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Golden leaf from yesteryears

Alumni of DU, JNU and JMI revisit their classrooms and tell you how those butterfly days went on to finally shape their careers

education Updated: Jun 09, 2010 09:53 IST
Hindustan Times

Nonita lall qureshi Alumna, LSR
college was a big change

Nonita Lall Qureshi is an award-winning golfer and currently coaches young talent. She was awarded the Arjuna Award for sports excellence in 1989. She was presented the National Award in 1987 in recognition of outstanding contribution to sports.

She recounts her college years:
I had a fairly uneventful three years in college. It was a big change for me because I came from a convent background. College is less structured and one feels like one has been thrown into the deep end. I took some time to settle in such a setup. On the sports front, I was lucky because I had an activity in hand. I captained the Delhi University basketball team in 1979 and was part of the Delhi state team during 1978-79.

During those times, which is pre-Asian Games, sports facilities were scarce and team-sport opportunities reduced after college. As I always say, golf chose me instead me choosing golf. At that time, women playing golf were much older and I had advantage since I came from a very energetic sport. Though I was playing golf during college, it was without any seriousness.

I never faced any trouble in striking a balance between sports and studies. I used to go in quite early, and practise basketball from 6.30 am to 8.30 am. I would then have a bite at the canteen. And because I was studying psychology, there weren’t so many afternoon classes. Apart from that I was very regular with college and never really bunked.

Psychology at LSR was quite a pampered course. There were seven to eight students to a tutorial group. We even had a separate library and an excellent faculty. I remember two lecturers with special fondness. Mrs Sehajpal, who taught me in my first two years, was very supportive. Then there was Mrs Patri who taught abnormal psychology. She was superb professor who taught a fantastic subject. In the very first class she told us, “If there was anyone who is here for attendance they could leave. I will give you full attendance but stay here only if you wish to learn from me.” She used to get the maximum attendance in her class because she was such a superb teacher.
-As told to Pankaj Mullick

Saba dewan
Alumna, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi

An aptitude for visual communication
Saba Dewan, documentary filmmaker, studied at the AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia way back in 1987. Her documentaries focus on communalism, gender, sexuality and culture. Some of her notable films include Dharmayuddha, Nasoor, Khel, Barf and Sita's Family. All her films have been screened in Indian and international film festivals. She’s also worked on a trilogy focusing on women performers. Her film Delhi-Mumbai-Delhi depicts the lives of bar dancers, Naach is about the lives of women who dance in rural fairs. The third of the triology is a film about the life of courtesans and is called The Other Song. She recounts her days spent at the institute:

I was the third batch at AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia. I joined the institute soon after graduating in History from St Stephen’s College. MCRC in our times was in many ways a world of its own. I joined Jamia at a time when I was not particularly sure what I wanted to do in the media, even the difference between a feature film, TV or a documentary was not clear to me, at least initially. Once I joined Jamia, the focus was on documentaries. We were fortunate to work with Professor James Beveridge from Canada, who made us imbibe a love and passion for documentaries. Jamia was an extremely relaxed place to study in — essential for a liberal arts institution as this one. It helped us mature into young adults.

These days, I’ve seen students apply for almost every course. This flummoxes me as it’s simply not possible to have such varied interests. My advice to youngsters is that they should apply to MCRC only if they have a passion and interest in working with the visual medium. They need to have an aptitude for visual communication. Several students from the centre join television after they complete the course because money is better; very few go in for documentary work, as it’s perhaps the least paying of professions. There are many who have made a name for themselves but remember it’s a tough journey. Filmmaking is all about hard work and struggle. So, be prepared to rough it out.

-As told to Vandan Ramnani

Sohail Hashmi
Alumnus, Jawaharlal Nehru University

A holistic view of life

Sohail Hashmi, documentary filmmaker and writer of heritage issues did his MA and MPhil from JNU. He worked on his PhD for two years but eventually decided not to stay on in academics.

What he loved about Jawaharlal Nehru University was the inter-disciplinary nature of the academic curriculum. “This made me learn about other aspects of life,” he says.

“My subject was geography but I got to study historical as well as social geography. That gave me a holistic picture of the subject,” he adds, saying:

It was during the days I spent there that the first student union elections took place. It was the only student union elections conducted by students themselves. “We only used handmade posters, debated on almost every issue,” he says. Students took part in almost every activity, including deciding the food menu and the cost per meal. The hostel fees were linked to the ability of students to pay. This created a typical JNU milieu — a milieu created essentially by students.

