Proposal to reserve DU seats for residents misunderstands the city that is all cities at once.
As you take a left into Chhatra Marg, the trees are a bit taller, the buildings more red. The first banta-shops make their appearance. Banta, you learn, is the beverage of choice here, at least when the sun is high. This place has its own geography, marked out by names that may or may not be found on a map. For food, you will need to go to Kamla Nagar. For jelly and cutlet, the D School canteen. For xeroxes or printouts, head to the shops near Patel Chest. Delhi University North Campus is its own country, rimmed by the Ridge on one side and the busy Mall Road on the other. Before the metro came, autos could take you to south Delhi for a princely sum of eighty rupees. Outstation students preferred to stay on campus on most weekends. Confined to this small corner of the world, they adapted and then evolved. They developed new gills, plumage, colouring. They became DU citizens.
It may not be a citizenship recognised by the Aam Aadmi Party, whose government now speaks of reserving DU seats for Delhi residents. Or for that matter by the Congress and the BJP, which had proposed similar policies earlier. There are no papers to show for it or a civic agenda that it needs fulfilled. The university has its student elections, but that is not where this citizenship defines itself either. Although it comes in various political colours — leftwing, rightwing, feminist, chauvinist, ironic, Pink Floyd, don’t know. As students pour in from all parts of the country, this citizenship is also veined with different memories of home. For thousands of students who become DU citizens, it is a sense of living in a city that is all cities at once. It is a capacious identity, though it inhabits the radius of a few miles.
But for most, it has not been a citizenship won easily. I, for one, arrived in Delhi in a contingent from Kolkata. Having survived two rounds of selection, I looked on Delhi with something of the Conquistador’s relish. This New World may be mad, bad and dangerous to know but it would be mine. Encountered continued…