Tuesday, March 13, 2012

KTWV Volume 13 Issue 15: Budget Battleground Part 2

NDTV seems to have taken a firm place in our home in Finland.

Today I watched the Budget Battleground Part 2 from St. Andrew,s College, Mumbai. (I reported on the panelists in Part 1 in my earlier blog entry.)

One of the reasons I watched was that 54er/58er Rahul Bajaj, 54er from Cathedral School and 58er from St. Stephen's College, Chairman of Bajaj Enterprises and an Independent Rajya Sabha member was among the panelists. In 2009, when Annikki and I visited Delhi, Rahul stayed back one weekend evening so he could meet up with us in a party organized for us by Cathedralites led by 64er Deepak Deshpande.

I was under the impression that Adi Godrej was a Cathedralite, like his nephew 65er Jamshyd Godrej, who passed through Finland last year with his wife 65er Pheroza. Although I could not meet up with Jamshyd, I had a long chat with Pheroza, also a Cathedrtalite.

Adi Godrej was, however, from St. Xavier's School and College in Bombay.

There was another member of the alumni on the panel that was from my alma mater. It was 73er Vikram Singh Mehta, the Chairman of Shell, about 10 years my junior, but known for his bringing the Royal Shell Oil group back to India. I have not had the pleasure or benefit of meeting Vikram. He came into prominence well after I left India in 1984. Being from the same professional area, I did watch his career rise with interest.

The fourth panelist was one who I have not met but am associated with indirectly as he is the brother-in-law of one of my dearest friends, the late 59er Ashok Kapur, former Chairman of YES Bank. Rana Kapur is now in the top spot of the bank. I do not know him personally, so am unable to comment on his  stature.

The discussion was not very memorable in that nothing new was really thrown up. The focus was on the disinvestment of the Government of India from Public Sector companies as well as privatization.
Certainly, as leaders in the Private Sector, as family run companies in the case of Adi and Rahul, and as a leader of a MNC as Royal Dutch Shell, in the case of Vikram, and as the head of an outstanding private bank set up by Ashok in his heyday, the general opinion was that the Government should stick to Governing while industrialists and professional managers should stick to running businesses professionally.

It was one question from the students that really summed up the situation. Is the outsourcing boom was not far away. I am glad that a young student could recognize this as it will not be long before we see this side of the contribution to Indian growth completely dry up as localities as Vietnam, start to cut into our traditional business strongholds.

You can watch this episode in the NDTV archives.  Hope this link works:

http://www.ndtv.com/video/player/ndtv-special-ndtv-24x7/budget-battleground-what-india-expects-from-pranab-babu/226057

Enjoy.





Saturday, March 10, 2012

KTWV Volume 13 Issue 14: Budget Battleground

This post is made in three of my blogs as it of interest to all my readers of Jacob's Blog, and more specifically the readers of my Mumbai Cathedral and John Connon School Blog, Seventh Heaven, and readers of the Stephanian Blog, Kooler Talk (Web Version).
I apologize for this multi-blog posting, as many of you are readers of all the three blogs!
Budget Battleground was  event that took place against the backdrop of my alma mater, St. Stephen's College, beautifully lit in the background, had a selected audience of young economists from Delhi School of Economics, Shri Ram College and St. Stephen's College, three of the many premier colleges in Delhi.
The anchorman was NDTV Managing Director, Dr. Prannoy Roy, who was connected with another good friend, great economist with tremendous wit, the person who turned around Doordarshan in the late eighties and early nineties and then went on to head Rupert Murdoch's Star TV and then his own channel, Broadcast Worldwide Ltd.,  and also a Stephanian, 61er/63er Rathikant Basu.
This is from the Wikipedia entry for NDTV Managing Director, Prannoy Roy:
Controversy
On 20 January 1998 Central Bureau of Investigation filed cases against New Delhi Television (NDTV) managing director Prannoy Roy, former Director General of Doordarshan R Basu and five other top officials of Doordarshan under Section 120-B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for criminal conspiracy and under the Prevention of Corruption Act. According to the CBI charge-sheet, Doordarshan suffered a loss of over Rs 3.52 crore due to the “undue favours” shown to NDTV as its programme The World This Week (TWTW) was put in `A’ category instead of `special A’ category
The two in the hot seats were 63er Montek Singh Alhuwalia, who was very much present in St. Stephen's College during my three years there, and Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen (difficult to say whether he is an Indian or Bangladeshi as both countries have laid claim to him).
One can never forget 63er Montek, not for his knowledge, but for the unique way he wore his turban and certain mannerisms (the nervous laugh when he knows what he is saying is not what he believes), which have not changed, even as of today. The way he argued a point was always from a point that he could not be wrong, although many times, he was and is!
I give below three extract from the autobiography of Amartya Sen (Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1998). In these extracts you will see the mention of a name - Mumbai Cathedral School 59er Sudhir Anand, my classmate who is Professor of Economics at both Oxford and Harvard, a brilliant economist and undoubtedly a brain who influenced Amartya Sen considerably more than a three time  mention in his autobiography.
59er Sudhir was from our Mumbai Cathedral and John Connon School. Although unable to make it top our 50th year reunion in 2009, he was very much there in spirit.
"I was also fortunate to have colleagues who were working on serious social choice problems, including Peter Hammond, Charles Blackorby, Kotaro Suzumura, Geoffrey Heal, Gracieda Chichilnisky, Ken Binmore, Wulf Gaertner, Eric Maskin, John Muellbauer, Kevin Roberts, Susan Hurley, at LSE or Oxford, or neighbouring British universities. (I also learned greatly from conversations with economists who were in other fields, but whose works were of great interest to me, including Sudhir Anand, Tony Atkinson, Christopher Bliss, Meghnad Desai, Terence Gorman, Frank Hahn, David Hendry, Richard Layard, James Mirrlees, John Muellbauer, Steve Nickel, among others.) I also had the opportunity of collaboration with social choice theorists elsewhere, such as Claude d'Aspremont and Louis Gevers in Belgium, Koichi Hamada and Ken-ichi Inada in Japan (joined later by Suzumura when he returned there), and many others in America, Canada, Israel, Australia, Russia, and elsewhere). There were many new formal results and informal understandings that emerged in these works, and the gloom of "impossibility results" ceased to be the only prominent theme in the field. The 1970s were probably the golden years of social choice theory across the world. Personally, I had the sense of having a ball.
From social choice to inequality and poverty
The constructive possibilities that the new literature on social choice produced directed us immediately to making use of available statistics for a variety of economic and social appraisals: measuring economic inequality, judging poverty, evaluating projects, analyzing unemployment, investigating the principles and implications of liberty and rights, assessing gender inequality, and so on. My work on inequality was much inspired and stimulated by that of Tony Atkinson. I also worked for a while with Partha Dasgupta and David Starrett on measuring inequality (after having worked with Dasgupta and Stephen Marglin on project evaluation), and later, more extensively, with Sudhir Anand and James Foster."

