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Fmlab CLJNU
Jun 26, 2023
In Share Your Memory
The body of a linguist, Prof. Manjali, gets consumed by a word called 'dead' ____________ On 14 May, my father, my teacher at home, had passed away, and exactly a month after that is today on 14 June, Prof. Franson Davis Manjali Frans Manjali , my teacher at University, passed away. I don't bother if any literature exists suggesting the period of completion of grieving, as I had not overcome the grief of my father's death, that the news of death of Prof. Manjali hit me in the evening. I am trying to gather some courage to say explicitly that Franson, for many, and Prof. Manjali, for some is no more! His body is now no more with us in this world. His ideas are. His body has been consumed by a word called 'dead'. As we had the fortune to witness the presence of his bodily expression, now we have only his expression left in memory confined within words either through expression on our own or heard following somebody speaks. Now, no silence can connect us, only words by us about him! Prof. Franson Davis Manjali, the linguist, philosopher, litterateur, translator and the best of all a legendary teacher cum mentor, breathed his last today on 14th June, 2023. He taught hundreds of students and inspired thousands minds to pursue the passion of learning. He instilled the passion of learning among his students and remained critical to those who could not grow into dispassionate thinkers. Prof. Franson remained known for his witty and satirical remarks in his conversation. The best of all, he hardly thought whether his satires would be exactly understood as intended. Prof. Manjali, the name we, our batch of M.A. linguistics, used to refer remained always the name of a personality mixed in modernity and profound knowledge. Hardly any exception is to be found in which Prof. Manjali did not happen to be the reason of creating a sense of pride and a reason of joy among his students irrespective of batches divided across a long span of his years of working as Professor whether in Centre for Linguistics and English or later on partitioned into Centre of English Studies and Centre for Linguistics. Prof. Manjali injected criticality and instilled the passion of reading and learning. He taught his students to internalise the strength language holds, and how language is transformed and becomes redundant. His lectures remained very complex to most of all, to many labyrinthine and but to few it remained life-changing. His lectures changed the worldview. It changed the way we understood language as an object of sub-discipline. Language for him remained so colossal as an idea that the moment of defining Language as an object under study in the discipline of Linguistics took a flight to ....... Furrrrrrrrrrrr! Franson, as called by his colleagues and Manjali, referred by his students largely, received expanse of respect and love. Franson, as recalled by almost everyone, used to be the first teacher students encountered after admission across batches. Undoubtedly, it seems that his charming personality, a mix of stylish pony-tail, accented English in strong base voice and beautiful eyes gazing straight uninterrupted into students eyes during lecture made almost all students crazy. His sharp wit and situational satire left his students speechless. It can also be understood that his appearance was taken to be enough evoke profound interest in the course. He was probably the captain of the course of linguistics. Once, I arrived five-ten minutes late in his morning class of 9 to 11. He remarked, "ya ya you are late, ummm". I said, "sorry sir, I got late because I woke up late in the morning today." He sharply retorted, "I see, you came all the way from your home to here covering 1000 kms. to sleep. Ummmm". His sharp gaze fell on us, all latecomers. We felt caught. He didn't bother about variety of reasons given as excuses to defend the lackadaisical approach of learning by students. I can't say how he looked at the advent of a thing called 'time', but he always chased time and was never late for his morning classes no matter winter, summer or rainy season divided between two semesters in a year. Franson's personality helped weave several stories by his students, evoked fun, filled us with love and pushed us towards learning. Though there were so much to listen him speaking about, only mourning remains. Dear Professor Manjali, we always loved you immensely and so will be forever! You will forever remain an eternal teacher for all of us. Rest in Peace, Pride and Philosophy!
