It takes time to feel the essence of being a student of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), a premier institution of India famous all round the world for its contribution to the progress of Muslim community in India. Its founder Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, a visionary, went from pillar to the post to establish a learning centre for Muslim masses of India who were backward and illiterate. The university created visionaries and intellectuals from all walks of life. Enter the Maulana Azad Library, the magnificent portraits of these famous personalities creates an aroma of their presence. In the centre is the image of Sir Syed Ahmad khan surrounded by those of Khwaja Altaf Hussein Hali, Allama Shibli, etc. Time starts running backwards and the person is lost in history of this institution. The moment they get lost, every piece of land becomes sacred geography for the student.
On my first visit to AMU, the bus landed me in Shamshad Market, a market bustling with student activities. Students of AMU can be seen at all times sipping tea there amid making meaningful group discussions. I hired a rickshaw which dropped me in the Sir Syed-South (SSS) Hall. The first impression on me was intoxicating. It threw me out of balance. SSS Hall’s architecture is that of like Oxford which can impress anybody. Close to it is the Mosque where the founder of AMU rests in peace. The perfect blend of western architecture and mosque is the symbolism of what Sir Syed stood for. He stood for modernisation of Muslims through modern education. The best part is when the full moon shines over the mosque in the night. It is a breath taking experience; nobody can evade its magnetic beauty. The music in the air is enough for anyone to lost himself.
Take a ride on rickshaw or a bicycle to see the inner places of the university. The first thing anybody finds is that there are no bells neither on bicycle nor rickshaws. There is little use of horns inside the campus. It though seems strange. However a deep thought reveals everything. I will be frank enough that I didn’t know it in the beginning. On enquiring, it was found that the culture of the students is such that they never will walk on roads. They are supposed to walk on the either side of the road in a dignified manner. Of course who will miss the famous Sherwani? Students look elegant in the dress.
The Sherwani is perfectly tailored and it distinguishes between an AMU student and others. Sherwani symbolises the elegance, beauty and intellectual fabric of this varsity. The dressing has to be like a cultured man. The concept of the “affectionate” relationship between senior and junior students have been here from its beginning. Senior students are revered with more articulating and affectionate words like “Bhai”, “Aapa” or “Appi” in halls of residence. Authoritative titles like “Sir” are not used here. I heard that no junior would ever dare to sit beside a senior. It was out of respect not fear. The senior would take care of new comers like their younger siblings.