The faculty was like another friend. They were conscious of the fact that students have a mind of their own and, therefore, have to be given a patient hearing.

JNU has made a mark for itself in the social sciences and pure sciences. I find students increasingly taking up MBA and applied sciences. These subjects alone cannot take the country forward.

After a long stint with academics, I worked among the youth and was a full-time worker with the CPM. I’ve also worked as a media consultant. Currently, I’m working as a documentary filmmaker and a writer on heritage conservation issues.

-As told to Vandana Ramnani

Shilpi Bisht
Alumna, Sri Venkateswara College, Delhi University

I chose my pistol over exams

Shilpi Bisht, nee Singh, earned her BCom (pass) degree from the University of Delhi’s Sri Venkateswara College. At the age of 18, she won the Government of India's Arjuna Award for 1997 (conferred in 1998), which recognises outstanding performance in sports and games, becoming the only recipient of this honour in ladies pistol shooting. The youngest person to bring home a Commonwealth medal in pistol shooting, she is also the only pistol shooter to win individual medals in three Commonwealth shooting championships in a row. Bisht has won 109 medals in national and international events so far.

Originally from Jharkhand, this lady, whose father is deputy inspector general in the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and husband a major in the Army, is currently based in Delhi. She recounts her college days:

I got into Venkateswara College through the sports category. In some other colleges people could get in with a 50-something score but this wasn’t the case in Venky. The college gave 10 per cent weightage — or exemption — to sports category applicants.

Once admitted, I hardly attended any classes as I was travelling for camps and competitions almost every 15 days. When I did go for classes, the lecturers said, ‘So, you are the one. We wanted to see you.’

I don’t remember how many classes I went for after all — maybe two to four per cent.

Despite this, the sports director and the principal were very cooperative. I remember only good things about college. The authorities had no problem with my admit card. They used to go out of their way to help. I never had to stand in a queue.

Those were very hectic days. It was very difficult for me to give time there. I made some friend in college but it was just about ‘hi-hello’ because I didn't have much time to spend on campus.

How did I get through my college examination? I studied during the last 20-30 days.

Once a major event’s schedule — I think it was the World Cup or the Commonwealth Games — coincided with my exams. I chose my pistol over the papers. For, I could take my exam next year. (Because of this, I completed my BCom in four years instead of three.) I was clear that shooting was my profession. Taking a degree was a formality. At the same time, this credential has its value. Studies are as important as anything else in life. The minimum qualification for so many jobs is graduation.

To sports category applicants, I would like to say that they shouldn’t just make sports a medium to get into college but make best use of this opportunity.

Don’t quit your sport after making it past the admission post.

-As told to Rahat Bano

Vandana Kohli Alumna, LSR

Explore, enjoy and extend
Educated in film, history and commerce from the best schools in India, Vandana Kohli has won awards for excellence at each institute.

Kohli has scripted, directed and edited projects for clients that include The National Geographic Channel, The History Channel, Doordarshan (India’s State Broadcasting National Network), various agencies of the United Nations and the Government of India.

Kohli is an accomplished photographer and musician and has recently released her second instrumental album.

She looks back fondly at her college years:
LSR is known for its verve and vibrancy. It also offers a unique blend of academics and extra curricular activities. It draws top students from across India and is in fact a microcosm, a little India. It is great place to grow up as a young woman.

In hindsight, what really helped me take the trajectory toward becoming a filmmaker is the fact that LSR allowed all of us to explore various opportunities and our abilities. For example, while holding a theatre festival, what would usually happen in a co-ed college is the women would be handed responsibilities like makeup and set design. Not so in LSR. We would handle everything from the conceptualisation to the marketing – just everything. This is what I'm grateful for – that LSR encourages participation and sets a standard.

Other skills I learnt at LSR that have helped me in my career as a filmmaker include communication, which in my profession is crucial.

Thinking back, I didn’t always think I would go into filmmaking. In hindsight though, it was the experiences that I had at college that have helped shape this reality. Things such as evolving as a person, exploring music, testing out ideas and overall, having a richer experience in those formative years have all contributed. For instance, I never wrote till I was in my mid-20s but the urge to write arose during my college years.

My advice to people just entering college is to jump into it, extend yourself, participate in all you can and utilise all the opportunities that come their way. Go beyond yourself and don’t limit yourself to small groups. Most importantly, have lots of fun. In simple words: explore, enjoy and extend yourself.
-As told to Pankaj Mullick

First Published: Jun 08, 2010 12:32 IST