Out of the 60-odd stalls that represent their departments in the Taleemi Mela at Jamia Millia Islamia, one stands out. Upon entering the fair grounds, one’s attention is almost immediately caught by the presence of a gate that covers the length of a single stall. The yellow gate, which hides the name and stall number of the stall, reads Jamia Through The Ages. And obviously it is a copy of the gate of the Mohibbul Hassan House, which currently houses the History and Culture, Sanskrit and Travel and Tourism departments.
When one first enters the stall, one feels almost certain that the stall belongs to the Archives. But once you ask the students at the front counter, sitting behind a table full of merchandise belonging to the University, the fact that this belongs to the History and Culture department, which is the next most plausible contender, is running this stall.
The view inside is panoramic. Photographs dating back to 1920s begin on the left, and a linear timeline emerges as one’s eyes move towards the right. The photos progress in such a manner that it becomes clear to one that one is observing something that is greater than the sum of its parts: the story of a university that faced problems at every step of the way, and yet it persevered ― the story of this underdog, who has managed to survive every blow, even when it was beaten to an inch of its life.
The stall is undeniably impressive, both aesthetically and in terms of its content. And that is not the opinion of one. On the merchandise table lies a small register, opening which one comes across the words ‘Feedbacks/Suggestions’. On the following pages are words by the various visitors at the stall. “This is a well-concieved stall”, writes Mukul Kesvan, professor of Social History at Jamia Millia Islamia , “I particularly appreciate the fact that it attempts a history of the institution and not only the department.” “Mr. Rushaid Ali, a volunteer […] has great knowledge when it comes to the History of Jamia. His way of presentation is commendable”, writes Mrs. Anjum Thanvi.
When one enters the stall, there is a guide at the ready. You can choose between English and Hindustani for your short tour of the stall. For Hindustani you can rely on Mr. Rushaid Ali, while for English Miss Khadiza Naufa and Mr. Srajit M Kumar, who were responsible for the realisation as well, alongwith Mr. Basshar Ahmad. They will lead you to the timeline, about which to say that it is written beautifully would be an understatement. The calligraphy, the guide will be happy to tell you, was done by Miss Charu Mandal, who was the of the Creative team, which comprised of Mr. Naim, Miss Ashrawi Khan and Miss Afreen Khan. This team was responsible for the aesthetic beauty of the stall. The photography department, which was responsible for the clicking of photos of contemporary departments and selection of photos from the various decades of its evolution, comprised of Mr. Inzamam ul Haque, Mr. Akash Ganguly and Mr. Mohit Khulbe.
The stall was inaugurated by the Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Talat Ahmed, who commended the job done by the students and the fact that there finally was an attempt to trace a singular, almost authoritative history of the University.
When one looks comes out of the stall, one cannot help but be overcome by the feeling that all the factors that led to the stall being where it is right now was because the toil of so many people, who worked day and night, getting hit, time after time, only to emerge victorious at the end.