Later he says in his autobiography:
"During my Harvard years up to about 1991, I was much involved in analyzing the overall implications of this perspective on welfare economics and political philosophy (this is reported in my book, Inequality Reexamined, published in 1992). But it was also very nice to get involved in some new problems, including the characterization of rationality, the demands of objectivity, and the relation between facts and values. I used the old technique of offering courses on them (sometimes jointly with Robert Nozick) and through that learning as much as I taught. I started taking an interest also in health equity (and in public health in particular, in close collaboration with Sudhir Anand), a challenging field of application for concepts of equity and justice. Harvard's ample strength in an immense variety of subjects gives one scope for much freedom in the choice of work and of colleagues to talk to, and the high quality of the students was a total delight as well. My work on inequality in terms of variables other than incomes was also helped by the collaboration of Angus Deaton and James Foster.
Readers of Seventh Heaven will remember how I have written about Sudhir and the Nobel Prize awarded to Amartya Sen!
The discussion was lack lustre. Montek took the view that he could not discuss the Budget (the whole point of the programme) and gave no real answer for the blazing question how the poor of India had not improved their lot during the time he has been at the head of the Planning Commission. (At one point he says "We have said, the Government has said,…." )
Montek minced  words as only a political chamcha can do!
Roy was not hard-hitting in his position as Anchorman. He was being pleasant to his guests!!
Amartya Sen was his own self and wanted to be nice to everyone.
Not a receipe for a successful  discussion, but for me, being in the setting of our beautiful college was good enough to sit through the 45 minute discussion!
Anyway, it was good to be away from the depressing media coverage of our hallowed institution which has been plaguing us for almost half a decade!

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

KTWV Volume 13 Issue 13: First time

In my almost 70 years and over 48 years as an adult with deep interest in politics, this was the first time I actually spent a few hours, in Finland, watching an election process in India.

In the 70s I was close with many politicians of all parties and knew exactly how corrupt all of them were. So I kept my distance.

Votes appear to have been cast this time in 5 States over a period of time and today was the counting and declaration of the results.

Results were announced from Goa (1.5 million), Manipur (2.7 million), Punjab (28 million), Uttar Pradesh (200 million) and Uttarakhand (10 million).

Over 240 million people were choosing their local politicians to serve them for the next few years.

It was a mixed bag of results with the National Parties less successful than the regional parties.

Watching on an Indian internet TV Channel, NDTV 24x7, I was quite intrigued by the mixture of languages being used by the participants.

Since I know English, Hindi, Punjabi (a bit), I wondered whether this channel was watched by the majority of Indians who are only familiar with their regional language.

Obviously not.

Quite a few of my juniors from my alma mater, St. Stephen's College in Delhi, were on the box, either as politicians in different parties, as tv anchor men or women, or as "experts". It was quite easy to recognise them as they had a different air about the way they handled the subjects.

I thought to myself whether I was the same!

I hope not, as I consider myself as individualistic rather than moulded by my alma mater characteristics, especially with regard to politics!

On the whole, following the election was an interesting experience, especially as I could view it from a distance and not be involved with it in any other way.

The main thing that struck me was that several corrupt politicians fell by the wayside.

The independent Chief Election Commissioner, Dr. S. Y. Qureshi, is also a product of my alma mater, about 10 years my junior. His interview on NDTV was very interesting as he has to keep his head above the murky waters of Indian Politics.

This experience was also followed by an interesting news item I noted in an Indian internet newspaper which said that the top two jobs in the Indian Administrative Service and in the Indian Police Service were also filled by Stephanians. These are IAS officers Pulok Chatterjee, the Prime Minister's Principal Secretary, and Ajit Seth, the Cabinet Secretary, and IPS officers, Nehchal Sandhu, Intelligence Bureau Chief and A. B. Singh, Central Bureau of Investigation Chief.

Many of my classmates and those who were in College during my years there, have served in very senior Government positions (62ers Mani Shankar Aiyar, Rathikant Basu, Ashok (Tony) Jaitly) and also as Ambassadors (62er Niranjan Desai, 63ers Siddarth Singh and Aftab Seth, etc.) in different parts of the world. They have also served in the United Nations, 74er Sashi Tharoor, the Commonwealth Secretariat, 62er Kamlesh Sharma, the World Bank, 63er Montek Singh Alhuwalia and 62er Sarwar Lateef, the Asian Development Bank, 63er Karthik Sandilya, and many many more such world bodies.

It would be interesting to compile a Who's Who of Stephanians!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

KTWV Volume 13 Issue 12: Not again!

When is our college going to be free of being treated so shabbily iny the mainstream media.

Today, I was woken up by the drama that is playing out about a sexual harrassment case lodged by a lady employee in the college against her boss.

