Siddharth Chowdhury’s 'Day Scholar': A Study of Campus Novel

Shivnath Kumar Sharma

- Shivnath Kumar Sharma

Abstract: The present paper intensely deals with a Bihari boy named Hriday Thakur and his friends, foes and love at Delhi University Campus in Siddharth Chowdhury’s Day Scholar (2010). The chief protagonist Hriday is not a brilliant student but he intends to become a writer sometime in future. Will his persistence and perseverance assist him to accomplish his aspiring goal? The paper excitingly emphasises his struggles and endeavours to become a writer and how does he behave and manage with girls, money and foes. What is his father’s expectation? The novel Day Scholar has six chapters through which he supplies all messages of his life which occurs in the form of episodes.  How does the protagonist survive in Delhi, a metropolitan city, the centre of fancy fashions and glowing glamorous as well as the hub of political debates, discussion and decision?

Siddharth Chowdhury’s Day Scholar: A Study of Campus Novel
Indian English Literature is a treasure of enriched cultural heritage, socio-economic, political milieu and educational hubs. Indian writers in English are focusing on the common issues of human life in their respective works and wish to promptly express and extensively explore their sensualizing feelings through their writings. Therefore, they comprehensively experiment with new modes of writings, genres, and narrative styles. A work must be written in such a way that the readers’ minds can be overwhelmed and reiterates into their hearts. Common issues of the fictions attract and fascinate readers in a mass because it reveals and unfolds the concerns related to their day to day lives. In such a way, campus novel is no different. Campus novel is a novel whose setting is engraved in the campus of a university and also revolves around the university campus. As Angela Hague, rightly states, “University and their denizens-have provided subjects for fiction since the novel began” (Hague 171). It is a sub-genre of a novel which came into existence in the 1950s in the British writings. As David Lodge states in the Introduction section of Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim (1954), the genre of campus novel first had emerged in the USA and then in England. He puts “Lucky Jim was distinctly British version of a kind of novel that had hitherto been a peculiarly American phenomenon. My own novels of university life, and those of Malcolm Bradbury, Howard Jacobson, Andrew Davies et al., are deeply indebted to its example” (Amis, 1992: 5) while John Lyons in his highly acclaimed book The College Novel in America defines the academic novel as “one in which higher education is treated with seriousness and the main characters are students or professors” (1962, p.17).
Campus novel emerged as a new genre in the mainstream of Indian English Literature in the 1990s. As mentioned in the Indian English Literature: 1890-2000 “The campus novel is not a favoured form with Indian novelist” (Naik 96). Therefore, It is obvious that there are not many writings available on campus novel by Indian writers. Prema Nandakumar, being the first writer who dared to depict the campus lives in her novel Atom and the Serpent (1982). Her Atom and the Serpent elucidates an Indian University where little research goes on, the academic staffs being too busy with internal wrangles and the scramble for funds and foreign assignments. Ranga Rao’s The Drunk Tantra (1994) and Rita Joshi’s The Awakening: A Novella in Rhyme (1992) and Kavery Bhatt’s The Truth (Almost) about Bharat (1991), Meena Alexander’s Nampally House (1991) and Anuradha Marwah-Roy’s first novel The Higher Education of Geetika Mehendiratta (1993) and Rani Dhankar’s The Virgin Syndrome (1997). Apart from above-mentioned writers, there are few more novelists who took interest to uncover the masks of campus life. Campus novels like Five Point Someone (2004) by Chetan Bhagat, Mediocre But Arrogant (2007) by Abhijit Bhaduri, Above Average (2007) by Amitabha Bagchi, In Friendship Love and Killer Escapes by Pankaj Giri, MBA Is Not About Money, Blazer and Arrogance (2014) by Krishna Kranthi, College 2 Company (2012) by Saurabh Singh, and Siddharth Chowdhury’s Day Scholar (2010) are landmark in the academic arena. These types novels are basically centred on the love between boy and girl which is one of the prevalent themes in the modern co-education system and how they are following their ambitious goals of career to lead the standard of lives. It also deals with the issues related to the higher education system and pinpoints the rampant positive and negative issues of higher education. Therefore, higher education in campus asserts the conclusive and decisive role in the lives of students.
Siddharth Chowdhury is an Indian novelist of par excellence who hails from Patna, Bihar. He started his writing at 19, “Rather late”, most writers seem to start at 10 or earlier (1). He published his first collection of short stories Diksha at Martins (2002), two novels Patna Roughcut (2005) and Day Scholar (2010), and later has been shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize (2009). He studied his Master of Arts in English Literature from Delhi University. His Day Scholar is a creative work of fiction based on his experiences in Delhi University and Shokeen Niwas where he used to stay as day scholar. The novel has six distinguished chapters and all are interwoven in such a way that provides a commanding thread over the novel.
