Fearing that the “political side” of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) might completely overshadow the “social side” of the campus, author Avijit Ghosh said here that everyone is “looking at JNU through the prism of student activist Kanhaiya only”. “JNU has a social side. It has a life made of people that come from diverse backgrounds. And believe me, not everyone wants to be Kanhaiya. “But it’s Kanhaiya that dominates the mindscape, we see JNU through the prism of Kanhiya today,” says Ghosh while speaking at the Delhi Literature Festival. Pointing at the “low polling percentage” at last year’s campus elections, Ghosh said that “not everyone in JNU is interested in politics”.
“We have to understand that JNU has many schools. Only social science is the one school that takes active part in politics, but what about computer sciences, language school…they are equally part of the larger spectrum of campus life,” he added. Ghosh also talked about his book titled ‘Up Campus, Down Campus’- a fictional tale of group of students studying in JNU. Calling the university as an “alternate planet” in his book, a JNU alumni himself, Ghosh said his book talks about “one of the thousands of small-town boys trying to make some kind of life at this place”.
Trying to capture the essence of the untold social life of the campus, the author said JNU is one place helping everyone to move up the ladder in life. Talking about relationships in campus of his central characters in his book, the writer also recollected JNU for its giveaway prices in canteen which according to him makes it the best place to take a girl out. “One only needed some 200-odd rupees to survive in JNU in the 80s.
I remember my father was retired when I joined JNU. The merit cum means scholarship of 170 rupees to students like us was of great help. “It also made for a good place for courtship. The most expensive dish at that time in Ganga dhaba was Bun Omelette costing 1.80 rupees only. The other in the list was lemon soda costing less than a rupee,” said Ghosh.