I am not interested in hearing the merits or demerits of this case.

What I am concerned with is purely the fact this case shows up our alma mater in a negative light.

Any competent leader would have resolved this issue before it went to even Stage 1, the complaint being filed with Delhi University.

When are we all going to understand we have incompetence at the top in our alma mater!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

KTWV Volume 13 Issue 11: Mind is on food still

I certainly have good food on my mind. My dear wife dished out a great and very colourful pasta, accompanied by a spicy sauce and a meat ball dish for dinner. I am stuffed.

I never felt stuffed after any meal in College. I am not fussy about food and did not mind the college cuisine. I used to spend time in the kitchen talking to our gyps / cum cooks.

One comment to my last blog entry was especially interesting. The writer said he could hardly remember what he had for breakfast the previous week, so how in the earth could he remember what he had 45 years ago!

That is the best part as he actually did remember what he had 45 years ago, and even remembered the parathas that  were served for the vegetarian breakfast on Sundays in our College Mess.

His post did bring back a lot of memories as I used to alternate between the non veg and veg breakfast every morning. The eggs were sometimes quite cold, so I did not fancy having them every morning with the bread, butter, jam.

The roti was far more appetizing.

A few more posts about the food in college. till I have fried the subject!

Monday, February 27, 2012

KTWV Volume 13 Issue 10: Breakfast in College

I had alluded to the fact that when I woke up in the morning, usually around 5 or 6 am, I used to see Princi Sircar walk to the Chapel at 7 am. I used to be sitting on the verandah facing his home, usually with a glass of hot Horlicks or Ovaltine brought to me by Kundan Singh and reading the newspaper, as I had my own copy of the Times of India delivered under my door the first thing in the morning.

Before reading the newspaper, i used to do the crossword, something I had been doing in Bombay, beating my dad to the newspaper every morning.

I did not complete the crossword in the morning, and I would usually try to complete it by the time I went to bed. I loved the anagrams.

Besides the sports column, (AFST was really humorous besides touching on important issues), I was an avid news junkie in that I read all the news in the paper from cover to cover. Except for the Tender Ads (no pun intended) and the classifieds, I usually spent more than an hour or two reading all the news.

In those days I was not compelled to write Letters to the Editor, although I held strong views on what was fair and right and what was justice.

I hated the cold bath, even in summer, as the cold water made my spine to shudder and shiver. In winter, Kundan used to make sure a bucket or two of was made available, and as I was usually the only one awake so early, I managed to get the piping hot water before anyone else. (If I went for sports practice, I usually had a bath in the evening as well.)

After Chapel, I used to come back to the room and then gather with one or two of others from  R, S or T Block and trudge for breakfast.

I cannot remember, for the life of me, what we got for breakfast, but it was an important meal as we had to last till lunch with that. (Toast, Butter, Jam, Eggs??? And the Veg breakfast???)

Maybe someone can remind me what was served at breakfast!

Friday, February 24, 2012

KTWV Volume 13 Issue 9: Meeting operational Costs

Now that Kooler Talk (Web Version) is back on line regularly, establishing 16 years of service to our alumni, I am now a pensioner and keeping this afloat with my pension is quite difficult. Thanks to so many of you, I was able to install a dedicated server.

I have just 3 ad places to offer on this page, two at the top and one at the bottom.

If any Stephanian would like to help support this Web Version and would be prepared to advertise to the 3000+ Stephanians who visit this site at every update, I would be most grateful.

This is not a broad general audience, but a very very limited one.

Anyone wanting to reach my broader readership can advertise in Jacob's Blog, which is a very popular site, should look at Annikki's and my larger community called The Findians

Proposals can be sent to me at jmatthana (at) gmail.com.



Thursday, February 23, 2012

KTWV Volume 13 Issue 8: Joy unlimited

There are many forms of joy. Family, friends, acquaintances, achievements, all create different sensations of joy.

When I received an email today to approve a comment which had been posted on our Kooler Talk blog, it was another feeling of joy, one which I had been waiting to experirnce for many years.

When I shifted from the web site version of Kooler Talk (Web Version) to a blog, I was looking for a suitable picture for the masthead of the blog.

Father and son, Princi Anil and son, Amit, sent me an ariel photograph of the college. They also gave me permission to use it as the masthead of this blog. Unfortunately, neither of them gave me the name of the photographer.

The joy I experienced when the photographer identified himself in the Comments was quite different to the joy I have experienced in other situations. A joy of relief so I could acknowledge him on the masthead, the joy of knowing how and when the photograph had been taken, and the joy of knowing hiw unique this photograph was, all added up to a great feeling of satisfaction. To top it all, it has been taken by a Stephanian!
"Dear Sir,

Great. True many of these photos were given to Dr Anil by me through Dr Tara Chand. These were one of the first of many pictures which I captured while I was in Air Force and had an opportunity to see the college from air. Another air effort was made much later to have video, as well as stills, to make a blowup and then present to college on its 125th foundation day celebration.

Well, I joined SSC in 1975 and went for M.Sc (Phy) after graduation. I was not in Res and was not part of either the volleyball team of Arvind or cricket team of Kirti.

New science block, Dr TC, Dr Swami, Dr Mathur, Dr Bhatia, Dr Garg and so on were my guides and engagement. Then I joined IAF to serve for 28 yrs and took voluntary release in 2008.

For some time I was Head (HR) with one corporate before I went to a Mgmt Institute as HOD (Mgmt). Now I am on the visiting faculty with few other MBA institutes apart from providing Counsultancy for Org Growth to companies

Looking forward for synergy with you.

Regards
Dr Gp. Capt ATUL JAIN
SSC (Phy) - 1976-81
e-mail - azadione (at) dataone.in
M-091-9013779006

He had given this photograph as one of many to the college through Dr. Tarachand..

Thank you Atul, a physics postgraduate from our college for capturing this and sharing it with the alumni through me.

