We knock at the door of a 225-year-old haveli in Chandni chowk. An old lady with a puja bell in her hand answers the door.
Meet 84-year-old Jairani Puri, a 1946 alumnus of Indraprastha College.
Her greeting takes us by surprise as she welcomes us in fluent English and in an accent that could put anyone to shame.
Indraprastha College was DU’s first college for girls. Puri joined the college in 1943 to pursue BA, studying economics, philosophy and psychology.
“My grandfather was opposed to my joining a college. My grandmother convinced him by saying I’d learn ‘silai’ (knitting),” said Puri.
“I used to wear a ghoonghat (veil) till the chin in my first year. Others would sport coloured chaadars or dupattas over their saris.
After first year, she got married and joined a family that had a long tradition of education.
“My husband used to teach me during my exams,” Jairani Puri says.
She used to travel to college by bus. Only four buses used to ply from Chandni Chowk at that time.
She remembers her college remaining closed for three-four months, when riots broke out in Delhi in 1947 as the country got closer to winning Independence.
“Many of my classmates were impressed by the communist ideology which was gaining ground among the intellectuals at the time.”
Instead of the lavish canteen that IP College boasts of now, a woman who Jairani remembers as being popularly called ‘Katto’ prepared food for the students.
Looking back, she reflects, “My education helped me live a life of respect, raise my children better and helped me contribute to society.”
She served as the President of Inner Wheel of Delhi Rotary Club in 1983.