mAvErIck spEAks

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Sumthing of JNU


It’s not everyday that a book comes, about an institution that has fed people’s fantasy for as long as they remember. It’s about an institution, which enjoys a near sacrosanct status, like an impenetrable fort; its disciples shrouded with a bizarre aura, painting them almost like mythological characters, placing them higher then ordinary mortals.

And then, this audacious book that reveals the ages old hidden secret - that the institution is just like any other, with its share of ingenious philosophy, its glorious and not so glorious history, upside down geography, multi-hued sociology, melting pot of a culture etc. That its disciples are like any others, with their share of weaknesses and strengths.

That this institution too isn’t really different from others.

But the book also narrates about the temperament of this institution, about the undying spirit, which doesn’t kneel down, no matter what – the positivity remains intact.

That’s the reason why the institution and its disciples enjoyed almost mythical status in the minds of ordinary mortals.

And coming from an insider, we tend to believe every word of it, despite being author’s frivolous natured writing.

JNU is the institution in question and the audacious book I referred above is Soma Das’ Sumthing of a mocktale – At JNU where Kurta fell in love with jeans. The misspelt words are neither printer’s mistake nor poor proofreader’s. They are intended – first to conjure up a frivolous atmosphere before the reader flips pages and secondly to dissuade eruption of serious thoughts, while reading the book. But in fact, the misspelt words say a lot, even before you read acknowledgements.

Soma Das, being a research scholar, got to spend a lot of time in JNU, one of the premier institutes in India, often hailed as Harvard of the third world. The book unfolds like a chronicle of her life in this august institute. She picks tit-bits from around her and weaves a story, about a bunch of students from JNU. She has friends, no best friends; foes, no temporary foes; philosophers and guides, literally. She presents JNU, as transparent as possible; in black and white. She narrates situations that are as real as the can get and as fictional as they may appear.

Life at JNU looks funny and serious at the same time. It is about abundance of joyousness and unfathomable grief simultaneously. It is about witnessing a few winners and a bunch of martyrs. It is about JNU as we know, and JNU as it is.

The book may not be a page turner but is an interesting read at times; gets little dragging at times but survives the mid-book hiccups and turns out to be quite a fair affair for a 206 pages long book.