For all those women who aspire to graduate from the prestigious Miranda House, here's a piece of trivia. Do you know why the college, founded in 1948 by the then Delhi University vice-chancellor, Sir Maurice Gwyer, was named Miranda House' In truth, no one but Gwyer knew why. But he gave Veda Thakurdas, the first principal of the college, three reasons which could be cited in case she was asked why Miranda House had been named so. Firstly, Gwyer's daughter's name was Miranda, secondly Carmen Miranda happened to be his favourite actress and last but not the least, Miranda, the heroine of Shakespeare's The Tempest, could be a good example for young ladies who chose to study at the college.
Gwyer never went on to elaborate which of the reasons might have been the most appropriate. But if history is any indication, Prospero's daughter was ' and still probably is ' the primary source of inspiration for several Miranda graduates. Excellence and an understanding of the world are still the most important virtues taught here.
Situated in the north campus of Delhi University, Miranda House offers its students graduate degrees in both arts and science. Commerce has still not been included in its curriculum. The college also offers some postgraduation courses. But academics are not all that Miranda has to offer ' the college encourages its students to get involved in a host of extra-curricular activities. For starters, all students admitted to the college have to opt for either the National Social Service Scheme, the National Cadet Corps or sports. Then, there are societies for music, dance, choreography, dramatics, debating, fine arts and quiz, and clubs for photography, wildlife, environmental studies and films. In addition to these, the college also houses a Gandhian studies circle. and a women's development cell for gender studies.
Premier institutions always have a penchant for doing things out of the ordinary. In an age when the youth are becoming increasingly apolitical, Miranda House believes in making its students politically conscious and in helping them relate their academic world to the world outside. 'Social and gender issues are given extra attention,' says Saswati Sengupta, lecturer in English. 'And apart from allowing our students to orient themselves politically, we also encourage them to take their beliefs out to the streets, and participate in morchas. These help them considerably once they have left the college.'
And serious things apart, Miranda House also gives its students ample scope to let their hair down. 'Our annual college festival, called Tempest, offers three days of fun and enjoyment, and it simply rocks,' says Kanika Rana, a third-year Economics student. 'Every department has its own festival, the preparation for which keeps students busy after college hours. And when there isn't much to keep us busy, nothing beats the experience of lazing around on the lawns or indulging in a good chat session in the cafeteria.'
Though it cannot be applied as a thumb rule, the quality of an institution is often reflected in its alumni. The Mirandian database happens to be bursting at its seams with people like writers Anita Desai and Ruth Vanita, politician Brinda Karat, cultural intellectual Kapila Vatsyayana and painter Anjolie Ela Menon. Fitting, you'd say, and you'd be forgiven for secretly wishing that your name would figure in that list some day. Just remember, the cut-off marks are pretty high!
Brinda Karat, Rajya Sabha member, on her Miranda House days
SINCE I CAME from a boarding school background, Miranda House gave me a feeling of independence. I saw Miranda House as a place that allowed its students to think and act independently, and to carve out their own space in society. And the college always made it a point to help its students achieve this goal.
I joined Miranda House in 1963, as a student of the pass course in humanities. I represented the college in athletics. I also participated in the debate sessions. Extra-curricular activities were always given priority in the college, though studies were never compromised on. The other thing in which I got involved at Miranda House was theatre. I did numerous plays during my college years.
I am extremely thankful to the wonderful people I met at Miranda House, who helped me become what I am.