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Fmlab CLJNU
Jun 26, 2023
In Share Your Memory
Adieu Prof Frans Manjali  June 14 marks the end of an era in the study of languages in India. Franson Manjali is a significant figure in my academic growth. He is a person who I feared, respected and loved. His contributions to linguistics and language studies are immense. I am not the right person to comment on his mammoth work. I shall tell here what I feared about Franson. Respect and love shall follow soon. I enrolled into JNU in the 4th Week of July 2010. When I registered for a Master's in Linguistics, I was not alien to the field. I had a fair amount of exposure to Language Teaching and applied linguistics. However, in the first week of JNU, I realised I could not express to my fellow first years what linguistics is and what I want to do after a MA in Linguistics. In contrast, many of my peers in other programs knew well what their discipline was and what they wanted to do after a Master's. So I was looking forward to my first class, Introduction to Linguistics. I was hoping that a Professor would walk into the class and demystify Linguistics in the first lecture of the program. And I was eagerly waiting to faithfully transcribe what the professor would say, learn it by heart and answer everyone who asked me what linguistics is. Open the first class of linguistics: Franson Manjali stood in room no. 101 Sllcs welcoming students. He stood in the front of the class with his pony-tailed silver hair, lose fitting clothes and sandals. He took a short introduction of us, then looked at all of us and asked us what is linguistics? I was sitting in the second or third row to his right with a fellow student as eager as me. Franson repeats the same question with a deeper voice. The class was silent, and after a few seconds, Franson produced one of the rarest consonants possible. Prrrr. All the students in class looked at each other's faces. It was the first day of linguistics we were not introduced yet to Phonetic or Phonetic Alphabets. And we were yet to learn what this strange sound was. After this, Manjali talked about the tower of Babel and various other beliefs regarding the origin and diversification of languages. And how people have tried to explain the phenomenon of language. I later learnt to transcribe Franson's prrr as a bilabial trill and gloss it as rejection, and cynicism. His introduction to linguistics radically varied from regular linguistics 101. Our course book was Landmark Thoughts in Linguistics by Roy Harris. And my first reading in linguistics was an abridged version of Plato's dialogue on names: Cratylus. His introduction to linguistics was fascinating, to say the least, and challenging at its best. It made me more unsettled than ever before. I did not learn anything about the subfield of linguistics, the objects of study in linguistics or any well-established facts about human linguistics ability. But I learnt a bit about some central debates on language and in linguistics: is language natural or is it nurtured; Is language static or dynamic; Is language what is expressed or what is known; Is lexical meaning motivated or arbitrary; Is language regular or irregular; is language universal or relative; is language biological or social. Is language a system or practice? Is linguistics a science?   His introduction to linguistics problematised every possible understanding of language. He showed us how something as pervasive as language continues to be an enigma despite receiving attention from humanity's best minds(embodied?). He presented to us an epistemic trajectory of Western thoughts about language. However, my expectations were never met. Maybe it was for good. Because whenever someone asks me what linguistics is, I remember Franson. Rember him with a strange fear. A fear that checks me every time that instructs me every time not to reduce a field of study as ancient as academia itself to the mere forms of language. Fear of Franson's Prrr continues to influence my thought process today. His lessons from the first semester of my Master's guide me even today to be mindful of how I hold myself as a linguist.
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Fmlab CLJNU
Jun 26, 2023
In Share Your Memory
rof. Franson Manjali was an amazing professor whose profound impact on our lives will forever be etched in our memories. When we first embarked on his course, we were eager but naive, unaware of the depth hidden beneath his witty remarks and subtle sarcasm. He didn't adhere to rigid structures, breaking free from the confines of traditional teaching methods. His approach challenged us to think beyond the surface, question assumptions, and dive headfirst into the complexities of philosophy. I had the fortune of studying courses like poststructuralism, language and culture studies, and research methodology under his tutelage. One thing was clear: he had little interest in teaching superficial topics that lacked reRection and deep thinking, those that could be easily grasped by reading a single book. He believed in pushing our intellectual boundaries, encouraging us to engage in profound introspection. His teachings opened our minds to broader perspectives, instilling in us the value of critical thinking. I vividly recall the extensive list of readings he assigned after our first class, featuring names like Derrida, Foucault, and Lacan. Among us students, there lingered a sense of trepidation when it came to writing term papers on Derrida's work because we thought that Derrida was his favorite philosopher. We warned each other: "Do not write about Derrida. Sir will grill you during the presentation". While we couldn't be certain if Derrida was indeed his favorite, it became an assumption that spurred us to approach the topic with both fear and fascination. There were moments when I yearned for a conversation with him, a chance to delve into his personal philosophy and discover his favorite philosopher. But unfortunately, that opportunity eluded me, leaving a tinge of regret. Nonetheless, his presence in the classroom left an indelible mark on our intellectual pursuits. His approach to examinations mirrored his philosophy on education. Open-book exams and the five-hour exams were not mere exercises in evaluation. They were manifestations of his belief that education extended beyond the pages of a textbook. He aimed to cultivate reRective minds, encouraging us to think critically, ponder deeply, and challenge the boundaries of our understanding. He remarked that he could have given us even more time than five hours for writing exams, but only because of the basic human limitations and necessities such as the need for food and rest, necessitated a practical cap of five hours. Passion for philosophy coursed through his veins, invigorating every lecture and transforming two-hour classes into three without the slightest hint of fatigue. He exuded a zest for knowledge that inspired us to embark on our own intellectual journeys. He defied unnecessary boundaries, encouraging us to explore and question, empowering us to expand our horizons. As I reRect on his teachings, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. I consider myself immensely fortunate to have been one of his students, and to have learned so much under his unique style of teaching. In memory of our dear professor, may his spirit of inquiry, his dedication to critical thinking, and his unwavering love for philosophy endure in the hearts and minds of all those who had the privilege of learning from him. We will remain forever grateful and YOU will be deeply missed!
