The Telegraph
Sunday , August 31 , 2014
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The pull that is Nalanda

- Techies, academic leave all for tryst with knowledge

Rajgir, Aug. 30: Here an engineer eager to learn history, there an IT professional keen to work for the environment. Add to that a dean from the Royal Institute of Bhutan. That’s the Nalanda University campus for you.

Students from diverse backgrounds and a different bent of mind are here with one goal — to acquire knowledge.

Meet Shaashi Ahlawat, a BTech from TITS (The Technological Institute of Textiles and Sciences), Bhiwani, Haryana. She is here to study history at the School of Historical Studies. Hailing from a humble family, she could easily have secured a corporate job after her BTech. But she thought otherwise and applied for admission to Nalanda University.

Dean, academic planning, Anjana Sharma, was surprised to find a techie’s application for admission to the School of Historical Studies. “But she cleared all our doubts during the screening, showcasing her natural knack for history,” said Sharma.

Shaashi took a year to make up her mind before taking the plunge into historical studies. “After completing my engineering degree, I prepared for competitive examinations for a year. But then I realised my real area of interest is history and applied for admission to Nalanda University,” said the girl from Haryana. After mastering history, she plans to give the civil services exam a try.

Shaashi’s classmate, Ngawang has come all the way from Bhutan to study history. The dean of historical research of Royal University of Bhutan has taken study leave to join Nalanda University. “In 2011, the Bhutan government introduced Bhutan and Himalayan history, including history of India, Nepal and other Asian countries, in the course. Against this backdrop, I thought Nalanda University was the best place to learn the history of India and other Himalayan countries with special emphasis on Buddhist studies. So, I am here on a two-year study-leave.”

Anshuman Shekhar quit his job with an IT firm to join the School of Ecology and Environment Studies. This microbiology grad from Bharti Vidyapeeth University, Pune, was attached to leading IT firm Cognizant as a process trainer.

In Rajgir to attend the international university’s orientation programme on Friday, he would leave for Mumbai next week to serve the remaining part of his notice period. “I shall be back on the campus shortly to study environment sciences so that I can pursue research work later,” said Anshuman, who hails from Patna.

His classmate Daniel Machare of Mysore is here for his interest in ecology. A masters in peace and conflict resolution from the University of Mysore, Machare said: “After completing my post-graduation in ecology and environment, I want to join the United Nations’ environment projects.”

The international university has representation from the Far East too. Akiro Nakamvva, a master’s degree-holder in Buddhist Studies from the University of Tokyo, has joined the School of Historical Studies of Nalanda University.

Enjoying the taste of mashed potato for the first time in his life at the restaurant of a hotel here, he said: “There is no better place than Nalanda University to learn Buddhist studies. I always thought of studying in the land of the Buddha and Nalanda University in Rajgir was the best option.”

A devout Buddhist, Akiro is eagerly waiting for Monday when classes would start at the Rajgir International Convention Centre, adjacent to Hotel Tathagat Vihar — the temporary hostel for the institution. A month on, the venue of teaching would shift to the varsity’s makeshift campus near Rajgir bus stand, around 2.5km from the convention centre.

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