Chowdhury’s Day Scholar (2010) is a thought- provoking and stimulating fiction which deals with the major issues and occurrences of Hriday Thakur’s life who spends in Patna as well as Delhi University. The most important instance happens to be his shift from Patna to Delhi in Shokeen Niwas. The novel initiates in Shokeen Niwas (a private hostel), nearby North Campus of Delhi University where Hriday Thakur and Pranjal Singha have landed up and met a Jishnu da (MA Previous, English Ramjas college). Jishnu da is “de facto caretaker of Shokeen Niwas” (Chowdhury 5). Jaishankar Sharma, well-known, as Jishnu da among friends’ circle belongs to a Bhumihar family and has owned a quiet “a bit of land near Nadaul in Jehanabad district, near Patna” (Chowdhury 56). He came to Delhi to pursue his higher education and wish to fulfil his parents ‘Great Expectations’ to become an IAS or doctor or engineer or professor in English. He has been registered himself for MA Previous year in English at Ramjas College. His parents’ have ‘Great Expectations’ from him like any other parents have from their respective children. They do hardships to provide all kinds of facilities to their children for study. Their sacrifices could not be judged on parameters of words. Jishnu da’s father would often proudly say to him while on the topic of the civil services that once he became an IAS officer “the whole profile of the family would change” (Chowdhury 67).  But we routinely called an IAS - Invisible After Sunset in Patna. Hence, Jishnu da did not become an IAS officer but embraces the post of Invisible After Sun.
Love intrigues: Sometimes, It is not the love which sparks in the minds of characters but it is lust which spurs to act. Zorawar Singh Shokeen, the owner of Shokeen Niwas and a notorious and malicious, “mid-level political broker and property dealer, was their landlord. A strapping six feet-two inches tall half-jat half-Gujjar from Chandrawal …..”(Chowdhury 4)  His terror has been flooded in Chandrawal, Shakti Nagar, Roop Nagar, Kamal Nagar, Mukherjee Nagar, Vijay Nagar, Maurice Nagar, Indira Nagar and other areas adjoining Delhi University, North Campus. Mrs Midha, a section officer at Delhi University but everybody called her ‘madam’ (Chowdhury 2). Her husband is a Homeopathic doctor but he might not be able to satisfy his wife ravenous desire for sex that’s why she often is being found in Shokeen Niwas with Zorawar. She has an illegal relationship with him and she was “in love with Zorawar Singh Shokeen but the reverse was certainly not true. Her love for Zorawar was her only indulgence and it must have taken considerable courage to conduct the affair” (Chowdhury 148).  Zorawar has besmirched two women Mrs Midha and Sunita Khandelwal’s sindoor. The significance of Sindoor is always pious and sacred as well as it signifies that woman is married. As Mrs Kaul, the Hindi class teacher of Hriday, when he was in Sixth standard in St. Xavier’s, Patna focused on the significance of sindoor and explained: “‘it is like the red traffic light. When a woman puts at on, it means halt. Don’t you dare to go further.’ Halt! Never forgot that. It seemed a reasonable enough explanation.” (Chowdhury, 108). Zorawar, at the age of twenty-five, murdered Sunita’s husband Suresh Khandelwal , a peon in nearby Punjab national Bank only because he saw their illegal relationship and he got married to her. But unfortunately, the marriage ended hastily in cold blood. He finally got married to Sunita’s younger sister Lado and settled down. He is the classmate of Prachi Jindal’s father from his Satyawati College days.
Hriday Thakur, the protagonist of the novel and the centre of all attractions and incidents as well as the story revolves around him. He and Pranjal are good friends since childhood and they came to Delhi from Patna to register themselves in Delhi University. They often used to go in the evening in order to follow girls, while following girls they smoke Gold Flake. Their target was limited to two girl siblings Yamini and Rukmini Sahay. Yamini, along with her elder sister Rukmini would stroll nearby Kadam Kuan, Patna and used to have the chaat and gol-gappas in the market entrance. Their love and yearnings for Sahay’s sisters were cravings and that’s why Rukmini came close to Pranjal and Yamini to Hriday in Delhi University Campus. Pranjal and I would stand in front of the Bookstall., light our Gold Flakes and just stare at the Sahay’s sisters as they tucked in massive quantities of gol-gappas and after having their gol-gappas, they move out to stroll around Hathwa Market and Pranjal and Hriday would “follow them ten paces behind, passing a Gold Flake back and forth between us” (Chowdhury 30). They used to follow them incessantly nine months every couple of days in the evening but they never spoke. But the thing is that they also came to know very well. Their gestures and postures expressed the repressed desires and longings for union. Hence, their longings for union flourished rapidly in the Delhi Campus when Sahay’s sisters came to study in Delhi University. Meanwhile, they have been invited by Sahay’s sisters at the larri-batti encrusted Miranda hostel. Girls had arranged “a wonderful variety show, full of skits, lampoons and choreography, but now they were out on the dance floor, celebrating the end of another academic year” (Chowdhury 132). Pranjal advanced and went on to dance with Rukmini but he and Yamini have sat there. He minutely observed her and finds that she had grown quitter since the time we used to follow the sisters around Hathwa Market, Patna and she now she didn’t fluff her Madhuri Dixit style of locks once every two minutes.