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Fmlab CLJNU
Jun 26, 2023
In Share Your Memory
Professor Franson Manjali will remain forever alive through the legacy he instilled in his students throughout the decades he spent at JNU. Coming from nowhere near the field, his classes sounded complex, disconnected, and challenging for me more at the beginning and less towards the end; I made sound progress going back to my room and spending hours and nights trying to figure out these connections. I thought that he wrongly taught us research methodology to find later and that he showed us what it really is. He was apparently the self and the other! His classes were INSIGHTFUL; his serious jokes and cynical comments about what Linguistics is now and how it should be reRect the ongoing struggle that should never stop. He loved it when students visited him in the o ce for questions and discussions! His unmatched open-book exams were a solid and serious message for all of us, and it is up to us to interpret them the way we can, as well. In one day during masters, we had a class in the morning and his was after a few hours. Instead of going back to our rooms, we went to a friend’s house where we smoked up and drank, to come back for his class on time. I sat in the middle row of what I think was Room 004 in the ground Roor. I was high but seeing him and squeezing all my thoughts in that direction, believing that I would listen to him and understand him differently, though he was for me the one who never wanted to be understood. The discussion went on for a few minutes and following him with all my extraordinary energies, I raised a question and he eventually started answering it. Gradually, the urge to go to the washroom started and my line of thoughts and focus was distracted until it was not possible to hold. At a point, and in the middle of the discussion that he carried on, I thought he answered me, and I decided to leave and that is what I did. I came back relieved but was immediately grilled for disappearing inappropriately after asking a question and leaving in the middle of his answer. His discussions needed a GPS and a tracker, and he may start with a question and spend 90% of the class discussing one detail, making us feel that we lost the connection, until he finally, and mostly after class time is over, brings us back to what could be an answer; in some cases, these “could be answers” may come after a few classes, and it is upon us to track them! Research for him, I came to realize, is a journey rather than a destination, and we may be distracted along the way, but we must not be mis-tracted at the end; there is nothing final! Similar to many others, Tamam before Manjali is different from Tamam after. We shall live to pass his legacy wherever and whenever possible. Rest in peace, dear sir; you are in a better place now! Power to your wife and lovers.
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Fmlab CLJNU
Jun 26, 2023
In Share Your Memory
Prof.Franson Manjali is among the few Professors at JNU who treats everyone equally in a classroom. I was not new to the linguistics field when I joined my Master's back in 2013. However, his courses were something totally new to me. It was because of his courses, I got my first ever experience to do presentation, term paper, and open-book exam. It was for his assignments and exams that I used to sit in the library through midnight, but then I enjoyed his readings and JNU life by having tea at 3.00 am in Mamu dhaba. His classes sometimes go till 7.00 pm but later we (classmates) enjoyed tea and pakoras at Sabarmati dhaba. He gives time to each student, and gives them feedback on their term papers and assignments. Though his courses (such as semiotics, post-structural approaches to language and culture), were di cult for me, I never opted out of his courses because I LOVE his teaching❤ We never spoke in Malayalam, but I still remember that during the Kerala Rood relief camp in JNU, he came to contribute and asked me if everyone was safe back home. I was surprised and realised one does not need to have long conversation to know each other. It was a massive intellectual loss for our centre students when he retired in 2020. But NOW, it is an irreparable loss to the whole academics and the JNU fraternity. I hope you will find peace wherever you are, dear Prof. Manjali!
