why is Arundhati Roy missing?), and the smallest K M Ashraf Hall named after the Marxist historian. Not to forget the coolest spot to hang out – the Castro Café with its award-winning white and black design.

There are the slew of buildings named after freedom fighters: Gulistan-i-Gandhi, Jauhar Bagh, Sarojini Naidu Centre for Women’s Studies, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan Enclave, S R Kidwai Hostel, Zakir Husain Library, the Ansari Auditorium and a residential complex named after Hakim Ajmal Khan.

Athlete-types can jog down the Saadat Hasan Manto Lane. If you like cricket, there’s Virendra Sehwag Viewer’s Gallery in the university cricket grounds, named after its famous alumni. The most interesting incident of naming, by far, is the Hall of Girls’ Residence named after Halide Edibe, a Turkish novelist, historian and feminist political leader who stayed at the Jamia in 1935.

What’s in a name? You might say. Plenty…as far as the Jamia authorities are concerned. A name may reflect an entire worldview.

For students, names of institutions, buildings, parks and gates can have lasting memories. Perhaps when all else has dimmed, the memory of sitting in the Bagh-e-Nanak – with a good book, or a good friend, or both – will outlive all else.

Tanumoy Misra, M Sc(Final) student in Bio Informatics, derives a simple pleasure from looking up at the immense Ghalib statue every day. He says, “When I pass by the Dabistan-i-Ghalib, I am reminded of the golden age of poetry.”

For the faculty names can be resonant with deeper meanings. As the Jamia’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Mushirul Hasan, says, “These names reflect Jamia’s cosmopolitan and secular character reflecting a continuity in its history and a link with future.”

The Delhi Walla agree totally, sir.