And I acknowledge your contribution and hope you will share some more of your photographic talents about our alma mater with the readers of the blog, which is greatly obligated to you..

Thursday, February 16, 2012

KTWV Volume 13 Issue 7: Special dinners

After writing about the Mess I thought I should write a few words about the festival special dinners we used to be served up in the dining room.

The problem is that when I searched my brain, I could only remember the scantiest of details.

I do not remember all the exact occasions but it used to be about 4 or 5 times a year.

Founders Day, was definitely one occasion.

We used to get pullav rice with peas, raita, a tasty meat curry (not the fluidy daily serving), phulka rotis and some sweet to follow. The onions and chillis were in plenty on every table.

Little Santu used to bring the piping hot rotis as fast as we consumed our quota.

My memory is so bad these days I find it difficult to remember all these details.

If anybody can fill me in on the past as well as the present custom of special dinners - I, and many of my dementia ridden old folk Stephanian readers, would be greatly obliged.

Sufficient to say that we looked forward to these rare occasions.

I also seem to remember that once a month we also had a special dinner -on a Wednesday?

One more thing, again as my memory fails me - was Grace said every evening or only when we had the special dinners? We always had at least one staff member at the Head Table every evening.

Mr Summerscale, (honestly- 5 minutes before writing this piece his name was a blank in my mind) the tutor of Mukerji Court, Rajiv Bhatia, Balbir Singh (tutor in Rudra South) were regulars at dinners. I do not remember Rev. Jarvis there on many occasions. But Mr Pearson was quite regular in our second and third years. Rev. Luck, the Canadian who replaced Rev. Jarvis hardly ever attended dinner.

Princi Sircar occasionally dropped in, not to partake of the meal but to stop and chat with a few of those present. He used to invite some of us over to his place to share an evening cup of coffee. That way his pulse was always on what was happening amongst the students.

I am glad I wrote this piece as for two days I was struggling to remember the name of my Mukerji Court tutor - Mr. Summerscale!

Monday, February 13, 2012

KTWV Volume 13 Issue 6: Improving food in the Mess

I really wonder if the food in the College Mess has changed and improved over the last 50 years?

I had my chance 50 years ago when, as President of the JCR, I had a seat on the Mess Committee.

Although everyone was complaining about the food in the Mess, when I approached all the guys, there was not a single suggestion forthcoming.

At that moment, I learnt that we guys were clueless about food or food planning. We could go to Moti Mahal or Jama Masjid and order a great meal, but given the chance to draw up a weekly menu for our Mess, not one person could come up with some workable ideas.

Possibly, if we had girls in residence, maybe it would be different, I thought.

As I had quite a few friends in Miranda House, I called for meeting of them at the restaurant at Miranda House back gate - I do not remember the name (Wengers?).

Besides complaining about the food in their mess, not one valuable suggestion emerged. It cost me a few tens of rupees, as the girls certainly appreciated the snacks and cokes in the restaurant. Good thing I did not host them at Nirula's as I would have been cleaned out!

I was forced to discuss the subject with Mr. Marr. I called at his home and spent a delightful evening in the company of Mr. and Mrs. Marr and their daughter (beautiful girl), but I did not make much headway in getting a decent menu for the Mess.

All I was promised was that the food would be nutritious, fresh and served hot.

At every Mess Committee I was at a loss as nothing new ever emerged and we spent our time looking at the finances (Mr. Raymond's(?) ledgers) and how well they were managing to buy the oil and onions and potatoes and rice and wheat and vegetables and and....... so economically.

Count this as one of my failures as JCR President! :-)

(PS: My wife has turned up a nutritious, varied, economic meals for 45 years - which is proven by the size of me and our children. Should have married her before I was on the Mess Committee!)

Friday, February 10, 2012

KTWV Volume 13 Issue 5: Moving from S2 to S8

When I first arrived in College, I was assigned S2 in Mukerji Block. There was only one building at that time. (Mukerji West?)

My room faced the lawn and the JCR. I felt totally confined in a room with only one door opening onto a corridor and a small window.

I soon got used to it, but I was not happy.

Opposite me was another newcomer, Rajan Narayanan (Economics). He was a good tennis player but very introverted and egoistic and also very unsure of himself.

He found in me all that he was lacking and he spent more time in my room than he did in his.

Within a few months he thought of my room as his and all his friends including the grandson of our then President, Karthik Sandilya, and the son of our Admiral of the Indian Navy, Ravi Kataria, were haunting my room. (They were all ex-students from St. Columbus School in New Delhi.)

One day, in passing, I mentioned to Rajan that I did not like S2 and was thinking of moving to where I could get a room which opened out onto a verandah.

He was horrified that I would move out of Mukerji Block and also not be his neighbour.

Rather than lose me, he offered to switch rooms with me. I did not want to impose on him but I wanted him to make the decision.

Mukerji block was great, as not only were there several of my course mates but my school friend, Sujit Bhattacharya (Economics), was also in S Block. In the short period of just three months a very close bond had been formed by all of us in R, S and T Blocks. Also Kundan Singh was a great gyp.

Once Rajan confirmed his decision was irrevocable, it was just a matter of a day to get the paperwork done and we switched rooms.

I thought that Rajan and friends would start using S8 once I shifted, but I was wrong. (Reason was probably because S8 had a common wall with the tutor's room!)

They had all got used to S2 that S8 became my private domain, so much so that I even closed the corridor door from S8, making the only entrance from the verandah.

I occupied S8 for the rest of my time in college and was really happy in that room which had both the window and door facing the Princi's residence! As I was an early riser, Sircar would wave to me on his way to the Chapel for the morning Service. I used to frequently Attend the service as i was asked to do the Bible reading, something I used to do regularly in School Assembly in Mumbai.

