FCCU: Historical Spaces & Nightmarish Chases
Noor schemed his way into Forman Christian College (FCCU) Lahore recently. With danger at every curve and turn, read on for his nail biting Friday adventure:
Lying is an art; a subtle one.
Last Friday, I tricked my way into FCCU with a Formanite acting as my accomplice. To my embarrassment, I was caught off-guard twice.
I had corresponded with M via text and we had planned the timings of my visit according to her schedule for the day. She asked me to lie confidently to the security guards at the entrance gate and tell them that I had come for M.Phil. admissions. Throughout my commute to FCCU, one question kept running through my mind: What if my cover is blown?
Once I reached the reception desk, I pushed my identity card under the fenced window and pretended to be on call (after muting the bell of course). The guard inquired about the reason for my visit to FCCU and I blurted out: ‘M.Phil’. He stared right into my soul, while I continued taking my (fake) call. I guess my innocent face pacified his concerns and he handed me a visiting card for N Block, Ahmed Saeed Administration Building.
I walked ahead with unsteady steps and waited on the main road for M to escort me around her university. I maintained an air of nonchalance, while a dispersed crowd of students walked in opposite directions. Soon M appeared, accompanied by a friend of hers, and asked me what I wanted to see. We decided to begin my tour from the the Liberal arts block, which stood closest to the entrance.
As we walked in, a tall security guard blocked my path. He stood like a minaret, with his hands outstretched, he asked for my university card. M had asked me to lie and sell the excuse of having forgotten it, in case any guard stops me. The guard’s sombre expressions and open palms disrupted my train of thought. I looked towards M like a child, whom his mother drops at school on the first day. I did not utter a single word. The guard looked at my jeans pocket, from which the visitor card peered out. He informed me that I couldn’t enter the Liberal Arts Block. My accomplices and I turned back, each of us embarrassed for different reasons.
From there we walked towards the intermediate section, we bypassed young boys with rowdy attitudes, entered the theatre hall and went to the library. The security at the library was lax and my entrance went unnoticed. We went to the far left and browsed a few books in the literature section. A large assembly of students had gathered within library. We couldn’t decide whether they were thirsty for knowledge, or if the summer’s heat had herded them indoors.
M shared a brief history of Forman Christian College with me. Dr Charles W. Forman came to South Asia in 1847, and later, settled in Lahore. Here he founded the school, which evolved into a college and university over the ensuing years. He founded the Rang Mahal School, Lahore, which was considered the first Anglo-vernacular educational institution in Lahore. In 1865, the school appropriated a college department, which was turned into a university in 2005 with the name Forman Christian College University (FCCU). The university offers an American style of world-class education in Pakistan.
M told me that the best thing about her university’s culture was that people respected diversity. More than half the student population happens to be Christian. There were also a reasonable number of Sunnis, Shias, Ahmadis and several other religious groups, making for a good mix. The diversity extends across ethnic lines too. Students hailing from the far-flung areas of tribal districts, Northern areas, KPK, Baluchistan, Sindh and Southern Punjab study at FCCU and live on campus. Unlike other institutions in the country, where religious or ethnic divisions too-often become a pretext for scuffles; at FCCU, these demarcating lines become the very reason for tolerance towards each other.
We entered S Block from a backdoor, as M told me that security happens to be slack there. It is considered the most beautiful and elegant building on campus. We visited the musical fountain area enthusiastically but it was not playing. We then climbed several floors up, to visit the biological museum. As we entered, the director asked us to write our roll numbers and names. M wrote her name and number. I didn’t know what to do. I responded impetuously and wrote my name along with a roll number, that differed in one figure from M’s. I assumed that I had managed to cheat the director well. As long as we stayed and moved about in the museum, and so I went behind the cabinets, where reptiles and birds were sitting still and living in the moment with strict adherence to Buddhist philosophy. M later told me that, while I wrote my name and number, the manager had smiled, pinpointing to the fact that I was playing a silly role.
As it had rained the prior evening, the weather remained pleasant, despite the sun gawking down with scorching rays as usual. As we walked, M told me how the FCCU social life changed drastically two years back. The administration took stern and unprecedented steps to discourage students from abusing (enjoying) nicotine and narcotics on campus. Then, students used to smoke weed and marijuana without being rebuked at London Bridge- a small ridge which demarcates the middle of the ground. M told me that they fined everybody, who was caught, as the university hired a number of proctors to spy on students.
If Foucault had accompanied us on the visit, he would have given a good analysis of incarceration on different levels, of which the university was culpable. She mentioned a number of spots, from where the drugs enthusiasts (aka airplanes) fly to their fantasies amid the smells and smokes. Also, I was told about several lover’s spots but asked strictly not to mention them, lest I deprive those who feed each other with love on campus.
That night, I watched ‘Young Marx’ as I dozed off. It metamorphosed its way into my dreams with weird modifications, I dreamt that Communists had brought a revolution in Lahore. Within this dream, I was rambling in FCCU. The whole university was silent and deserted. Absurdly enough, the poles and tree stems were wearing the blue uniforms of security guards FCCU, like scarecrows. Then, I ascended to the Biology Museum in a noisy lift, where I found the mummified animals in a zombie-like trance. The animated skeleton of a woman waltzed around the lab. I opened the gate and let the entourage of birds, animals, and reptiles fly, walk, and slither out, without me being frightened in the least. The last to come out was the woman’s skeleton. She said ‘thank you’ (with her clacking bony jaw) and I woke up.