by Manoj Dhakal, Sociology
One Month in the South Asian University:
Preparations of and Expectations from my Rites de Passage
The thread that narrates my initial one month in the South Asian University connects me to the time when I enrolled in Graduate Diploma in Social Sciences (GDSS) and began learning the ABC of social sciences at Nepā School of Social Sciences and Humanities, Kathmandu and developed the interest to pursue a post graduate course in social sciences which is global in its features yet having strong footing with the local. The choice was obvious: South Asian University.
The First Innings
Graduation, work, entrance preparation, Nepal’s political transition, and the entrance exam
As I began to work after graduation of the course, I felt that I need the substantive course at Masters Level which could complement to my work experience so far. Therefore, I applied to two different Universities in India. India, because I wanted to see the country and the other countries of South Asia during the inter-semester vacations and the completion of the course not just through maps, atlases, newspapers, the Bollywood, and television etc. but through my own senses. The Entrance was on 25th and 27th of May 2012 for Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and SAU respectively. 27th of May 2012 was also the final deadline for Nepali politicians to draft the constitution of Nepal. I was working as a member to assess the relevance and efficacy of informal dialogue space for the second tier leaders representing major political parties to bring in their bottom line and discussing about the possible way out for consensus during the transition. I had to assist some senior researchers to interview these politicians and highly regarded editors and political analysts on the issues. Making an appointment with these people during this period itself was difficult that I lack the time for entrance preparation and getting leave during the period was virtually impossible. I took the leave for the exam dates only and appeared for the test.
Choosing one between the two when both are good
I was offered admission at both SAU and JNU. I wished to be in a new one reflecting my long term career objective to study the comparative political history of South Asia which would be incomplete without the study of Pakistan that I consider begins from the interaction among Pakistanis and there are no students from Pakistan at JNU, I guess. Unlike JNU, Sociology at SAU is one of the nuanced courses in sociology in the region that has dissertation option and two papers on Sociology of South Asia examining the social science scholarship across the region with some forums like – Cinema and Society, Sociology Lecture Series, and Student run blog.
The Second Innings
Arriving in India and at SAU
I arrived in India for the first time in the monsoon of 2012 i.e. on 29th of July 2012 and went to Dwaraka, Sector 13 where one of my friends was staying. On the first day, I could not find anything different than Nepal except the Indira Gandhi International Airport and the wider roads. Two days later, I experienced the Delhi Metro while I was coming to the University. The Metro said, “Agalaa Station Race Course Hai. Darbaaja Baai Taraf Se Khulegi. Kripayaa Saawadhani Se Utare.”
At the University
I met with Admission Officers at the University and completed administrative formalities. The University assigned me the temporary room where I was staying with a matured student from Srilanka for whom I began to teach basic communicative Hindi because he was having difficulty in understanding it, I knew the basics, and Hindi was essential for him to communicate in market place. I introduced with some new and existing students from the countries across South Asia. If I have to recall the first month at SAU, I am worried about the upcoming months because I got chance to visit many institutions, places and meet many persons of importance. I do not know about the God’s plan; however, I hope, there are only good things stored for me.
I met and talked with my Dean, Professor Dr. Sasanka Perera which was facilitated by one of my seniors. I also met with all my Professors and talked about the academic issues. Right from the beginning, the cultural life at SAU, as I feel, is something that is beyond the academic life inside classroom and library which truly reflects the South Asian sensibility in the University. This was evidenced in the celebration of independence days of Pakistan and India jointly. The President of the University, Prof. G.K. Chadha who attended the event until to the end, and other South Asian students witnessed. For me, this was a historical moment because if one talks about the prosperity of entire region, the countries representing the region have to work harmoniously. Only by raising such event to the state level, many common anxieties of South Asia can be solved. I’ve already begun to realize myself as a South Asian not just a Nepali.
Having explained all these, I am happy to be in a University which has a multipronged approach in teaching. One can point out many issues in the new institution like ours but the progress of the university has to be seen with the progression of the time as Rome was not built in a day and the changes are visible day by day if one looks at the silver lining. I have got some beautiful experience in India because of being at SAU which I want to put in Helen Keller’s words: The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.