Sammar Singh, a very quiet physics honours student, was my immediate neighbour, boisterous baniya Tich Arun Aggarwal, was in the room next to him, and the college goonda, Babbar, who later joined the Indian Police, next to him.

Except for the squat toilets and the ice cold showers, I really enjoyed college residence!

KTWV Volume 13 Issue 4: You guys are lazy

I have a fistful of requests asking what was special about my JCR Presidency. If you take the trouble go to Volume 1, you will get the answer. However, for you lazy guys, here is what I wrote in 1996:

"And now about the JCR - 1961-62. As I mentioned it was about the dullest thing in college. As soon as I got elected, we formed an action committee consisting mainly of second year students. (We had a couple of third year students on the Committee and one I remember was 62er Sarwar Lateef - I wonder where he has got to?) We prepared a plan. It was great but it looked expensive as the wants were a stereo gramaphone set, a better radio, lights and a new table tennis table, carrom boards, chess sets, card tables for bridge. It was my task to convince Principal Sircar and the Staff Member on the Committee Vice Principal Shanklin (if I remember his name correctly as I seem to remember a d at the end of his name).

Surprisingly, at the Sunday morning breakfast when I put the case to Principal Sircar, he understood the issue and organised the funds almost immediately. Even before the end of the first quarter we had a JCR with great equipment and even the Table Tennis competitions between the College and others were hosted in the JCR. We had a couple of very good players and I especially remember 62er Kishen Mubai in one dramatic encouter in a packed JCR.

Not satisfied with this level of success, the Committee then decided we would organise competitions for the residents. Chess, draughts, bridge and table tennis were held and were extremely successful. I reached to the final of the bridge competition with Ajay Verma as my partner, only to lose to the twins 63ers Suraj and Chander Rai (great squash players) on the very last hand with some superb bidding on their part - a virtually uncallable slam being bid and made despite some fantastic sacrifice bidding by Ajay and me. We are convinced that it was the telephathic communication by the twins at that stage which got the better of us as Ajay and I had played impeccable bridge the whole evening to see a grand slam, doubled, redoubled being made by Suraj taking an unbelieveable finesse of the 9 of spades.

These competitions, which lasted through the whole of the winter, really made the JCR popular. However, what really got us the support of the entire college was the organisation of the first ever JCR evening where the student talent in the college was used to put up an evening of music and drama. I do not remember the names of all the performers, but Principal Sircar and Dean Rajpal were amazed at the amount of talent we discovered in the college. Principal Sircar made sure that we had tea, samosas and barfis for all. We had a packed hall which cheered the entire performance. We even had some Miranda House girls turn up (although we had not intended it to be an open evening).

I do not know how many of these traditions have continued but already the next year we saw them dying as the Committee was taken over by a few who thought at the start of the year they would do something better than us, but finally did not do anything as they did not establish the correct rapport with the authorities.

The crux of the matter was to have good communication with the staff. That was possible because Principal Sircar was always open to suggestions and agreed in the students interest on most issues. In our dictionary I would describe him as a Montessorian - The Child is the Father of Man - and he showed that it was possible to have a happy environment for us students who were far from our homes. Many may disagree, but I think our second year in residence was one of the most active and pleasant ones that I can remember - and it was not due to me - I was only the figurehead of a group which was active enough to be successful."

Thursday, February 09, 2012

KTWV Volume 13 Issue 3: How to get elected

This was posted on an another one of my alma mater blogs but has mention and relevance to Stepanians. If you are a Mumbai-ite you to can act in your self-interest!
-----------///////////////-------------

When I got elected as the President of all Residents in St. Stephen's College in 1961-1962, I was the first 2nd year student to ever hold that post.

I do not know whether anyone else has achieved that in the last 50 years. (I got elected because of a wonderful band of 1st year students - Rajen Mammen Mathew (now Padma Shri); Ramu Katakam; Azar Siddiqui; Suresh Mehra; a great set of guys from my second year all from Mukerji Block (Ajay Verma; Sujit Bhattacharya; Rajan Narayanan; Davendra Pratap; Ravi Batra; Norval Prakash; Rajiv Srivastava; Badrinath (Padma Shri): Chandu Rijwani: Tich Arun Agarwal; etc.) and the support of a few well respected seniors (Commonwealth Secretary Kamlesh Sharma; Chinmoy Banerjee: Dr. Peter Philip; Ashok (Tony) Jaitley; Sarwar Lateef; Ambassador Niranjan Desai, Prakash Joseph; Ranjit Jacob; Zafar Hai; Jerry Lalit Mohan; Swaminathan Aiyar; etc.)

Such a mixed team helped me overcome the traditional voting groups as the Doscoites, Sherwood Collegeites and other similar clique groups.)

My election Group had a well laid out plan as to what we would achieve during that year. This was of specisl significance to us from Mukerji Block as we were virtually living in the JCR, next door to us. (We achieved all of our objectives during that year because of the cooperation of Principal Sircar.)

That was my winning strategy with the Seniors giving me the respect factor; my year group standing firmly behind me: and the freshers working their guts out at all levels.

What more could I ask?

The reason for bringing this up here is that I learnt a lot from that experience. I have helped many people get elected, since.

I share this with you now, as a very dear friend, a classmate, is standing for elections for the Mumbai Muncipal Corporation, and I would like all of you to work to get him elected.

Captain Vijay Shivdasani is 69, retired from the Indian Navy after captaining the aircraft carrier, ran his own business in Hong Kong, and has been doing literally hundreds of things in Mumbai since returning.

He walks tall, still plays a great game of tennis, and is honest and dedicated to the core.

You may be 1000s of miles away, like me, and feel you can do nothing.

But you can create a viral pitch by activating just 7 friends, who in turn can activate 49 more. Within just 1 week we could have an honest man doing things in South Mumbai.

The vital step is NAME RECOGNITION. This is very critical. Almost 70% of people going to vote have no clue whom they will vote for 24 hours before voting day.

