The Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) is a public central university in New Delhi and is one of a kind; the chasm between the almost utopian world within the walls of thecampus and that outside is wide. Every year, thousands of students enroll into its numerous courses and undergo an intellectual and even emotional transformation. They say that one can get out of JNU, but can never get JNU out of oneself. There’s a lengthy list of things which make up the unique culture of this university, and I’ve tried to enumerate a few of them here:
1. The wide variety of courses—JNU has something for everyone. It has Bachelor, Master and Doctoral degree programs in Languages, Social Sciences and Sciences. There’s a written entrance exam and an interview for almost all the programs and preparing for the selection procedure can be quite a task as the competition is very stiff with applicants not only from India, but other parts of the world as well.
- Inexpensive as compared to other foreign universities— Here at JNU, foreign students don’t end up spending a bomb on quality higher education. Currently, the fee for foreign students is at $750 per semester for a Science course and $500 for a Humanities course. Hostel accommodation and food is available at subsidized rates.
- The all-inclusive campus—That’s a big plus of being in JNU. Outside JNU, Delhi is mostly about filth, pollution, traffic and concrete buildings, unless and until you’re not a bigwig living in the Lutyen’s zone. But inside JNU, it’s a different world altogether. JNU has a sprawling campus of over a 1000 acres and it has all the facilities one could require for living comfortably—ATMs, banks, restaurants, tailors, electricians, chemists, daily needs shops, etc. It boasts of its own forest, caves, the highest natural point in Delhi– Parsatharthy Rocks or PSR, and its share of wildlife. Neelgai—a variety of deer, peacocks, porcupines, snakes and scorpions, are all a part of the JNU family.
4.The cultural heterogeneity— JNU gets students from all corners of the country and the globe—from Kashmir to Kanyakumari to Kabul, from Manipur to Mumbai to Milan, and from Amritsar to Armenia to Arkansas. By the end of your course, it’s quite likely that you’ll know at least one person from every state of country and some students from foreign countries as well. The learning happens more outside classrooms when you’re friends with so many people from different backgrounds.
- The cool Professors—Most of the professors at JNU are quite cool—they’ll not take attendance, they’ll treat the class to chai every now and then, and might even lend you a cigarette or two when you’ve run out of your own. Also, some of them come up with extremely creative questions for examinations. For instance, A certain Professor in the English Department composes a poem for a question every semester, and the students can respond to it in a variety of ways—a poem, a story, an essay or even a painting for an answer, and you’ll be graded on the relevance of the work to the question asked, the quality and creativity.
- No attendance—Most of the departments in JNU do not believe in taking a roll call. But mind you, many Professors will consider your participation in class discussions while grading you.
- political activeness— The campus is very politically active with the Left having a strong foothold. The annual campus elections are a HUGE affair with the campus turning into an arena and different parties campaigning fiercely. The events receive national coverage by the press. The Great Presidential Debate has an attendance of thousands, and the fervor with which the people cheer their respective candidates is overwhelming.
8. The “dhaba” culture– Dhabas are small, simple stalls which sell inexpensive food and they dot the landscape of JNU. Apart from the food, these joints serve as a melting pot for discussions on anything and everything under the sun.
9. The hostel life– One of the best parts about JNU is living in the hostel. The shared space created by people from different cultures and socio-politico-economic conditions facilitates exchange of ideas, information and opinions and leads to a broadening of one’s understanding of one’s environment and the world. Every hostel is a micro-community with its own tales and traditions. The hostel nights and parties are not to be missed.
10. The events and festivities— Speaking of parties, JNU is always celebrating something or the other. Talks, debates, musical programs, plays, competitions, festivals, hostel parties, departmental celebrations, sports events… the list is so long that I can’t possibly enumerate all the events and celebrations we have here, but it’ll suffice to say that one can never be bored in JNU, because it such a “happening” place all the time.
11. The night life— Another quirk about JNU is that it might be pretty dead during the day, but it suddenly comes alive in the evenings. Most of the non-academic events in JNU take place around sunset. Even otherwise, people come out to unwind and meet friends after classes and not before midnight does the crowd start thinning. The yellow streetlamps, the buzz of the crickets, the chatter over chai and cigarettes, and the laughter, all lend a very lively vibe to this place.
As someone famously said, JNU is not just a university, it is a way of life!
For information about courses and application procedure, log on to: www.jnu.ac.in