Sunday, May 19, 1996

KTWV01-Issue 3: Bloated Head

Hi Web-surfing Stephanians,

Here is Some Late Late News for Stephanians in the New York Area:

Date: Sun, 19 May 1996 16:05:03 -0400 (EDT)
From: Sreenath Sreenivasan (email supplied)
Subject: FYI... Stephanians in New York

You are invited to the launch of STEPHANIANS IN NEW YORK
-A monthly gathering of former students of St. Stephen's College, Delhi
Wednesday, June 12, 1996, 6:30 pm-8:30 pm
Lancer's Restaurant / 230 E. 44th St (btwn 2nd &3rd) in Manhattan
Complimentary appetizers, cash bar
Come have a drink and catch up... Please spread the word...
Questions? Comments? RSVP? Sree 212-854-5979;
As Indian weddings cards would say...
With compliments of:
The '70s
Ramu Damodaran, Amitav Ghosh, Sunil "Mankind" Khanna, Padma Rao, Kanwar Singh, Shashi Tharoor
The '80s &'90s
Alok Kumar Jha, Rajiv Kamilla, Nandini Sikand, Sreenath Sreenivasan)

In this issue I want to show you how large a bloated head I have!

When I joined college in 1960 the JCR was dead as a doornail. A new building with dusty green curtains, a sleepy chowkidar called Sahib Singh, but no action. After the Miss Fresher contest it was not worth visiting. All we had was a very old radio on which it was difficult to even pick up All India Radio, Delhi, and a couple of draught boards. Many of us used crystal radio sets (those were the days - I wonder if I could make one of those now!) in our rooms rather than listen to that lousy one in the JCR!

As a first year student from out of Delhi, it was really boring in the college in the evenings, and especially during the weekends. During the year, some of us in Mukarji East (there was no Mukarji West then) decided that we would take charge of the JCR in the following year. We decided that we would to put up a candidate for the JCR Presidency. (Pardon my memory. The correction of Mukerjee North and South to Mukarji East and West was kindly pointed out - quickly, by Shreyas Bordia whose father and uncle were also Stephanians)

Even before the end of the first year, because I had fairly close links with Principal Sircar and Dean Rajpal, as I used to go to St. James Church at Kashmiri Gate and have breakfast with the Principal every Sunday morning, the lot fell on me to stand for the Presidency. The idea was to use my good contact with the hierarchy to get some things done for the students. It was a tactical plan and proposed, if I am not wrong by shrewd Rathikant Basu, then a second year student of Economics and also a Mukarji Court tenant.

No second year student had ever been President of the JCR before. Many of our group felt it was worth attempting as our strategy was to promote the concept that not having the study pressure of a final year student, a second year student was likely to spend more time making the JCR an interesting place.

When I returned to college for the 1961-62 year, it meant that I had have to forgo ragging freshers as I had to be nice to get their vote. (I only ragged one guy who was escaping ragging by claiming to know me personally - whereas I had never met him before in my life.)

I was fortunate to have a solid supporter in my cousin, a fresher, 64er Mammen Mathew, now the Chief Editor of the Malayala Manorama. He, and a group of his friends became my core vote catchers amongst the freshers.

I also had a cousin, 62er Peter Philip, known as Tubby, in the third year. Tubby did his Economics from college, proceeded to Cambridge to get his Masters and then got his Doctorate in Economics from Stanford. He is presently the Managing Director of India Coffee and Tea Distributing Company in Bombay (known to Mumbaites as Philips Coffee and Tea) and he also heads the plastics metallisation plant in Aurangabad, amongst his many industrial activities. So I had a good activator amongst the third year students.

Unlike Dosco-ites and other northern public school students, there were not many from my old school in Stephens, but IAS Tony Jaitly was very much there amongst the MA crowd to canvas votes for me. 63er Sujeet Bhattacharaya, son of then Governor of Reserve bank of India, and my classmate from Cathedral School, Bombay, was also there to support me.

Being of rather happy-go-lucky constitution I was fairly solid among the second year residents.