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Fmlab CLJNU
Jun 24, 2023
In Share Your Memory
I  never got to say goodbye to him 😞. And, I’ll never forget the day Noel and I walked into a senior class just to listen to him do his thing. The long lectures by prof Frans Manjali were the beginning of my engagement with language and sign/ structure/ philosophy/ poststructuralism/ culture etc. My batch got to do “semiotics and conceptual structures”, “poststructuralism” and “language and cultural studies” with him. I was perhaps too naïve then, mostly still am, but it was a formative period of learning and I must say many of the ideas discussed then continue to inRuence the way I think and engage with general scholarship today. I remember the one time I told him that I was learning more outside the class (students politics) than inside it, and he said, “perhaps, it should be the other way around” 😂 Thinking about it now, I think he was both right and wrong 😊 Going back to JNU to work with prof Bilimale allowed me to witness another side of him as the Kannada Chair o ce was right in front of his o ce. His biggest critique of me came through Bilimale Sir. I, according to him, was a decent student, but needed to focus more. I did try to take the advice seriously. During another rare instance, when passing by, he introduced me to prof Janaki Nair and said, “he is like you” (in the sense that we are both Malayali and Kannadiga); and it took me by surprise. We had never spoken in Malayalam and I didn’t know he knew that something about me. Whether anyone (students) got to know him closely or not, I don’t think there is ever a finished conversation with a thinker like him. But, I always thought I was going to meet him again, properly, to have a proper conversation. That, unfortunately, didn’t happen. I would, however, like to leave what I remember of you here, Franson Sir 💐 Dua
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Fmlab CLJNU
Jun 24, 2023
In Share Your Memory
I am an atheist. But, sometimes I do want to believe that there is an afterlife where I might get a chance to meet the people I adored and respected so that I can tell them how much I missed them… that I owed them a lot for everything they did for us. I feel guilty for not telling this to Sir… but he has inRuenced me as a person and scholar and I have immense respect for him. I hope he rests in eternal peace and we meet once again… just so that I can thank him! R.I.P. Professor Franson D. Manjali!
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Fmlab CLJNU
Jun 24, 2023
In Share Your Memory
I was privileged to be Prof. Manjali’s student for four years of my M.A. and M.Phil life at JNU. His perspective on Linguistics was so fresh and unique for me that I never missed taking his courses. I must acknowledge that I was too young to understand the real meaning of his teachings about the philosophy of science, structuralism, and post-structuralism. However, I never felt excluded in his classes. In his own way, he tried to involve all of us despite knowing who was interested in the topics and who was not. The little knowledge I have of the greatest philosophers like Nietzsche, Foucault, Descartes, Kant, and Wittgenstein is solely because of Sir! I will never forget once, during our M.Phil semester registration, a few of us were confused about which courses to take or drop. He was acting Chairperson then, and we needed his signature. We went to his o ce and asked him what to do. He clearly stated how important it was to find our topics of interest and not get swayed by the courses and the grades. This simple advice helped me so much, and just a few days back, I was advising the same to my junior peers, referring to Sir. I would also not forget how he used to start discussing random topics (like why A.C. should/should not be centralized in the buildings or how the parking areas of the new buildings are) whenever he met us on the pavements and alleys of the JNU campus. His personality calls for absolute respect and admiration. I am grateful that in the formative years of my intellectual life, I have witnessed and interacted with such a personality and a kind heart. Rest in peace, Sir!
