Violence victim says he’s still fine in Tagore’s abode,foreigners scared

Living life in fear is not new for Yusof Shajari,an Iranian who is a fine arts student at Santiniketan’s Kala Bhavan.

Written by Pragya Paramita | Santiniketan | Published: March 11, 2009 4:30 am

Living life in fear is not new for Yusof Shajari,an Iranian who is a fine arts student at Santiniketan’s Kala Bhavan. But Friday’s brush with death — when he and his friend,Elliot,were attacked by robbers — has taught him to overcome it.

Though Shajari and Elliot put up a brave fight and managed to nab one of them,another robber escaped after firing a couple of shots at them. One hit Elliot’s chest and Shajari’s fingers too got hurt. Luckily,both survived.

Recalling the incident,Shajari said: “The robbers entered the house at about 3.15 am. That night we had locked the main gate but the door of the room was open as it was hot and there was no electricity.”

“For people in Iran living with fear is a part of life. After bombing,I used to visit ruined homes to see what the destruction was like. But we never got afraid,as wars have been a part of our life,” he added.

When Shajari first visited Santiniketan,it was not the faculty that impressed him,but the solitude of the campus. His initial plan was to study yoga in Rishikesh,but it was on Elliot’s insistence that he decided to enroll at Vishwa Bharti University.

“My father passed away three years ago but on arriving here I felt (Rabindranath) Tagore was my father,that he is with me and follows me everywhere. It is a nice feeling,” Shajari says.

With his two fingers still wrapped up in a bandage,Shajari struggles to finish the woodcuts that he will have to submit by March 16. “Every month we have three submissions and though my teachers have asked me not to submit,I would not like to miss out on the assignment schedule.” He is still worried about Elliot who is recovering his bullet wound in a nursing home and is out of danger.

Shajari is upset that the news of the attack has hit the headlines back home in Iran and has even made a call to the Iranian Embassy complaining about the report. “I told them that a report like that would discourage students from Iran to come to Santiniketan for studies. Such experiences are not extraordinary for us as these things can happen even in Iran,” he said. Earlier,he and Elliot had told their families that they were not hurt in the attack to pacify them.

The attack has failed to affect his fondness for Santiniketan. “Shanti (peace) may have gone out of Santiniketan but the place still fills me with peace. Every time I talk to my mother I ask her to visit me here. This attack is not going to change my impression about Santiniketan. I still want her to come to Santiniketan,” he says.

What has touched him most is that the students of his department have paid their entire medical costs.

Though Shajari’s love for Santiniketan is still intact,Friday’s incident has left the international student community shaken in the campus.

“Most students are scared,especially the foreign students. They are coming out only to attend classes and get back to their rooms as soon as dusk falls,” said Samarat Suwannarat,a second year Art History student at Kala Bhavan.

One of the main reasons why foreign students are afraid to venture out is because of the general perception among locals that they have lot of money. Since most of them come from Asian countries like Thailand,Korea and Japan and a few from Western nations,Samarat say,most people feel that they have expensive gadgets and plenty of cash,something that he says is not true.

“Although locals are friendly yet at times we do feel that we are being over-charged,” says Mew,a second year MA student,who is from Thailand.

Her compatriot Kesinee says she now keeps her doors locked from inside.

Students say that police have not been very co-operative. They say that security is woefully little in the campus.

“There are no guards patrolling the roads at night although some places are probably safer since the richer people have hired their own security guard for patrolling,” said Kesinee.

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