Management consultant and activist Seema Azharuddin, who founded Kartaal Productions, is ready with her new Telugu film April Fool. Her pan-Indian upbringing and eventful college life between 1977 and 1979 are by her own admission “an experience never to be forgotten”. A student leader, she made the best of her happy college days. “College began at Loreto House in (then) Calcutta but within a few months shifted to DAV College for Women in Chandigarh where I eventually graduated from after writing the finals from behind bars. It was an intriguing three years of education and politics at a very young age. I was a very inspired individual,” says the theatre person, who brought alive A streetcar named desire and Who is afraid of Virginia Woolf to Hyderabadis. “Being ever so vocal in my opinions and thoughts I fought for rights of us students that led to my induction into the Youth Congress of Punjab.”
Azharuddin, who chose to major in literature and took up political science and history as electives, would not change a thing about her college life, which was peppered with fun and seriousness, and being responsible and carefree at the same time.
What did college teach you?
Believe and act as if it were impossible to fail. I took on leadership positions throughout my college. I was captain of four of the six sports state teams. I was part of the national swimming team, a top debater and elocutionist, a growing activist, and a compelling actor. I remember being jealous of teams I lost to; but had enough strength to want to go back and kill with a vengeance. I enjoyed being in the limelight and always wanted to be a show-woman. I recognised the importance of team building rather early in college and would beg, borrow and steal even to get the best on my teams! College also taught me a valuable lesson in being humble, especially when I was up against peers with more knowledge.
What was your proudest moment in college?
I had many proud moments, but one stands out. As I was the president of Youth Congress of Punjab, Sanjay Gandhi and the (then) governor came to see me and my fellows in jail. We had staged a huge dharna and I was hit on the head with a stone! It was such a heroic feeling!
Have you had any embarrassing moments in college?
I was always an embarrassment to BP Chaliha, former governor of Punjab and my grand uncle! When often questioned by my mother (my parents were stationed elsewhere) how I was doing, he would say, “Hale and hearty in jail somewhere”!
Another would be sleeping in late and not reaching on time to receive my team’s annual debating trophy from none other than my super hero Rajesh Khanna! My name was called three times and I did not show. I convinced myself it was the superstar’s loss.
When I was president of the students union, I and my friends decided to escape from college by climbing over a compound wall so as to catch a late night movie. A huge ditch had been dug. My options were either to jump into the ditch or dump my friends. I jumped into the muddy ditch only to realise I was the only one to do so! I was suspended for 15 days!
How did you score points with the opposite gender?
By being superior to them in every way I could! Besides I was quite a looker and that helped as well. We were in competition with other boys colleges and especially our own DAV College for Men and I had my share of followers. I have to admit that I took some advantage of their love-smitten behaviour to get work done. However, scoring points in debate competitions and showing off my verbal skills was the ones I took pride in.
Was bunking a part of your college routine?
I was a boarder all my life. Bunking was not an option and I enjoyed being in class. However, during the last two years, I was either in jail, at some sports event or in class.
Did you have any rifts with professors? Why?
With my principal, mainly, but I knew she always had a soft corner in her heart for me. I was the darling of my professors! In some aspects I was considered too big for my boots and Mrs Roy, my principal, admonished me for being obstinate but I believed it was the gift of my gab.
Where did you hang out in college with friends?
The canteen was a favourite and so was the huge and beautiful mall squares of Chandigarh. Also at the PG homes of some of our foreign student friends, where I often experimented with some cooking!
What extracurricular activities were you involved in?
Apart from all of the activities I earlier mentioned, I enrolled in horse riding — one that I indulged in for the greater part of my life both in the US and here. Today the young of India needs to be involved in all extracurricular activities, which can especially enhance their concentration.