“Pursue your dream, but never neglect your education,” advices Actress Deepika Deshpande-Amin from films like FAN, Humpty Sharma ki Dulhaniya, Raanjhana and TV serials like Farmaan and Tashan E Ishq.
She is a passionate theatre actress and has performed several successful plays with directors like Barry John and Lillete Dubey, which have traveled all over the world.
I went to Lady Shri Ram College in Delhi where I studied Economics Honors. It is an all girls college and one of the premier institutions in India. The LSR building was long and rectangular with long corridors and brick red pillars. We had a large lawn in front where girls would hang out during free periods. I would travel to college in the University special bus. It was in college that I got confident about using public transport.
During my school days I never ventured out alone. But during my college days I travelled by DTC buses a lot. We went to other colleges for competitions, I would go out with friends; this made me gain a sense of independence. I was a good student and did well. But rather than follow my academic qualifications, college was the place where I developed my creative and cultural side.
I joined Barry Johns theatre group TAG in Delhi after we did a play with him in college. That was the start of my journey as an actor. I remained a part of this theatre group for almost seven years and we performed plays and travelled all over India. Along with me in TAG were other actors like Shahrukh Khan who was from Hansraj College and Manoj Bajpayee who was from the National School of Drama. I also used to sing a lot in college and was Secretary of the Western Music Society. A couple of my friends and I loved to sing songs in three part harmony and we formed a girls group which represented the college in many festivals. We would walk down the college corridor humming in harmony.
I took part in many college festivals like Rendezvous - the IIT Delhi fest, Winterfest of St Stephens and Tarang - LSRs own festival. I won a lot of prizes in music and theatre. I remember a whole gang of us LSR girls traveling to Mumbai for the Mood Indigo festival. We won quite a few events and had great time. The LSR canteen had good food, my favorite being the chowmein and chaat. Girls tend to like chatpata food and the canteen catered to that.
Winters were spent basking in the sun on the front lawns. Whenever we had a free period, my friends and I would head to the lawns to practice for the next festival we were taking part in.
I made many friends in college and we are still very close and in constant contact. They are all over the world and we don’t often meet but the warmth remains. When I visit the US I make it a point to meet them and they always meet me if they are in Mumbai.
I was ragged a bit on my first day but it was friendly and good natured. Stand on a table and sing and dance etc. It was fun and the seniors treated us to ice cream afterwards. Ragging was actually a way to make friends with the seniors. All the hostel girls were ordered by the seniors to go to class with oil in their hair. They all looked so funny and oily. Everyone took it in good spirit.
I graduated in Economics Hons. The cut off percentage for Eco was very high and because I had done so well in class 12, I got admission easily. But later I felt it was not the subject for me, as it was very dry and uninteresting. Even though I did well, I would have probably been happier studying English Literature. I wish we had the option in India to choose a range of subjects like they do in the US. I would have loved to have Theatre as one of my subjects. Today I go online and try to read and study the classics and famous plays, but it’s not the same as being taught the text. I still nurture the secret dream to go abroad and study theatre someday. I see the kids of today applying for universities abroad that have these huge sprawling campuses with greenery and beauty. This is what we lack in our colleges.
As an actor, I don’t actually use the subject I graduated in, but my college experience has broadened my outlook in life and made me a more intelligent and confident person.
There is a definite bond between ex students of the college and the Alumni association helps in networking. I have met so many wonderful women all over the world who turned out to be old students of LSR. One of the most famous alumni of LSR is Aung Saan Su Kyi, the Burmese political leader. When we were holidaying in Burma, I felt very proud to have been in the same college as such a great and courageous woman. Other LSR graduates are occupying top post in fields of business, business, management eg Naina Lal Kidwai , and in media and the arts.
My advice to young people of today, especially aspiring actors, would be to pursue your dream, but never neglect your education. It will always be an asset to you. You may not realize it today, but it will be of great use to you as life goes on. A good college education helps put a final polish on your resume and your personality. The contacts and friends you make are invaluable. The knowledge will guide you through your life. Good education never goes waste.
As told to Monarose Sheila Pereira