(Chowdhury 132). Yamini, pursuing her Economic Honours at St. Stephen has worn a sky blue-coloured Baluchari with a simple three- quarter length blouse which I notice was cut deep in the back. Her eyes were light brown and she wore a tiny diamond stud in her left nostril, which gave off sparks whenever the disco lights from the dance floor caught it” (Chowdhury 133). They spent quality of time by staring at each other while Pranjal and Rukmini kissed and whatsoever did.
At Zakir Husain College, Anjali Nalwa, a third year student of English Honours along with other classmates began to ragging fresh students.  She asked him to stand up on the desk and recite ‘Jana Gana Mana’. He started singing and assisted by Anjali herself.  After a couple of days, while returning from Zakir Husain College to North Campus they met on the bus number 901. Sometimes, in college, he kept waiting for Anjali and “sitting there lost in myself. Chain-smoking Gold Flakes. It was a strange kind of happiness I was feeling” (Chowdhury 79). They went to Cinema a couple times and kissed and caressed each other’s physical shape. They also met to Ritwik Ray, a writer. As the protagonist states: “I had used “her sexually and then callously withdrawn my love when I realised I was getting it too deep. I was no different from Zorawar who used women in a calculated manner for his pleasure and discarded them. I was coward and cad” (Chowdhury 149).
Politics is all pervasive nowadays and without it the imagination of good governance and the spirited nation is impossible. At every college and university level, politics is being popularised and being elected students’ leader so that in near future, a good leader will come out and support the nation. Students can elevate their careers in the politics by being good and dynamic leaders. That’s why every year, the election is being conducted. Prachi Jindal, a five feet-nothing Punjabi spitfire, was the rebel NSUI candidate supported by H.K.L. Bhagat. (Chowdhury127). She has been manipulated by Jishnu da because she uses to sit between me and Jishnu da in the backseat of the Ambassador and listen attentively what politics expert Jishnu da was advising her. She advances him to caresses his thigh while the car is moving in North Campus’ streets. Jishnu da diverts Hriday’s attention and favouring her responsiveness. He says:
‘Prachi Jindal must win, Hriday.’
‘Of course, she will win Jishnu da.’
‘We have to do something.’
‘What?’ I asked with a by then familiar sinking feeling in my heart.
‘We must shoot her.’
‘Shoot her? Are you crazy?’ (Chowdhury 128)
Her slogan for election:
“Soda, Lemon
Prachi Jindal
On the top.”
Jishnu da is so clever that he milked money from two parties and “campaigned for NSUI in the daytime and ABVP at night” (Chowdhury 125). He asks Haider to seek support and control two hundred and fifty votes from the Nawada-Gaya-Jehanabad belt for Prachi, an independent presidential candidate. At this point, Haider, an MPhil scholar in the department of History would mobilize the votes if the ‘chut’ spent a weekend with him in the Jubilee Hall. (Chowdhury 124)
After many ifs and buts, Prachi Jindal won the election by a landslide.
“Soda, Lemon Ginger-pop
Prachi Jindal, On the top.”
If a student has to share bed with someone for university level election, now you may envisage what happens to those who contest for MP, MLA and etcetera elections. One has to bargain and surrender one’s physic too for votes. What kind of moral standard we are having?
Who does contest in Delhi University election in opposition to Haider, a member of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad in Delhi University, the government system and societal milieu.  This novel is no exception, it, too has political problems which is being held at Delhi University. Jishnu da asked him to come to Batra Cinema in Mukherjee Nagar but he declined by stating: “My parents have sent me to Delhi to study hard and do well. Crack the civil services. And that is what I will do one day (Chowdhury 103). The vital and vigorous question is being raised by Prajal all of a sudden to Hriday Thakur, ‘What is your life’s ambition? (Chowdhury 105)
As the protagonist and narrator of the novel, Hriday Thakur states: “I was mediocre in studies, with no aptitude for the sciences, an affliction which was of great worry to my family. My father, a professor of English in Patna, probably wanted me to read medicine and become a doctor like my grandfather but he never said anything to me” (Chowdhury 43) but his childhood friend Pranjal Singh as usual had been his “prudent, ambitious and hard-working self throughout these two years” (Chowdhury 53). There is a quite difference in their approaches. Hriday decided to be a writer and “one day, I promised myself, I would write something as dynamic” (Chowdhury 54).
In Bihar and all other rural states, reading art as a subject is ‘good for nothing’ (Chowdhury 55) and Pairvi , Pairvi (lobbying ) has nothing to do with financial status, only class status (Chowdhury 26).

