In the bylanes of Jamia Nagar — where the eponymous Jamia Millia Islamia is situated — a new space for debate, art, expression and discussion opened with Cafe Jamia this weekend. The inaugural event, Ashhar-E-Aman, saw young poets, artists and some locals of the area come together.
It is a brainchild of Bilal Zaidi, who also spearheaded the recent #notinmyname movement.. “There had always been this disconnect between the university and the locals of the area. The atmosphere of academia and progressiveness is not filtering down to the residents of the area. There are coaching and tuition centers for sure, but that’s the extent of it,” says Zaidi.
Cafe Jamia is located in his old house. “The moment you say Jamia, Okhla, or Batla house, you conjure an image of an encounter,” he adds. “We wanted a space for ideas and discussions of issues such as gender and human rights.” The evening featured poetry recitations by Amy Singh, who writes in Hindi, English and Punjabi.
A poem recalled how, in Chandigarh recently, a popular eatery called Lahore Chowk was renamed Lucknow Chowk. Another poem was called Love in the Time of Narendra Modi. After her, Sabika Abbas Naqvi reinterpreted popular verses of a song to communicate the struggle of Ramjas students — Tadap Tadap ke iss dil se aah nikalti rahi, aisa kya gunah kiya, jo pitt gaye, haan pitt gaye. Arif Naqvi, a local, recited a few traditional verses. Biryani is the gastronomic offering at the cafe — but will it attract locals for conversations with a bite?