Jamia Millia Islamia: A place of thriving cultural diversity

 ‘No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive.’– M.K. Gandhi

It had been a hectic week. Assignments, internals and events. Everything had to be completed before the deadline. The days passed in a swish. And I am one of those students who are engrossed in every other co-curricular activity. I had been so busy with the ongoing events that I had forgotten to make ticket reservations for going home. I had made plans with my family for Diwali. My parents were already grumpy that I had cancelled my previous plan to visit them on Dusserra. They wouldn’t hear any excuse for Diwali. I was almost scared to tell them that I had screwed up.

With a heavy heart, I had to make reservation on the same day as Diwali. Prior to that, not a single seat was available, in any train or bus!  I would be home but it will be quite later than they were expecting me to be.  And things were just as I had expected. My younger brother refused to talk to me, throwing churlish tantrums that he will blow up the place before I reach home! Yeah, he is just ten. Mom took the ‘passive aggressive anger’ mode and replied to everything what I said with a monotonous “okay.”, whereas Dad, being so cool told me that he had understood how had I fallen in that place. “Alright. I’ll handle everything here. You come home when you’ve finished your work there.”

By this time, most of my friends and roommates had left. The hostel was almost deserted. Guilt and tiredness hit me together as I sat on a rock near the Hygienic point. I had bought my favourite ‘elayichi chai’ from the café and was sipping it noisily, sulking on my own carelessness.

Students were walking out of the campus, dragging their baggage. “They will be home soon..” I thought to myself. Diwali was three days later. I recalled how every year my family and I would light up the house with earthen lamps. We would carefully count a lamp for every nukkad, all chaurahas and go to place them so that every dark corner would light up.

I called some of my friends. Rather than cheering me, those rascals ended up teasing me for taking admission in such a university where I a Hindu, was a minority by number. I could see this coming, quite clearly. But they went a step further by informing that their college was off for a good ten days and they were already home, enjoying all kinds of snacks. Now that was my saturation point. I felt really awful now.

The sun had set. Within minutes it was dark. Street lights started to flicker with moths buzzing around them. I heard the call of azan and closed my eyes.

After some time, I got up and started to walk towards Castro Café. Something caught my eye. The place looked unusually lit up. On getting closer I found out that the auditorium had been decorated with lights! It looked magnificent. Similarly, some other buildings like the Nehru Guest house had been decorated too. I was beyond surprised. I was rather shocked, I would say. I had never expected Jamia to follow this custom.

As I was walking towards Gate number 10, I found some lamps being placed near the entrance gate. A group of students had gathered there and they were placing these lamps at all the corners.

One of them came over to me and wished me ‘Happy Diwali!’  I stopped by and asked if I could help them. They smiled warmly to me and agreed.

In the next few minutes I helped them in placing those lamps at that side of the campus and wished ‘Happy Diwali’ to everyone who passed by. When they were done, I took a picture with the fellows and went my way to the hostel.

Hours passed but I could not stop myself to be in awe of what these students had done. Their efforts of making the campus feel like home to everyone had moved me deeply. This was my first experience of the ‘Ganga Jamuni tehzeeb’ of Jamia. And it made my day. This is us, this is Jamia Millia Islamia.

The next day I shared my experience with some of my seniors. They looked at me with the ‘know it all’ expression and even added something to my discovery. There was a ‘Rangoli making competition’ organized at the Ansari Auditorium, as it happens every year. That is also a part of Diwali celebrations and everyone participates in it actively.

I don’t know if there is any other university or college in India that is as culturally diverse as mine. I have never felt more proud as an Indian, as I am now.

(By: Kriti Kundu)

Kriti Kundu is a student of Literature in Jamia Millia Islamia. She loves to read; magic realism and mystery are her favorite genres. She likes to spend her time watching art films and discussing about them. She doesn’t believe in idolization but finds Frieda Kahlo’s life as her biggest motivation. “Whenever I feel disheartened or low, I just have a look at her paintings. She makes me want to live my life to the fullest, in spite of anything that comes in my way. She inspires me to give my best, every time.”
She is currently working as an editor and script writer with Team Expressions, a dramatic society. She loves to eat and try different cuisines and calls Biriyani her ‘weakness’. She wishes to improve her social skills and says that she is terrible in interacting with people, in general!