Neither I have the ability nor authority to write about CSSS, but a visit to the Centre on the occasion of 40 years of its ‘birth’ was truly an exercise in walking down the memory lane. Expected curiosity, camaraderie and bonhomie were all pervading. It was a pleasure to see the teachers, scholars, grand old teachers on the one hand and the contemporaries, competitors, seniors, young boys and girls, on the other. A few of the employees were seen wearing the mantle of photographers, while most of the members of staff, library attendants & chowkidars of 80s were reported superannuated.
Although one did not get a chance to peep into the present brick structure of School of Social Sciences (SSS), its older and much more stable cousin had everything to offer when it came to the old world charm. Not so welcome change was the concrete work in once green courtyard. Flowers were conspicuous by their absence. Toilets for a change, were clean. The walls, as usual, were full of large and imaginative posters showing the inkling of the students more in international affairs. The alumni hobnobbed in full swing in the corridors of this wing of SSS,prior to being exposed to the introspection of the era gone by. The books and literary works of Jawahar Book Depot of ‘Down Campus’ were not to be missed on such a memorable occasion.
While the adjoining reverse pyramid style building of
, for a change wore a
deserted look, the criss-cross walks all around were humming with activity. The
trees, bushes and shrubs planted years ago had become matured. They were giving
a green and dense look to the whole scenario. The 11 storied Central Library building
over looked the scores of new School buildings like a presiding deity. It was
supposed to do so keeping in view the attention it received and the utility it
provided in the eighties and nineties. One presumes, it continues to be
important for the present generation also rather than inculcating and
facilitating Valentine intentions. School of Life Sciences
The Social Sciences Auditorium looked isolated to begin with. It soon got packed to capacity. In true JNU style, things were a bit casual and expected punctuality was amiss. The programme began with an impressive welcome speech in flawless English by the youngest woman Faculty Member, followed by a very light and informal discourse by Prof. Soproy, VC, JNU, equally frank talk by Prof. Sudha Pai, Rector and not so impressive address by the Dean, Prof. M. Mukherjee. The gist and references made to a couple of old teachers of CSSS were on positive side. It could not be ascertained whether they were genuine or something was being said befitting the occasion. The person who actually left an impression was Prof. Moitrayee Chaudhury, Chairperson, who, I can proudly say, belonged to our tumultuous era (1978-84).
When the main discourse began, the first speaker, Prof. Yogendra Singh was reported to be away to his village and that he had desired to be excused. However, when he appeared through a video clip, he was as usual, very extempore, articulate and pleasing. The journey from Vigyan Bhawan Annexe to the ICWA and thereafter to the N.A.A. campus (down campus) was very well narrated and the constrains of man power & resources and the challenges involved in designing the course structure were explained eloquently. Among the three Faculty members, only Prof. Oommen (other being Prof. C. Venugopal) the Emeritus Professor of the CSSS, was present in the hall to support, nod and applause. One also learnt that the relatively young discipline of Sociology made slow but certain stride with the addition of three more Faculty members in the year 1973. Further discourse of Prof. Singh tossed around his pioneering work on modernization of Indian tradition and the mix of theory and substance in the curriculum that was subsequently taught to the successive bunch of students. Professor T.K. Oommen, famous for many of his path breaking works and his recent theorization of national movement, made his points very clear in his usual and candid articulation style.
Felicitation of the Professors Y. Singh, Oommen, Nirmal Singh, R.K. Jain, K.L. Sharma, C. N. Venugopal and Panini was a touching moment. Most of them were present. I not only had the privilege of being taught by them but was doubly fortunate to have a word with them. All except Prof. Nirmal Singh could recognize many of us. Prof. Anand Kumar, the towering student leader of the ‘ancient times’ showed true colours with a sense of reverence to all those who deserved.
While the Cultural Evening on 20th December left much to be desired despite efforts of the youngsters, the Alumini Dinner provided immense opportunities for emotional connect and rediscovery. Some friends and new faculty members who could not be contacted earlier were present in full smile and spirits. Prior to the dinner, it was quite an experience to go through the green as well as upcoming concrete jungle in search of the elusive Faculty Lounge. The food served in some what swanky room was very delicious but what was more important was being reminded of the old events and sharing of experiences of the present family & vocational responsibilities. From ‘mainliners to marginals’,‘ occupationals to professionals’, D.M.W.(Durkheim, Marx, Weber) to Talcott Parsons to R.K.Merton, Karl Polanyi to Margaret Mead, M.N.Srinivas to Dipankar Gupta, all figured between the bytes of roasted and fried items : Paneer & Chiken Tikka, Mushroom Pakoras, and Finger Chips. The tinned juices were clearly outclassed by the juicy stories and anectodes of the ‘Medieval Times’.
Prof. Panini, George Mathew, Prof. Paul, Prof. Geeta, Prof. Moitrayee, Babu, Prof. Kiran Grewal, Savita Bhakhry, Maurya, P.K.Biswas, Bhaskar Khaund, S.K. Palit, R.K. Meher and many more dined together and rejoiced as if it was akin to having a grub during the special dinners in Kaveri, Godavari, Periyar or for that matter, Sutlej, Ganga, Jhelum or Brahamputra (Kashiram and Gopal Dhabas not to be forgotten). The predicament, perplexity and perseverance (PPP) on the part of D.T. could be, nevertheless, well understood in such ‘recall’ situations. These may have become monotonous for her after a while. But she has learnt to manage over the years.
All good things come to an end. This dinner was no exception. It got over at 9.30 P.M. By this time, the campus dazzled like a necklace under the yellow sodium vapour lights (what a contrast from the old era!).The famous night life was gathering momentum. I came close to the main gate, expressing my eternal gratitude to the Centre and the then prevailing atmosphere for what I am today.
‘Sociology Matters’ could be an apt selling proposition for the Centre. It really mattered and still matters for me. It ensured my present bread and butter, apart from being a motivating, guiding and confidence boosting force.