Lot many unusual things happen at the drop of hat in our revered country. Some are not place specific. Can one imagine flights taking off fifteen to twenty minutes ahead of schedule? Yes, it happens at Aizawal, Agartala , Guwahati and now Bagdogra. In good old days, it used to be the domain of the private carriers so that they could outshine each other and log in more hours of experience to qualify swiftly for international circuits. Slowly and gradually, the national carrier is also catching up the trend.
Having been a beneficiary or victim or sufferer of one such development at Bagdogra, I landed up half an hour ahead of schedule at the swanky T-3 terminal at New Delhi. It had a cascading impact on my evening engagements - ‘late’ arrival of taxi, guided by otherwise reliable if not punctual Dips, delayed LcM and unwarranted recasting of meetings.
To partially take care of the last named activity, I land up, willingly in the familiar surroundings of JNU, its 24x7 crowded dhaba, being one of the prominent and star attractions. I have an inherent intention to refresh, if not to chill out. Passing below room no. 144, Sutlej Hostel, Jhelum lawns, Ganga Dhaba, Kamals, Periyar Hostel, Central School, and recently added Tapti Hostel, all are not only good experiences but these also enable one to cheerfully walk down the memory lane. I miss no time in consuming a large glass of Lassi (Rs. 12/-) in the august company of giggling Dips. We play a prank with CB and CM in telling the latter on cell that I was ‘missing’ from the arrival area of T-3. Moments of fun at the cost of tension on the other end follow.
Before we finish, a desperate call from DT comes. She desires to know our location and whether we had a meal. While our response is in affirmative, she is made to smile in exclamation when informed of 50% to less than that rates of ironing of cloths as also eatables and other essentials as compared to Gangtok.
Next, I try to locate an isolated place close to 24x7, wherein I had spotted a Nilgai, one summer evening in the company of now late Ankoor. He dominates my thoughts while we have a close look at the newly constructed Chandrabhaga and other attractive hostels.
Everywhere it is clean and green experience. The famous and enchanting birds of JNU appear every now and then, though they look subdued at this hour. A walk of half an hour entitles us to have a snack of Samosa, Idly and Barra at the Central Library canteen (next to a 12 storey edifice). When the owner shows some hesitation, disclosure of I belonging to 1978 batch of MA, Sociology in the Centre for the Study of Social Systems works. The old man is too eager to interact, oblige and help. We have another privilege of absolutely quiet setting on the Aravali rocks, surrounded by green, arid and thick vegetation. While sipping piping hot coffee, I notice that the Qutub Minar is no longer visible but peacocks and several other flying and walking birds, much more in number, makeup for the loss. They provide a bountiful experience by the dazzling sunset.
One had visited this marvelous eco-friendly place last in September, 2011 with CB in toe. True to his unique nature, he showed more interest in eating rather than seeing the catalogue having entry of my first M.Phil. Dissertation and two books of mine- Surajkund: The Sikkim Story and Sikkim: Small and Beautiful, donated to the JNU Library in 2002 and 2006 respectively. One does remember Ankoor vividly while getting into the main reading room (now centrally air-conditioned).
He came reluctantly with two of us in one warm evening of April 2011, took measured steps inside, had a look around to ultimately sit down to scribble a few lines in perfect English. Despite our persuasion he could not concentrate on any book or magazine. Later, however, he had a frank chat with a student of SSS, struggling as a non- permitted third partner in one of the beautiful brick hostels of the campus. I touch the table, remember and relive that very day.
Sitting in an isolated corner of the Research Scholar section, I attempt a piece on Meghalaya. As Dips was not very comfortable in this serious zone, he is advised to move to the Journal floor to flick through the magazines and newspapers. Prior to writing, bouts of discussion, more on global issues, clubbing of pairs, innovative and attractive posters featuring the Leftists of Latin America, our own Safdar Hashmi, a clarion call for joining a ‘national’ march by AISA on 9/8/12, etc. appear before my eyes.
Nothing has changed in the last three decades or so, except the size and pattern of cloths worn by the fair sex (shorter than before), majority having bikes or vehicles and almost all the boys and girls having better appearance (no guarantee for high intellectual faculties). While the greenery and the water table are on upswing, the unusual presence of a SIS security man in every nook and corner gives a different pointer. It is certainly not encouraging. The show has to go on. It must, in the changing circumstances but the basic focus of intellectual attainment by ensuring and sustaining character should not be lost.