Conversations at canteen and tea joints is one of the essentials of campus life at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). AMU, though, is more famously known for evening sittings at roadside dhabas. But these days, university library canteen has emerged as a bustling rendezvous of studious students, who unwind after a lengthy reading session over a sip of tea and engage in discussion over the issues which are hot in the campus. A new coinage — sweetheart time — is circulating in the campus to describe such leisure and learning sessions.
Most of such tea sessions at library canteen are spearheaded by research scholars and other senior students. Undergraduate students join them as patient listeners to peep into intellectual prowess of their seniors, and to learn from their experience and exploits in the campus. Being a B.A Honors first year student, I have been keenly privy to many a such discussion session. I have even recorded how five sips of tea have different topics discussed in one session.
Discussion starts about an all-weather topic in AMU: its founder Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. A research scholar paints Sir Syed as somewhat regressive:
Sir Syed’s politics was weak and his political views were stale and jaundiced. Though he was a visionary, he didn’t promote women education.
Juniors and undergraduates listening attentively nod in agreement. Then suddenly, another senior rebuts this argument:
Sir Syed taught Indians, especially Muslims, how to stand with dignity before the ruling Britishers and negotiate for their rights. He was a man of pure scientific temperament. He advocated use of chlorine to purify well-water and called for government arrangement for vaccination against Chicken Pox. He even established a journal and a society (Scientific Society, Aligarh) to translate modern scientific theories and concepts into Urdu language.
Juniors agree more this time, and proceed to have another sip of their tea.
After Sir Syed, the pet topic for discussion among AMU students is said to be the incumbent Vice-Chancellor of the university. Some seniors say Lt. Gen. Zameeruddin Shah is a retired army general and thus highly incapable of running the university.
He has damaged students politics and is hated by almost all student lobbies in the campus.
But some seniors say:
Shah is good for university and is busy developing the varsity and roping in its alumni to contribute in constructing new buildings for the institution and that he must be given credit for that.
Juniors look perplexed at this and agree with both points of view, and keep sipping their tea.
Students politics is perhaps discussed in almost all university campuses of the world. AMU is no exception. Students in AMU not only discuss campus politics, they take excessive interest in national issues regarding Muslims. Enthusiastic seniors say:
Student politics should be restarted at the campus so that future leaders for betterment of Muslims of India may be prepared.
One other says that it might ruin the environment of the campus. He emphatically argues:
Haven’t we witnessed in the past that whenever a student union comes into existence, the campus witnesses some serious violent incident and the university is forced to close down. Serious students suffer enormously because of this. And there have been many student leaders after 80’s. Barring one or two, has anyone else become a leader of some significance, let alone leader of Muslims?
This topic stops here with mixed feeling among juniors and all turn to their tea.
As every discussion participant take another sip of hot tea, someone raises issue of AMU library. Some say:
The library is unequipped to cater to demands of students as it is short of modern and quality books.
Some feel proud of Maulana Azad Library’s collection of rare and classical books and manuscripts, but they rue the fact that
Research scholars of the university don’t take required interest in this treasure trove of knowledge and thus the library remains insufficiently utilised. Even AMU teachers don’t visit library often and their reading abilities are very limited. They are not only ruining the overall quality of the varsity, they are jeopardising chances of excellence of their students by setting an ill example.
Listeners listen pensively, and take to their cup of tea before moving onto further.
Now, tea sippers are debating facebook. A senior says facebook posts lack element of originality as most of them are written arbitrarily, without much care and discretion.
Mostly they are for fun, self-exhibition or just to pass time.
But others say that facebook is an important and almost integral part of modern ways of communication.
It only connects people and maintain sociability digitally. It helps us make aware of happenings like what mainstream media also does. People update information about latest happenings as soon as they take place. Many an important information and circular get circulated through facebook all round the globe. Even campus issues like some notice from the administration or any other student-related events may be communicated via facebook from anywhere and at any time.
Many student campaigns are run and managed through facebook. Facebook is almost indispensable and a very effective tool of communication. Albeit, it is also addictive and time-killing. Juniors must be tutored about careful use of facebook,” said a senior, whose popularity in campus is entirely because of his facebook posts. Juniors seem in total agreement with him.
As discussion comes to a halt, everyone realises that their tea cups have got emptied too. They stand up to disperse. Juniors seek permission to leave. And some new group of tea drinkers gets ready to take their seats.
Views expressed by author are personal.
Published on: Jun 25, 2016 @ 19:09