The writer must have in his mind the title of the novel Day Scholar thinking upon, his fiancée Yamini Sahay whom he had been following from Kadam Kuan, Patna to Delhi. As the novelist crystal clearly writes: She stayed somewhere in Hudson Lines with a few other girls from Patna and was a ‘day scholar’ at St. Stephen’s doing Economics Honours” (Chowdhury 132-3). This is one of the most fascinating campus novels and the characters have been exposed from their hearts and minds. They do not hesitate to reveal their minds and proceed to speak the real accidents which occurred in their lives. This novel is more focused on the politics, lust, love, career orientation in the youth’s modern day’s life. Students focus more on others stuffs than study itself. The deviation consideration from study stretches birth to others kinds of activities which are insignificance. The purpose of campus novel is to inform how campus dwellers enjoy, build, exhaust and ruin their budding careers in the campus. Their contributions and responsibilities intertwined with vital and vigorous role towards the academic arena, society and nation building. The fiction also interweaved the bridge between campus dwellers and public lives. Therefore, this paper highlights the basis of thematic aspects, the structure of the novel and the form of the novel which hold the neck of the novel to be justified.

Works cited
Amis, Kingly. Lucky Jim. Penguin Private Ltd, New Delhi, 1954.
Chowdhary, Siddharth. Day Scholar. Picador India, 2010.
Lyons, O.J & Moore. The College Novel in America. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, 1962.
Naik, M.K. A History of Indian English Literature. Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, 1989.
Khair, Tabish.  Babu Fictiosn: Alienation in Contemporary Indian English Novels. Oxford University Press, 2001.

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