Delhi Musings: An ageing DU and overzealous minister
Forget development of a scientific temperament or a deeper understanding of science, one minster attributed the discovery of gravity to Albert Einstein!
Delhi University is celebrating 100 years of its inception and one of the several events recently was attended by the education minister. He pleaded with the alumni of the university to create a model for the country on how the alumni could contribute to the nation.
This seemed to be a reasonable request. But the gentleman was clearly overwhelmed by the occasion. He went on to ask the stakeholders to think of a hundred solutions to tackle challenges being faced by the country. The mere acknowledgment that the country still has as many as 100 challenges was refreshing to know. It was also an admission that the know-all government, the know-all party and the know-all youth and students’ wings still had no clue to the solutions. But then there aren’t many instances of his government listening to even experts, leave alone the people.
It was in DU after all, where students this year were prevented from hosting iftar. It was again in DU where screening of a documentary directed by Nakul Singh Sawhney, an FTII graduate, on the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots was disrupted by the youth wing of the minister’s party. Even professors who tried to defuse the situation were manhandled, humiliated and threatened. So how does the honourable minister expect diverse dialogues on challenges that the country faces? Who will dare suggest them and who will do the processing?
As universities go, DU is relatively younger as compared to universities in Calcutta, Madras and Bombay and the AMU. That the DU is ageing was felt more by a geography lecturer in one of the leading colleges of north campus. A piece of the ceiling of her department’s room fell on her. Thankfully, she escaped with minor injuries and we can now expect her to be teaching seismic movements and their aftermath with more passion.
The centenary celebrations have helped shift focus on DU’s history. Stories are being recalled of how Maurice Gwyer, a Vice Chancellor of Delhi University during the British era, introduced post-graduate courses at the university and laboratories on the campus. To envision a university that would attract the best faculty from within the country and create an infrastructure in the 1920s suddenly seemed to dwarf the claims of the Delhi CM of having improved facilities in some Delhi schools.
The oldest men’s hostel in DU on the edge of the northern ridge and opposite the university’s main gate is called Gwyer Hall as a tribute to Maurice Gwyer. Aesthetically built with its massive columns and arches, Gwyer Hall was declared a heritage building some time back. And mercifully there have been no requests or pressure to change the name of the eight-decade old hostel.
Speaking of name change, the local unit of a prominent political party in Delhi is seeking name change for not one or two places but of around 40 villages. This obsession with change of names is something that Dilliwalahs just cannot fathom for the name change does nothing but confuse citizens familiar with the old names. Not just this, the lady on Google Maps suddenly seems alien when she takes on the new name.
Change of name from Race Course to Lok Kalyan Marg did not do anything for the kalyan (welfare) of people. In fact, soon after the name change demonetisation was unleashed on people by a very powerful and prominent resident of the road. Nor did the change of name from Aurangzeb Road to APJ Abdul Kalam Marg bring about a change in the mindset of those in power. Forget development of a scientific temperament or a deeper understanding of science, one minster attributed the discovery of gravity to Albert Einstein!