Quiet, calm and attentive. This is how Aung San Suu Kyi’s professors at Delhi University’s Lady Shri Ram (LSR) College remember the Myanmar leader as, within and outside the classroom.
Now a Nobel laureate and Myanmar’s opposition leader, Suu Kyi on Friday once again walked down the corridors of her alma mater from where she had graduated 48 years ago in the same calm demeanour.
The years in between were tumultuous to say the least — 15 years of house arrest after the military junta refused to hand over power to the Suu Kyi-led National League for Democracy (NLD) when the party won 59% of votes in the 1990 elections.
She also had to endure the tragic death of her husband in absentia in the years that followed. Yet, all her efforts were vindicated in the historic electoral victory earlier this year when the NLD wrested control from the military junta.
Even as Suu Kyi’s connect to her alma mater was once again established, she urged the students not to take their democratic rights for granted.
“Democratic rights are very precious. Students in India are fortunate to have a life outside the classroom and to walk through their campus freely. Students in Burma are struggling for these basic rights. Always cherish these rights, for only when you don’t have them you realise what you lack,” she said.
For Suu Kyi, the last two decades had taught her to single-mindedly work for what she believed in. Yet, she maintained that while politics was no cakewalk, principles had to remain intact.
Having her at the college was a moment that her professors said they would cherish for years to come.
As Suu Kyi prepared to leave for Oxford University in 1964, Kusum Mehra, who had joined LSR as a Mathematics professor in 1963, was requested by her colleagues to help Suu Kyi with the subjects. Back then, Mehra agreed to help her. Today, she feels “blessed”.
She fondly recalls every detail about the months that followed.
On Friday, those months were vivid once again as Suu Kyi instantly recognized the woman who had aided her in mathematics in the months preceding her departure to London.
While it was a surreal moment for some of her professors who had helped shape her academic consciousness about politics, it was not out of the ordinary for the political science graduate to have exhibited an interest in politics.
“Suu Kyi belonged to a political family. So it was natural for her to display a keen interest in politics,” said Nirmal Khanna who taught her political science in 1964-65.