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‘The concept of survival of the fittest does not exist in university’

Ideas of equality, liberty and fraternity depict the true spirit at Jawaharlal Nehru University. We spoke to actor Swara Bhaskar, to get an insider’s view.

education Updated: Mar 12, 2014 11:05 IST
Aanchal Bedi
Aanchal Bedi
Hindustan Times

Ideas of equality, liberty and fraternity depict the true spirit at Jawaharlal Nehru University. We spoke to actor Swara Bhaskar, to get an insider’s view. Bhaskar, who shot into the limelight with Tanu Weds Manu as the endearing Payal, did her masters in sociology at JNU and was part of IPTA (Indian Peoples Theatre Association) – JNU (Delhi) chapter. Excerpts…

Your experience?
I wanted to be a part of the student culture that exists in this university. JNU has changed me as a person and helped me become what I am today. It is a true representation of our country as there are students from almost every social and cultural background. Knowing people, visiting different places (where I had never been), JNU introduced me to an altogether different world. I faced the realities and diversity of our country. That is perhaps the best education that anyone can get

A typical day in JNU?
I used to be invariably late for class and never managed to get a seat. But I would adjust somewhere and jot down notes. In between the lectures I would rush to canteen to enjoy my chai. I owe my tea addiction to JNU’s chai ki chuski. Thereafter, I used to stroll to the campus dhabas and hang out there till 6pm. My theatre rehearsal stretched till 9pm. The JNU campus is a lively place. Be it student rallies, dharnas or trips, there is something for everyone

I used to be very opinionated and judgmental about everything before coming to JNU. But when I experienced the diversity on campus, I learned that my experience is not a universal experience and that there is a world beyond. I was introduced to a progressive culture in politics through IPTA which helped me shape my career as an actress when I came to Mumbai.

Challenges faced
The only challenge I faced was reverse elitism. In the beginning I used to come to university in a chauffeur driven car but later I got used to travelling by bus. The process of growing as a person, which began in Miranda House, culminated in JNU. There is no concept of survival of the fittest, it’s a myth. In fact, this institute allows everyone to flourish, it accommodates the needs of every student. For example, special English remedial classes used to be organised for students who were not so fluent in English.

Were you part of the student politics?
JNU has a dynamic ­culture of student politics — radical, left wing, progressive — every kind of politics exists there. While student politics in other universities is marred by money and crime, JNU is free from all this. The pure spirit of politics can be seen over here. I was never directly involved in the movements but I was associated with IPTA. I used to participate in plays based on different social issues and learned that art and politics are connected. This is when my desire to become an actor germinated. I am currently associated with Swaang, a Mumbai based theatre whose members are actors, writers, musicians and producers whose hearts continue to pull towards progressive politics!

One thing that still reminds you of JNU
I still can’t get rid of my jhola

As told to Aanchal Bedi

First Published: Mar 12, 2014 10:51 IST