As model Indrani Dasgupta walked the ramp in a Shantanu-Nikhil creation at the Lakme India Fashion Week in Mumbai on Friday,she probably wasnt thinking of all those theories of how miniskirts flag up a bull market and long ones signal the return of the bear. But once off the ramp,all the years she spent taking down notes on the back benches of the Economics Department at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) will come in handy if she had to hold forth on the economy and the fashion industry.
What few people know is how the world of this dusky model and that of the Economics Department of JNU intersect. The story of how this student of economicsand the face of anti-ageing creamsand professors like C.P. Chandrashekhar,Jayati Ghosh and Prabhat Patnaik (who is now an advisor to the Planning Commission in Kerala) were once in the same classroom is a fascinating one. Also fascinating is how this ramp scorcher hopes to return to her classes at JNU some day.
Dasgupta completed her masters in economics from JNU in 2004 and says she proposes to get back someday to the world which intrigued and interested her,like the world of trade,where the developed Western world sought to engage with the agricultural world,labour laws,women labour laws and social and developmental aspects.
The Economics Department is remarkably well-knit,has strong Left credentials and is among the most powerful and respected bastions of Left economics in the country. The University is usually critiqued for its fiery student politics and for wishing to hold onto a world that defies time. But Dasgupta recalls how she juggled her fledgling modeling career and her days as a student of Economics and gratefully acknowledges the spirit of the University that ensured that she could take exams,complete her course work and credits the fellowship amongst students,teachers and others who ensured that she could get hold of notes,readings and complete her post-graduation as she was very keen to do.
Dasgupta says unselfconsciously; I come from a typical Bengali family. I am the last of three children. Both my brothers are engineers and dad wanted me to be a doctor. I ended up being a model but I think I will get back one day to the world of books.
She remembers the really early classes of Prof C.P. Chandrashekhar,the ones on trade by Jayati Ghosh and of course Prof Prabhat Patnaiks macro-economic classes. Her professors were mildly aware of her parallel career in modeling,though Dasgupta says she did not quite talk about it as I did not think these serious people would think much about it. But I think they knew and were very helpful and inspiring as I managed both.
Prabhat Patnaik could not be reached for a comment,but other teachers in the department recall how she sat at the back,but diligently took notes,and was keen on improving her grades.
What Dasgupta liked and was inspired by most there,she says,is how these people,teachers and students were not just keen on a high-paying job,but had a vision for a just world,they were hands-on,involved and engaged in the world and its politics. She says she deliberately chose JNU over the Delhi School of Economics to partake of this environment and spirit.
Born in Muscat,Dasgupta returned to India to finish school in DPS and went onto Miranda House in Delhi University. She then went on to do her Masters in Economics from JNU.
She says she still goes back to JNU dhabas and visits her friends working on their PhDs. But where does all this find a resonance in her new world of anti-ageing creams and tinsel? Dasgupta says there is plenty of connect. It keeps me rooted and real, she says.
Once one of the top three models chosen by Lakmealong with Yana Gupta and Lisa Rayfor one of the earliest fashion weeks nearly eight years ago,Dasgupta is now based in Delhi,but still counted among the top models,with a vast travelling schedule. JNU waits,for when she might revisit,to resume her stay in Jamuna hostel,maybe with a new theory or new terms of trade.