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Fmlab CLJNU
Jun 24, 2023
In Share Your Memory
Professor Manjali, for me, is like mosaic. I have known him for 10 years now, yet I feel there is so much I don't know, and so much I'd love to understand and learn about him. The parts of him I do know are disparate fragments - vivid in their distinctiveness - that have emblazoned themselves in my memory, heightening the sense of enigma and regard with which I perceive him. The first thing I noticed about him was his ponytail. That cute little silver ponytail, wrapped in a little black band or bow, was not just emblematic of his sense of style; in the way it made him stand out in a crowd, it was symbolic of the outlier he was in the Centre for Linguistics at JNU. His ideas about how language must be studied and thought about was at stark odds with most of what was being pursued by the other faculty at the Centre, and he never shied away from remaining a strong critic of those formal methods and approaches of studying language. He advocated for a more holistic, philosophical, and abstract approach that examined language at the intersections of semiotics, society, ideology, and culture. That he was the lone voice of his kind never seemed to faze him one bit, much less deter him. In being himself, he embodied the kind of intellectual integrity, sharp critical mind, erudition, and moral courage that JNU seeks to inculcate in each of its students. In so many ways, he was emblematic of JNU itself. Somehow, in my mind, his ponytail became a symbol of who he was. It told me that one could be unique, critical, irreverent, and completely committed to one's ideological specificities with style, panache, and dignity; that being true to one's individuality would automatically command the respect of others, even if they hardly understood you or strongly disagreed with you. He added a dimension to the Centre that made it intriguing. It is no surprise, then, that when I spotted him one day - perhaps in 2019 - after a spell of hospitalization, and saw that the iconic ponytail had been chopped off, it broke my heart in a way that was inexplicably disproportionate but profoundly meaningful. It felt as though he had lost his spirit. For Professor Manjali to walk around without his ponytail seemed like we had lost something precious in JNU. I still cannot articulate adequately what I felt then, but this much I can say: that day, I felt like we had lost a bit of him that was much more than just hair. The one incident involving Sir that has imprinted itself in my memory took place in the wake of a protest march, in which various women students from JNU were brutally manhandled and lathicharged by the Delhi police. They were then detained by the police for a few hours. One of the few people who was attacked and detained was a peer of mine, and I - along with another friend from the department - landed up at the protest site, worried for her and the others, and trying to find the rest of the JNU protestors (who had been barricaded in the dark at a lonely road near INA). On our way there, we ran into Prof Manjali and Prof Manidipa, who were returning from the protest site and reassured us that most of the trouble was now over. I happened to mention that we were worried for our peer. They nodded, commiserated a bit with us, told us which way to go, and we parted ways. Months later, I chanced upon him at SL, near the entrance. At this point it must be said that I didn't believe he really knew me beyond my face. I'd often have to mention my name when we met, and I hadn't taken too many of his classes (those, too, I had taken a few years back). Most of the time I fully expected him not to recognize me. But that day, at the ground Roor of SL, after exchanging pleasantries, he asked me how I was now and if my peer was doing ok too. I was caught by surprise, but replied in the a rmative that to the best of my knowledge, she was. It needs to be mentioned here that I was not close to this peer; we were barely in touch. And it had been months since the incident. But he remembered. He remarked on how worried I was for her that day, which even I had forgotten about. I was speechless. To remember something that for him, must have been so seemingly insignificant, when he seemed so disinterested in all of us as a matter of course, was mind-boggling to me. That day I realized that one would be hard-pressed to predict what Professor Manjali saw, noticed, and remembered. He chose to see the internal, the unspoken, the emotional dimensions of a person even when she was in extremely sporadic touch with him. Such was his humanity. The other fragment of experience that has stayed with me is a moment from one of his classes, when some of us wanted to get some tea during the mandatory 5 minute lecture break. He insisted that whenever there was a teacher around, we must never pay for tea and snacks and DEMAND that the teacher foot the bill, because we were penniless students and what else were they meant to do with the heavy salaries they were paid anyway? The sheer righteous indignation with which he made this declaration moved me. While it is the norm for teachers to treat us to tea and snacks every so often at JNU, never had anyone