Renowned hair stylist Jawed Habib revels in the memory of his student days spent in Jawaharlal Nehru University

The decision to go to Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) was taken for me by my father, who at that time used to work as a hairstylist in the Oberoi Hotel. Those days, parents used to be the decision makers and my father was no exception to the norm. On being advised to make his son pursue Hotel Management, he suggested I learn a foreign language as it could only prove to be an advantage in the future. Accordingly I was enrolled in JNU as a student of French Literature in the School of Language Studies (SLS).

Coming from a very traditional school, JNU presented a highly diverse, liberal and modern atmosphere which came as quite a shock to me. I saw students sitting in the canteens, dhabas, fields, till the wee hours of the morning, engrossed in conversations that inevitably steered towards politics and in a language I could not easily grasp. Fresh out of school, the initial six months passed in a whirlwind of fresher parties, preparation for elections, and then elections itself, leaving little time for serious academics. Moreover the French Centre itself was a unique experience with only four boys in a class of about 30 students. We often felt marginalised in a womendominated class and the teachers added to our woes by only speaking in French, a language we were not yet conversant in. It took me a fair amount of time to get a command over the language, making my first year in the university one of the most confused stages of my life.

JNU also introduced me to the world of politics, which came as a complete surprise to me. From assistance in the admission procedures, to getting accommodation, to settling in, the party members extended unparalleled support and care to the freshers. Though I later realised that it was an effort to recruit new members into the different parties, I nevertheless still believe that the student activism in the university is genuine and those participating in it are true politicians. Personally, I remained outside the political orbit on campus and preferred sports instead. I was particularly inclined towards cricket and later even captained the University cricket team.

Though some might say that the course structure exhausts students, I felt little pressure and always found time to catch the latest movies at Chanakyapuri by bunking classes, while away hours at the canteen, Ganga Dhaba, and just loiter around the campus. In retrospect, those years in JNU have made me the man that I am today. In the absence of the constraints that bind students to academics, it sought to cultivate an inherent interest in studies. Even in comparison to other universities, its liberal voluntary nature made it a greatly cherished experience. The years I spent there, whether it was taking the 666 bus everyday to go to class from my hostel, or simply appreciating the natural beauty of the campus, will forever be etched in my memory.

The formative years of my adult life were spent there and they remain close to my heart, particularly because all the firsts in my life, be it a girlfriend or taking life changing decisions, were all taken within the walls of JNU. I will forever hold onto those moments, for my college days with its diverse regional influences that come with studying there, have endowed me with an open, mature and wise mind to take life as it comes.