Wait for my “Okay….”
I am standing before the “Elephant Gate” of my primary school…and that gate started many things in my life. I was not standing alone of course; my father was standing with me. He had come to enroll me at the school. I looked at the tall gates and said to him, “No.”
I can still hear that word. A small child who has lost everything…. I can see on the child’s face a question mark as he wonders what is going to happen.
I stood looking at the gates, and my father just asked me, “Are you impressed by this great gate?”
Now I take the story into my own hands:
I said to my father, “No.” That was my first word before entering primary school, and you will be surprised, it was also my last word on leaving university. In the first case, my own father was standing with me. He was not very old but to me, a small child, he was old. In the second case, a really old man was standing by my side, and we were again standing at an even larger gate….
The old university gate is now dismantled forever, but it remains in my memory. I can still see it – the old gate, not the new one; I have no relationship with the new one – and on seeing it, wept, because the old gate was really grand, simple but grand. The new one is just ugly. It is modern perhaps, but the whole of modern art has taken up ugliness, just because it has been rejected for centuries. Perhaps taking up ugliness is a revolutionary step; but revolution, if ugly, is not revolution at all, it is only reaction. I saw the new gate only once. Since then I have passed that road many times but always closed my eyes. With closed eyes I could again see the old gate.
The old university gate was poor, really poor. It was made when the university was just beginning and they were not able to create a monumental structure. We all lived in military barracks because the university had started so suddenly and there had been no time to make hostels or libraries. It was just an abandoned military barracks. But the place itself was beautiful, situated on a small hill.
The military had abandoned it because it had only been meaningful during the Second World War. It was at a height they had needed for their radar, to look around for the enemy. Now there was no need, so they abandoned it. It was a blessing, at least for me, because I would not have been able to read and study in any university other than that.