snapped at us with such indignation that it was our RIGHT to not pay for tea and snacks during classes and demand them from the teacher instead. It was a refreshing and original perspective. And as is common with him, whether or not one agreed, one was compelled to reRect upon his words for days and months after they had been uttered. There are so many other fragments of his personality that come to mind. We met in class, in his o ce, in my synopsis presentation, in conferences, in other parts of JNU. There was a reassuring air about him - whenever I saw him, I'd feel as though everything would be fine as long as he were around. Though, to be fair, one dreaded being questioned by him in interviews and vivas. Having said that, my experience with him has been quite positive, though never quite easy. Because Professor Manjali wasn't an easy person to comprehend or converse with. He wasn't oriented towards agreeing with you. Intellectually, he'd always challenge you and indicate new possibilities of thought and research. Personally, though, if he sensed you were anxious, he would try to reassure you in his taciturn way. Which would again leave you pondering about the depths and nuances of his words. The final set of fragments that constitute my impression of Professor Manjali are second hand. They come from my senior Nimmi di, who was his PhD student. I know that he was an excellent supervisor from her innumerable anecdotes about his kindness, understanding, and support during the writing phase while keeping with his exacting academic standards. She once told me how his approach towards getting his PhD students to work differed based on their individual personalities and academic habits. It was a privileged peek into his mind that left me amazed, enriched, and full of admiration for the delicacy and precision of thought behind his approach. Because, of course, his technique worked wonders for his individual students. Her stories also made me want to get to know him all the more, as an academic as well as a person. But that was not to happen. We lost him before we got a chance to tell him what he meant to us, how much he inRuenced us. However, Professor Manjali is the kind of person who could only die in the Resh; his spirit and his words will live on in the minds and hearts of all his students, and perhaps even find expression in our attitudes and approaches to teaching and learning in the future. He will be, as he has always been, undeniable.
Enakshi Nandi (MA Linguistics 2013-2105) content media
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Fmlab CLJNU
Jun 24, 2023
In Share Your Memory
I first met Dr. Franson Manjali when I visited JNU’s campus after my first year living in India (I’m from the US). I wanted to know if I should apply to do a Master’s in linguistics at JNU. We met over tea in the canteen, and I asked him about the department. To my surprise, he told me that the professors at JNU were nothing special! He didn’t try to sell the program, rather he told me that the students were some of the best in the world and second to none. The honesty and humility of his response paired with his deep respect for his students sold me. This was a person who not only thought of his students as equals, but he also clearly had a great love for teaching. I wanted to study with someone like that! The next year I was sitting in his class trying to understand the difference between structuralism and post-structuralism. Manjali was a brilliant philosopher. Lecture after lecture he sought to instill in us not only a knowledge about the cannon, but an ability to question, debate, and critically intervene in the subject matter we were studying. Even when it was hard for him to understand my accent, we had some brilliant discussions. His classes were some of the most challenging in the department, but each semester I eagerly enrolled in each one! It is because of these classes that I went on to get my Ph.D. in linguistic anthropology, with work that engages deeply in semiotics, postcolonialism, and language. I thanked him in the acknowledgments section of my dissertation which I submitted days ago and only wish I could have thanked him in person for the role he played in my career. As I go on to become a professor in a linguistic department myself, I have been thinking about what lessons I learned from Manjali in how to be a good mentor and teacher. I don’t know if I can pull off his dry sarcasm and directness the way he always did, but I do know that I will remember that I always valued the fact that he spoke to his students as intellectual equals no matter their level of experience. Sometimes his lectures would go on for hours after the allotted time, he would be so passionate about the lessons he was sharing with us. I was saddened to hear about his passing. I am sad for the students who will never learn about the deep colonial legacies of the study of language. I am sad for the missed opportunity to tell him about the lessons of his that will pass through me to my own students at Binghamton University. My only hope is that those of us who are his living legacy can keep his brilliance alive through our own work and teaching. He as a great educator and better person. He will be missed.