Just a phone call to a friend telling them about Retd. Captain Vijay Shivdasani and asking your 7 friends to spread the word to 7 more each, has a viral effect when it comes so close to election day.

Reaching the correct voter bank.

I did not know how to reach the bulk voter bank in South Colaba, but one of our contacts, former Cat Alumni President Rajiv Bhatia, was one step shead of me. He had been helping a fisher girl from that area. He has put her to work to reach as many of that group as possible. The effort will be renewed now that he knows that someone 7000 km away is also pushing for Vijay.

Just like the fisher folk, the small shops of South Mumbai are thronged with shoppers. There must be a pitch to get Vijay's flyers in each of those shops.

I would like all of you or your relatives or friends, to take this up with your favorite shop in South Mumbai. The effect will be seen in the result.

Then there are large apartment main doors. A flyer pasted on each main entrance has a remarkable effect as every resident bonds with a person who is visible every time they come home.

Then there are the Community Centres. A flyer in each helps each community trust a person who shows appreciation for their community.

Grass roots exposure in schools, colleges, cinema halls, religous establishments, hotels, restaurants, clubs, buses, in the local area are all important places to place flyers as they get the highly mobile population informed about Vijay.

(Remember that flyers on Mumbai could be in English, Marathi, Gujarathi, Hindi, Konkani, Malayalam and Tamil.)

So let us get started and get Vijay elected! D-day is 16th February 1 week from today.

Let it RIP, let it THUNDER!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

KTWV Volume 13 Issue 2: Robert Sa'ab

Interesting discussion on some of the Facebook Stephanisn Groups that a Room N will be named as the Robert Sa'ab Room in honour of a person that every Stephanian from 1943 to 1984 remembers with affection. Is Sa'ab a drop out from India's colonial past or is it a title of endearment of someone we love. I stsnd by the latter interpretation.

Although greatly overworked, he never chased anyone away, during my time, patiently answering any question put to him.

Although a very public person, he was at the same time, a very private person.

I do not know whether he had a super memory but when I visited college in April 1984 (21 years after I had left college), just as I was leaving for Finland, he met me from the hole on the wall and remembered my first name.

And he had time for me. He offered me a cup of tea through the hole and ensured I had a few minutes with the Principal. He announced me correctly as Mr. Jacob Matthan, which truly astounded me.

After my 10 minutes with the Princi, on my way out I asked hom how he had remembered me.

His answer shook me: "Jacob, you were the first JCR President who was only in the 2nd year and you changed what the JCR was. I remember you for what you achieved!"

What a personality!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

KTWV 13 Issue 01: I hate repeating myself

In January 2010, I had a blog entry which asked the question whether the reason why our college was in the news was for the correct reasons. At that time it was the bitter legal battle between the Chairman of the Council and the Principal.

Today, when I got my daily review of the news from India, two articles stood out - one from The Hindu snd the other from The Pioneer, and they reported on the demonstration by the staff of our alma mater against the autocracy of the Principal of the College.

What has been the common factor every time news has been splashed in the headlines of the Indian media has been the actions of the Principal, right from his initial appointment to his removal, his re-appointment and several times in-between on his minorities reservation policy, the rush to act independently in the Mani Shankar Aiyar issue and now in the legal battle with Dr. M. S. Frank, the Vice Principal, not to the mention the totally unnecessary spat with the portions of the alumni.

Common fsctor appears to be the Principal.

In Finland, the cause would be identified and removed!

Let us begin the New Year with a resolution that the cause for any unsavoury news about our alma mater in the media will be laid at the doorstep of the Principal. He has to be held responsible for it. After all, he is the "Head" of the Institution. If the name of the College is being tarnished, then it shows his incompetence. He must pay the price with his job being on the line.

Any takers?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

KTWV 12 Issue 9: Old values vs new ones

Many of you are expecting me to keep Kooler Talk (Web Version) as a daily news letter.

This is quite impossible. This is a nostalgia site and not an up-to-the-minute news site about our College.

Stephanians and Laal Sitara are doing an excellent job on this front. I think the competion is spurring them to do things bigger and better than the other!

 Laal Pitara is not a Stephanian site as its objectives are just to have a great time on-line. I notice it has been used as a StephLeaks site.

But I am  sure that will sort itself out.

There is a wonderful effort by all sides to bridge the gap. Athough I do not want to be a wet squib, I am not of the opinion  that there can be a Fidel Castro, or Mao Tse Tung, or Col. Gadafi at the head of our bunch. Any person cannot stand up and take genuine criticism cannot be the head of our alma mater..

What is more important is that I have been informed that some traditions seem to have been maintained but locations changed. One person lamented that the staff were not part of the fun and frolic.

The reason staff were with us in the sixties was because there were many who had been students just a few years earlier and still had a "student mentality". They had not become steeped in the staff / student divide.

57er Ranjit Bhatia returned to College after his stint at Oxford and participation in the Olympics. He was very much a glamour figure amongst the students and hence did not fit the staff profile. So also 58er Raj Sircar.

The Cafe used to have a liberal sprinkling of staff members enjoying the mince or scrambled eggs. Even older staff members used to make it a point to interact with us in the Cafe. Principal Sircar, Vice Principal Shanklind and Dean Rajpal also dropped in occasionally and had a cup of tea with us. So we were never remote from the senior staff members. Princi and Vice-Princi had no reservations, but Dean kept a stiff upper lip.

I do not remember many alumni members dropping in. When they did, they were usually quite well known and they would make it a point to interact with all of us. Cricketers Prem Bhatia, Inderjit Singhji  and many other prominent sports personalities were those who did come to College to mingle with us humble students - and we really enjoyed their company. It was so good to share the table with such greats and revel in their success. It spurred us lesser mortals to try for the moon.

