What has Noam Chomsky got to do with the burger eating, Levi-wearing, Gucci-buying, mall going, America-dreaming generation? Can Yasser Arafat be a pop icon? You think not? Take a walk in the Jamia Millia University. Institutions, centres, halls, gardens, gates and even lanes are named after personalities as eclectic and diverse as Qurratulain Hyder, Habib Tanvir, Mridula Sarabhai and even HRD Minister Arjun Singh.
There is Noam Chomsky Complex, the big Edward Said Hall, the smaller Yasser Arafat Hall, and the smallest KM Ashraf Hall named after the Marxist historian. Not to forget the coolest spot to hang out — the Castro Café with its award-winning white and black design.
Athlete-types can jog down the Saadat Hasan Manto Lane. If you like cricket, there’s Virender Sehwag Viewer’s Gallery in the university cricket grounds, named after its famous alumni. The most interesting incident of naming, by far, is the Hall of Girls’ residence named after Halide Edibe, a Turkish novelist, historian and feminist political leader who stayed at the Jamia in 1935.
What’s in a name? You might say. Plenty… as far as the Jamia authorities are concerned. For a name reflects an entire worldview. For students, names of institutions, buildings, parks and gates can have lasting memories. Perhaps when all else has dimmed, the memory of sitting in the Bagh-e-Nanak — with a good book, or a good friend, or both — will outlive all else.
Tanumoy Misra, MSc (Final) Bio Informatics, derives simple pleasure from looking up at the immense Ghalib statue every day. “When I pass by the Dabistan-i-Ghalib, I am reminded of the golden age of poetry.” For the faculty names can be resonant with deeper meanings.
As Jamia’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mushirul Hasan, says, “These names reflect Jamia’s cosmopolitan and secular character reflecting a continuity in its history and a link with future.” Just in case you wonder, there’s Gulistan-e-Gandhi too.