Sunday, September 28, 2014

HINDU COLLEGE, Delhi: A Peoples' Movement: A review

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

Hindu College, Delhi: A Peoples' Movement
Ed Kavita A. Sharma and W D Mathur
New Delhi: Niyogi Books 2014

Hindu College is one of the leading Colleges of India and the India Today invariably puts this educational institution within the top 10 in the country. Being a student of the College, having studied there between 1972 - 1977, I found myself attracted to this  Coffee Table Book brought out recently. Though there is a lot of information about the History of the College and the struggles of Sir Shri Ram with Sir Maurice Gwyer, I was faintly disappointed upon reading the book. I left Hindu in 1977 and have not been back since and I still have vivid memories of the teachers who taught me and one of them was instrumental in inspiring me to be a Historian. I look back upon my days there when memory has made the picture of life and experience more complex. I remember Hindu College as a friendly and disciplined institution in which teaching was taken very seriously.  P C Sood was the Principal  when I joined and Dr B M Bhatia returned in 1973 and remained the Principal till I completed my MA in History.

The first two chapters of the book deal with the early history of Hindu College when it was situated near Kashmere Gate close to the bungalow of the Rajput soldier of fortune of the early Raj, James Skinner. It seems to have had the unstinting support of the merchants and traders of Chandni Chowk who put up their capital in order to establish the College. The editors have done a splendid job in tracing the early history of the college though there is little about the development of the College and its transformation into a major educational institution. I remember that even the Graduation Ceremony in the College was a very subdued affair.

Two names stand out in my memory as I look back on my life as a student at Hindu. The teacher who taught me Medieval Indian History in my IInd Honours, Dr Gita Banerji will forever remain a person who inspired me to take up the challenging profession of teaching and research. She was a gifted teacher with a sense of humour. I still remember her smiling and asking the class whether she can finish her breakfast, as she opened her bag to fish out a pan. Her classes were interesting and she took us to the Hunting Lodge of the Sultanate located close to the ridge to demonstrate the features of medieval architecture.  I also remember Dr Kotyal as a good and warm hearted teacher. D N Gupta and Suchitra Gupta had just joined the College.

Another person I distinctly remember is the Superintendent of the College Office --Kishenji as we called him.  He was a very kind and patient man. He took care to see that each student received his Hall Ticket for the University examination. Those were days before the Computer and all forms had to be processed manually. Kishenji ensured that all students received their hall tickets and I know of several students whose examination fees were paid by Kishenji so that their forms could be submitted on time. I can never forget this kind and gentle soul who was the very picture of seva in the true sense of the word.

More than 37 years have passed since I left Hindu and the Coffee Table book brought my stay in the College back to my memory.

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