Thursday, August 8, 2013

The serpentine lanes of Ber Sarai

With its front end facing old JNU campus and the middle-section sharing a wall with IIT – Ber Sarai hits you
Ber Sarai - sharing its wall with IIT
swiftly as a place teeming with students either studying for various competitive exams or those who are just loitering around, studying a bit, hoping a lot and amidst all this living in a congested locality that offers more than you can imagine – usually, the prevailing room-rent here would appear pretty cheap if you compare it with other places in South-Delhi. And, mind it, Ber Sarai is not only in South-Delhi but it is not far away from all those happening places or so called posh areas, which demonstrate the hi-fi spirit of Delhi. Be it awe-inspiring babes or roads adorned with greenery – you have access to all because you are in Ber Sarai.

Ber Sarai Market
My first visit to Ber Sarai happened almost 6 years ago, when a friend of mine invited me to his place. Though, things have changed a lot since then, but that friend still lives in Ber Sarai – a love-affair that would last so long that it would ultimately make the modern lovers of this generation bow their heads in sheer reverence for this fellow. The busy lanes of Ber Sarai are always crowded with people – comprising of students, locals and those who do brisk business in this swarming but alive place – full of hopes, dreams, rambles, chats and above all books. Once you get down at Ber Sarai bus stand, the very first thing or building that captures your attention is Kerala Café.

The Kerala Cafe of Ber Sarai
It’s not any other café and there is a legend behind it. Anyone truly immersed in the love of Ber Sarai would tell you a story behind the legend that in 80s’ or 90s’ a South-Indian guy could not make a cut to JNU and that disgruntled fellow swore to make a mark – though not in JNU but yes not far away from it. So, he started this food joint (Kerala Café) and now this place offers more than what a studious JNU student can ask for – too much to make your taste-buds salivate. For any book reader or a student who cannot afford first-hand books, Ber Sarai offers the much needed relief or requisite happiness. You ask for it and they will have it – not literature stuff, but yes Engineering, Medical, Law – all those heavy-loaded or epic-promising fields, meant for those, who can smolder the most precious time of their lives in studying.

IES Made Easy - Ber Sarai has become synonymous with this institute
Once you enter this congested place, there is a lot to look forward to or experience. From makeshift food-joints to saloons, Ber Sarai does not suffocate you with too many offerings in a little space, but it literally embraces you in its big-heart. Talk to anyone and you would find that the spirit of Delhi or as they say Delhi belongs to those who have big hearts – resonates strongly here with these people. Yes, the house rents have gone up over the years, but Ber Sarai comes forth as one of the most reasonable and worthwhile options for students, who can experience the hi-fi spirit of Delhi by taking a quick bus ride to Vasant Kunj Mall or explore the nuance of South-Delhi by visiting the nearby Malls and check out the real Mall – South Delhi babes (Well, it’s a compliment not a bland or cocky statement). Besides students and its diverse variety of food, Ber Sarai has its own protagonists or a group of special people, who have nothing that can be called ordinary. These days, there is only one guy left, but I heard a lot of stories about those fellows, who might be called as madmen but for students and thinking mortals like us – they chose to live their lives on their own terms and found solace in the streets of Ber Sarai. As many say about these fellows that most of them came to study in IIT or JNU but found their true endeavor or zeal for life in Ber Sarai – a place for all!

The famous Jawahar Book Centre of Ber Sarai
You just need to find Jawahar Book Depot and stay there for a while and you might notice a man writing placards or just standing and exchanging glances with the onlookers. I don’t know his real name, but as my Friend said, many know him as Ramanand – a man, barely in his 50s. At times, he stands on the little erected structures (I don’t know what they call them) in the middle of the market-place, which were actually built to beautify the overall ambience of the place, but now serve as chairs for students and make-shift vendors of Momos and Chaat. First time when I saw Ramanand, I noticed his black beard and piercing eyes, we chatted a bit with him, as he inquired whether we were students from JNU or IIT and then went about with his business. The beard has turned gray now and he looks a bit feeble these days, but yes that spark in those eyes is still there to probe you to the core.   After every few days, Ramanand stands on one of those erected structures and delivers a speech – not many students look at him, when he speaks, but yes most of the time, he talks about politics and all those, who have made this country hell – well, we all complain in random about all this and that, only Ramanand does it in open and often. For me Ber Sarai expounds the true sense of freedom, a journey through the memory lane – and above all a place that gives me hope. Believe it, you can get it by just looking at the faces of those students, who like thousands others have chosen Ber Sarai as a temporary home to study and succeed.