When I visited College in 2009, I did drop in at the Cafe. Not a single person went out of their way to ask who I was or what I was doing there. Not that it matters, as  I am not a very noteworthy person!

The Cafe seemed a very strange and distant place after 46 years. The atmosphere appeared to be somehow "wrong". I(t was not the small friendly warm environment.

After I attended the Founders Day Chapel Service a lot of peopledid talk to me and express their joy at reading this blog. Also after the Founders Day ceremony in the Assembly, where Past Indian President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam addressed us, I did take part in the gathering outside and met a number of students and Alumni.

The difference between my day is vast. When there is a gathering now, students get-together in their own groups and talk to one another. We used to look around for people you did not know and go and talk to them. After all, you have already exchanged many views with those you know, but you open doors when you meet with the new people around you.

That was the biggest difference I noted in the throng.

I also did wander around the staircases and corridors and took pictures of pictures. These are part of my memories of the College.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

KTWV 12 Issue 8: Stand corrected

I am very grateful when someone takes the trouble to correct something I have written.

I had said that the Holy Spot where we used to be dunked and dunk others on Holi was no more. I had seen a barbed wire fence dangerously near the spot when I visited the College in December 2009.

12er Sherry Mathews emailed me to say the tradition continued but the dunking was done by digging a pit in front of the JCR.

Was the dunking just a childish prank meant to get prudes on the same level as the rest of us.

Although it did not have any religious significance to roll people in mucky murky water, it was when we threw in a few staff members, including one year, Principal Sircar (rather gently and to the roars of almost all the residents), that it had an impact on all the students and staff that we were one community. Usually it was quite cool on a March morning and the water could be quite cold, but by the time festivities were in full swing, after breakfast, the warm sun was out and dried us rather quickly. Then we used to march to the VC's house and greet him, still caked in mud.

Would I like to roll in muddy waters still?

To be honest, I still do as I play with my grandkids, who love spurting water at us grown-ups in the sand pit.

One year I was very harsh on one of my grandkids, as I rebuked him for doing that. That evening I felt terrible as I thought of the days when I was much much older than him (he was only 7 and I had been 16+ when I had done just that).

I only thought of it again today, thanks to Sherry. I must apologise to this 14 year old for my harsh words. It is never too late for an apology, although I do not know whether the young lad will even remember the incident.

However in an apology, the important thing is for me to get it off my chest and to really feel sorry about what I did. Otherwise just saying some words has no meaning.

Yet another value I learnt from days in College.

Friday, September 16, 2011

KTWV 12 Issue 7: Taking Stock of Online Activity

15 years ago, Kooler Talk (Web Version) was the lone voice of Stephania on the internet. We were a happy family which grew to about 3700 people who would occasionally read my musings and compliment me on driving up the nostalgia. I do not think I had any problems. Principal Wilson and even Valson Thambu, made an effort to communicate with my readers and me at various times.

It all changed with the advent of Orkut, LinkedIn and Facebook. I am sure that there must also be some other places where the presence of the alma mater exists.

The Orkut  SSL, St. Stephen's College Group has been dormant since 2009 and has just 61 participants listed. There are 2 Groups on LinkedIn, St. Stephen's College Alumni and The Stephanians Network. Some discussions do take place there occasionally. I would have thought more of our Stephanians would be part of these, as LinkedIn is a more professional oriented site.

Coming to Facebook,  we now have 4 Groups, Laal Sitara, Stephanians, St. Stephen's College and the last one which I assume is supposed to be a parody site, Laal Pitara.

(I do not want to quote Facebook numbers as they are really quite irrelevant!)

To be the truthful, I do not know which site represents which viewpoint, not that I should care. Some claim to be the Official Voice of the Alumni and the other claims it is the Official Voice of the Alumni.

Facebook is a site for social intertaction - not a site for Alumni Associations to be fighting over the right to be the Official Alumni Association.

Whenever I see a site which is linked to any of my alma maters, I join it to see what is happening. I find many discussions, some good, some bad, some indifferent - and I absorb them all. But it does not mean I endorse everything that is claimed by the Administrators of the site. Because of my running Kooler Talk (Web Version), many try to impress me with their site.

After all, I am a Stephanian, and therefore I have been brought up to make up my own mind about thrings.

I stand on my own principles and that is why Kooler Talk (Web Version) which has been online for 15 long years, with occasional breaks to recharge my batteries and my finances. It has stood the test of time. It is my take on the nostalgia that I experience whenever of I think of my alma mater.

I do have a similar site for my Mumbai School, also 15 years old now  and it has also been very popular.

We have many who have been in both institutions. I came to India in 2009 as I organized the 50th Year reunion of my class of 1959 from my Mumbai School.

My plan is to hold the 50th year Reunion of the Class of 1963 in Stephen's College in the year 2013. We would recreate some of the very nostalgic events of the 3 years that I was in College. But it is a little more difficult than my school Class of 59. In 1963 all those who joined college in 1958 and left in 1968 could be considered to be in my Group of 1963.

To this end I intend to start a Google Group for this 50th year Reunion.

If all of you from these years are interested, do get in touch with me through any channel we share in common. I expect that it will be an historic event as people as 58er Rahul Bajaj, 61er Kamlesh Sharma, 63er Montek Singh Alhuwalia, 60er Mani Shankar Aiyar, 62er Swaminathan Aiyar, 65er Mammen Mathew, 66er Philip Mathew, 63er Suman Dubey, the 63er Seth twins (Aftab and Roshan), the 63er Rai twins (Chandra and Suraj), 62er Rathikant Basu, 63er Siddarthh Singh, 61er Bulbul, 63er Badrinath, 82er  Niranjan Desai, 63er Ajay Verma, 62er Dr. Peter (Tubby) Philip, 61er Ashok (Tony) Jaitly,  and many other great names would be in the participants list.