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Fmlab CLJNU
Jun 24, 2023
In Share Your Memory
Where do I even begin? My first glimpse of Manjali Sir was in 2013 when I saw a person with white hair pulled back in a ponytail, a woolen cap that had a style of its own, a brown coloured tweed coat, a briefcase shaped bag in hand, a very specific walking style, a gaze that had a purpose walk into room No.101 in SL-1. During the course of our interaction in M.A., he showed us what JNU really stands for - a quest. While the rest of the courses in our M.A trained us on formal, structural analyses of language on multiple levels, he showed us a completely different perspective - of the futility of placing language within boundaries and trying to make sense of its structures. His classes opened up different internal and external worlds for those who really listened to what he said. He was famous for scheduling his classes during the 4pm to 6pm time slot and never really stopping at 6 before the thought he wanted to convey was complete and before he had answered whatever doubt his students had. His exams were even more unique- our batch has a record of one of his open book exams going on for 5 hours, where the students kept on fuelling themselves with SL canteen’s kachoris, frootis, tea while writing the paper (one brave soul even making a trip to the library to get a book during the open book examination period). All these memories are treasures that I keep going back to time and again. He asked of his students only one thing - to think and not be closed boxes whose minds never questioned anything. For a teacher whoWhere do I even begin? My first glimpse of Manjali Sir was in 2013 when I saw a person with white hair pulled back in a ponytail, a woolen cap that had a style of its own, a brown coloured tweed coat, a briefcase shaped bag in hand, a very specific walking style, a gaze that had a purpose walk into room No.101 in SL-1. During the course of our interaction in M.A., he showed us what JNU really stands for - a quest. While the rest of the courses in our M.A trained us on formal, structural analyses of language on multiple levels, he showed us a completely different perspective - of the futility of placing language within boundaries and trying to make sense of its structures. His classes opened up different internal and external worlds for those who really listened to what he said. He was famous for scheduling his classes during the 4pm to 6pm time slot and never really stopping at 6 before the thought he wanted to convey was complete and before he had answered wh had the daunting task of making his students understand the meta concepts of deconstruction and poststructuralism (as well as the brilliant works by Nietzsche, Focualt and Derrida), he was also the patient one who gave his student space and time to entertain a whimsical query (like whether a paper can be written about a bottle of water that was lying on the table in his o ce, vis a vis a particular philosophy). Instead of dismissing the notion as being stupid, he explained the possibility of attempting that writing task and what it takes away from pursuits that should be pursued in critical thinking. His openness to his students’ ideas (when they had to write term papers) was the reason that I had the most fun while writing a term paper for his class wherein I went around JNU campus, clicking pictures of the posters and writings on the walls of school buildings and hostels and attempting a deconstructive analysis of them. I still remember the joy on his face when we are discussing this one! During paper presentations, he always sat with his students in the audience and carefully nudged us towards learning how to make a claim and stand by it in front of a crowd. These lessons from 101 are carried forward by all his students into their everyday lives. Although he never put any stock on superficial metrics like grades, another fond memory that I have of him is the expression of sheer surprise on his face at a student getting an A+ grade from him on a paper (which was unheard of before) and his appreciation of my use of diagrammatic representations within long pieces of writing to exhibit what I understood of certain phenomenon. His words on that day encouraged me to think out of the box, which I try to till date. As a nonbeliever of Chomskyan vision of linguistics, he was disappointed to hear that I wanted to pursue PhD along those lines and tried to motivate me towards other perspectives on the subject. But after two such meetings, he was eventually okay with my choice and told me to walk that path but to always keep my eyes and mind open for the ‘othered’ questions. During my PhD synopsis defense meeting, he had picked upon Chafe's phrase ‘conscious/mind of the speaker and the hearer’ in my proposal and questioned me about what it meant. Little did I know that 5 years down the line, when I would be submitting my doctoral thesis, I would be making a claim about exactly that point - what happens in the mind of the speaker at the syntax-semantics-pragmatics interface. And true to his teaching, I stood by that claim but with a wonder in my heart at that prophetic question and the circle getting completed. I met him last at Mughal Durbar during the summer before the pandemic, where he had come with Manidipa Mam to grab some dinner (we were doing the same). I am glad that that was such a happy meeting and I get to always remember him by his expressions then. I still remember the half smile that he gave when he saw his students enjoying their student life and how much he could pack into a few lines while waiting for his food - so much so that one is not the same as what they were before their meeting him. Sir, you were a teacher from your heart and that heart got conveyed to every student who crossed paths with you in all these years. Thank you for always keeping your door open to have a conversation with your students, for thinking about your students through the years and for doing one of the toughest jobs of making a person think and question what they see. You stood for the JNU that we saw a decade ago - the JNU where there were no limits on how much you could learn from everything and anything. Sir, you will live on through your students, we promise you that. Until next time, when we bump into each other in a corridor in SL and talk about what we have learned and unlearned in that period.
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