Saturday, August 5, 2006

Campus capers: Strike more, study less
Khushwant Singh

KHUSHWANT SINGHParents send their sons and daughters after they have finished with school education to colleges in the hope that they will be better equipped to choose their careers, be able to earn their own livelihood and prosper. Most of them fulfil their parentsí ambitions, attend classes regularly, pass their final examinations and find employment. However, some of them are more interested in becoming chaudhris, spend a lot of their time in studentsí union activities, and when frustrated, call for strikes and force colleges to close down. Some educational institutions are more prone to students agitation than others. One of them is Jamia Milia Islamia of Delhi which was set up by nationalist Muslims in answer to the pro-British Raj, Aligarh Muslim University.

I have nothing against studentsí unions provided they confine their activities to issues related to their education and living conditions. I am in favour of students making annual assessments of the quality of teaching imparted to them: giving marks to professors and lecturers, the quality of computers and laboratory equipment, classrooms, playgrounds, hostel accommodation and food served to them. No more. They have no business to meddle with admissions or selection of staff. And they have no right to call for strikes which adversely affect studies of their fellow students.

The recent strike in Jamia Milia breached these unwritten codes of conduct. The union demanded the resignation of Vice-Chancellor Mushirul Hasan, an eminent historian of national repute and the proctor. They sat on dharna in front of their offices to prevent them from discharging their duties. The students went on relay fasts, whatever that means. My guess is one fellow fasts from breakfast to lunch, the next from lunch to tea time, the third from tae time to dinner and all of them fast from dinner to breakfast next morning. Having got nowhere besides bullying the university to close down, they approached the local MP, Professor Vijay Kumar Malhotra of the BJP, for advice.

As an academic in the past, he must have faced such problems in his time. As an active politician he may have changed his way of thinking. I donít know what he told them. I think instead of seeking assistance from a politician, they should have gone to their parents for advice. I have no doubt they would have received tight slaps on their faces and told. "Is this what we sent you to college for?"

Motto mania

Brits had a mania for creating emblems and mottos for the institutions they built. So college like the London School of Economics had the bearded Phineas as its emblem and Kingís College across the Strand had Leo, a red lion. So had all other educational institutions in the UK. They also had mottos in Latin inscribed beneath the badges. None of our ancient institutions of learning like Nalanda or Taxila indulged in designing emblems to represent them nor mottos to motivate them. No sooner did the Raj establish itself, than the emblems and mottos became a must. Some kept the British tradition of having them in Latin; others opted for our ancient mother tongue Sanskrit. Modern School where I spent 10 years of my life had an emblem of a banyan tree spreading over a lake with a swan and a lotus; the motto underneath was in Sanskrit Naim atma balheenan na labhya ó those without strength do not find their souls. St Stephenís College had it in Latin Ad Die Gloriam ó to the glory of God.

Quoting scriptures and sayings of eminent people has spread like a bush fire. Everyone of our national dailies devote all of space to pander to public taste for solemn, well-worded advice to be good and God-fearing.

Edwin Lutyens, chief architect of New Delhi, was a fervent believer in mottos: So were a succession of Viceroys. When Lutyens got engaged to Emily, the daughter of Lord Lytton, he gave his fiancee a casket as a gift. On it he inscribed: "As faith wills, fate fulfills." The zest for inscribing mottos is evident in several buildings in New Delhi which not many visitors notice. When the Jaipur Column was installed in front of the Viceregal Palace (now Rashtrapati Bhavan) the Viceroy Lord Irwin asked Lutyens to suggest a suitable motto. Lutyens, who had a puckish sense of humour, first suggested "No dogs must be allowed on the ramp." Then in a more serious frame of mind he suggested, "Endow your thought with faith/ Your deed with courage / Your life with sacrifice / so all men may know the greatness of India?

Lord Irwin shortened it to read :"In thought, faith / In word wisdom / In deed courage / In life, service / So may India be great." The words are inscribed at the base of the column.

Visitors do not get a chance to see the inscription beneath. The throne chairs for the Viceroy and Vicereine (now the Rashtrapati and his Lady). It was suggested by Mrs Schoosmith, wife of one of the engineers, and taken from The Bible: "Wisdom resteth in the heart of him that hath understanding."

Post-budget reverie

With the advent of new budget era

I cherish in mind a dainty dream

If I donít get bread and butter

I will go in for an ice-cream:

Bitten by the travel bug

I have an urge to speed afar

I will sell away my old scooter

And buy a new Maruti car.

Being a good-for-nothing fellow

I donít do service, Y or X

Why should I worry if the Finance Minister has raised the rate of service tax?

(Courtesy: G.C. Bhandari, Meerut)


What does a Kangaroo mother say when she finds her baby missing?

Kisee ney mera pocket maar liya (someone has picked my pocket).

(Contributed by J.P. Singh Kaka, Bhopal)