If I am to toast the Staff as well of that period we would have Anthony Stone, Raj Sircar, Ranjit Bhatia and quite a few more.

I am looking forward to interacting with all of you as I slowly but steadily move to getting the Google Group online in then next couple of months.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

KTWV 12 Issue 6: Being drawn into a controversy

One seemingly clever individual has been pushing me andy KTWV to come out against his rivals. Very shoddy and shameful. He wants to promote his vision against another, through me thinking he has pushed me into a corner for being a member off another Facebook Group.

Rather un-Stephanian behaviour led by personal rivalries.

Gloating is not Stephanian behavior.

Firstly, Kooler Talk (Web Version) is only MY take on things. I do not represent the views of even one other Stephanian. So what I expound here has nothing whatsoever to do with anyone else and their views.

I do not know the present laws of India as I have not lived there for the past 27 years. In the past 10 years, I have only made one visit to India, a 2 month Bharat Darshan in 2009!

The present controversy about one of the Stephanian Facebook Groups certainly requires a comment.

It was written that if a Facebook member of that Group did not inform the Group about her/his not wanting to be a member of an Alumni Association, then she/he would automatically be counted as a member of that Alumni Association. It implied that she/he would be required to pay Rs. 1000 as membership fee.

Correct me if I am wrong!

In Finland, such a statement is not valid according to Finnish Law.

If one wants to join an Association, the Association has to send all the information about it, in hard copy, along with an application form. This must be filled in and signed by the individual. (Pdf formats and electronic signatures are now permitted.)

There was a scam here where people used to send bills based on such a situation, where a negative was taken as a positive.

So to think that because you are a member of a Facebook Group, you automatically become a member of an association is inherently wrong. Facebook Group membership, which is social interaction, does not make you liable in any way to something else.

Not that I have anything against the particular Association, but the procedure to become a member of an Alumni Association must be correctly followed.

As I said, I am domiciled in Finland and the laws of Finland apply to me. I do not know the relevant laws in India.

Regarding the membership fees of Rs. 1000 - I could donate this money to this Facebook Group (or the Alumni Association) for bringing out such an excellent publication - they new SPICE.

Also there have to be different categories of membership - Honorary Members, Life Members and also Members who could pay annual fees. The Memorandum of the Association must be available to all potential members before joining the Association. There must be laid down procedures of how the money collected is used - the annual budget. There must be rules as to the cheque signing authorities granted to people at the helm. etc., etc..... There must be rules of joining as well as removing people from membership!

Neither of the present Stephanian Alumni Associations adhere to the very format of an Association (as the laws of Finland dictate). I am a member of both the Facebook Groups, as also many other Facebook Groups.  But none can claim that I am a member of any Associations formed under their banner. (I am a member of the Oulu University LinkedIn group but that does not automatically make me a member of the University Alumni Association!)

My request to all Sterphanian Facebook and LinkedIn Groups is to sort out differences and come together to form an Alumni Association OUTSIDE of the College. Allow room for different opinions and have a representative selection of people on the Board.

In two of my other alma maters - Bishop Cotton School, Bangalore and Cathedral School, Mumbai, the Alumni Association is in no way linked to the schools. They function independently of the Schools and that is the way it should be. The Alumni Association should not be a rubber stamp for the institution.

A healthy Alumni Association would work well with its alma mater but would also be a balance to greed and nepotism that sometimes creeps in!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

KTWV 12 Issue 5: Vir Sanghvi on Mani Shankar Aiyar

Although I have great regard for Vir Sanghvi, I must take issue with him when he headed his recent piece - "Parallax View: University fundamentalism is no different from religious fundamentalism". 

Belonging to any club, society, hobby group (philatelists, numatists, etc., bears exactly the same conotations as belonging to an alumni chapter. I could rate him belonging to a "foodie" group on the same parallel of Foodie Fundamentalism to Religious Fundamentalism.

There are literally hundreds of alumni chapters of alma maters spread around the globe. (I think Vir Sanghvi's Mill Hill School in London has a very active alumni association.)  

I remember asking my friends to become a member of their alumni association, being a money making proposition on the internet in the mid nineties. I did try my hand at that!

It has absolutely nothing to bring it on par with religious fundamentalism. It is related to man's basic need to be part of a social group with which one can identify oneself and one's interests. 

Religious fundamentslism is about usurping power with deception to control the masses.

In this process of alumni bonding, there has to be a catalyst. 

I started my online webletters to my alumni colleagues in the mid nineties because of a very personal experience. 

With the advent of the internet, it was fun to go through the hundreds of search engines (prior to the advent of Google) to see if one could track down old friends. In 1996 I hit the jackpot when I traced a long lost friend, him in California and me in the European Arctic, our roots, Indian. Within a short pace of a few months we were having a whale of a time exchanging notes about our lives after we had parted.

Then one day he told me to put him on hold as he had got a match and was going for a kidney transplant. He never came back!

That day I vowed to re-establish contacts with all my past friends so that we could share our appreciation of each other. In 2009 we held the 50th reunion of our school classmates, and it was if not a day had passed since we went our different ways. 

We paid tribute to those that were no more, gave comfort to those who had been left behind by them, and revelled in each others success. Classmates, and their spouses, assembled in Mumbai from USA, Canada, Malaysia, Finland, UK, and those that could not join us from Germany, Australia, were there in spirit.

This had nothing to do with fundamentalism. It had everything to do with friendships and bonds built by us having been in close proximity with each other, not only in the classroom but also on the sports playing fields.  Not only were we friends, but we shared our parents. Many of our children were also friends. We were a community with common interests in our nostalgic past. There was no power politics or fundamentalism involved.

I definitely take umbrage at the spin put on University comradeship by Vir Sanghvi - he certainly got this one wrong. And Mani Shankar Aiyar (and yet another Stephanian of my time - Arun Shourie) certainly do not represent the views of Stephanians . Exceptions prove the rule.)