If I remember correctly, my opponents were Harsh Tankha, a Physics Honours student of the final year and Gulshan Dua, a first year MA student. Both of these were extremely confident that no second year student was going to land up as President of the JCR.

I won this contest easily thanks to the untiring efforts, not only of those named above but a solid group of my election workers which spanned the entire cross-section of years and communities in the college. They included 63er Ravi Batra (I am still trying to decipher whether it is the same Ravi Batra of the Great Depression fame - he certainly looks a twin of my friend from Assansol with his bushy eyebrows), Pondicherry-product French speaking 63er Ajay Verma (great basketball player), East African 62er Niranjan Desai (now probably an Ambassador in the Indian Foreign Service somewhere), 63er Arun (Tich) Agarwal (the Managing Director of MAS, Delhi), tennis star 63er Rajagopal Narayanan, 63er Abe Tharakan (now CEO of the largest sea food exporter in India), 62er Rathikant Basu (who I think is now in some senior IAS post in Delhi), Physics Honours student 63er R. Badrinath who received a Padma Shree for the way he handled the refugees at the time of the Bangla Desh war, Keraltes 63er Ajeet Ninan, 63er George Verghese, 62er Ranjeet Jacob and artist 62er Prakash Joseph, 64er Azhar Siddique (probably managing a five star hotel in the Middle East after his days as the head of Oberoi Towers in Bombay), 64er Ramu Katakam, now a great architect, (whose dad was the last man to report to the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi every night as head of Indian intelligence), Suresh Mehra (a very successful garment exporter now operating from Hyderabad, to name just a few. I also had a few very good supporters from the MA final crowd as 62er Lalit Mohan, 62er Kamalesh Sharma and 62er Chinmoy Banerjee, as they had been close with my brother who had finished at college just before I joined.

I learnt then how it was to organise and win an election, and in the next issue I hope to tell you what we accomplished in that year to make the JCR a wonderful and lively place during the remainder of our time in the college. I wonder how many of the traditions we started still survive.

Thanks to all of you who wrote in after Issue 2. May I remind you once again to register in the official Indian Alumni Register, both in the Stephanian and Delhi University sections - details of which can be obtained from our Archives of the Letters to the Editor.

If you feel that these issues are too brief, please let me know, as I have lots of material. I hope some of you will start to send in your stuff as well. I am hoping with these regular yarns from the past I will bridge the generation gap as you may recognise many of the personalities mentioned - some may even be your dads, and if so, I would certainly like to know. Since we were not co-educational then, I am afraid I cannot claim knowledge of any of your moms!

Yours sincerely

Oulu, Finland
BSc 1960-1963
JCR President 1961-1962
Mukerjee Block S-8 (1960-1963)
Gyp: Kundan Singh - a great guy who helped us out in every way possible from jumping gates to fixing the late night register!!

Sunday, May 05, 1996

KTWV01-Issue 2: Hockey in Stephania

Hi Stephanians,

What an exciting two weeks. My mention of Kooler Talk has seemed to hit a raw nerve amongst many of you. The mail has been great and it seems that I have enough of you out there to make an effort to keep this Web Version alive.

First and foremost let me inform you that the World Alumni Register has been prepared and part of it includes the Alumni Register for both Delhi University, as well as our college, in the Indian Alumni Register section. I would suggest that you return the Letters to the Editor Section on our main page "Letters to the Editor" and read the letter from Renu Mehta who is maintaining the India Alumni Register. This may, therefore, remove the need for 91er Krishna Kumar to struggle to maintain a duplicate Alumni Register He could come to an agreement with Renu to use that list for all our needs. Only two Stephanians had registered as of Friday 3rd May, so just rush off and register now.

Before going to the correspondence from several of you from around the world, I want to discuss the book by 61er Arun Shourie. "The World of Fatwas" published by ASA Publications. Arun, if you did not know it already, is a Stephanian of the late Fifties/Early Sixties.

Here are some of the questions raised by Arun as excerpts (copyright Stephanian Arun Shourie)

Why does a bath become necessary when one has a thick cloth tied around the organ? And is such an action jaiz or not according to the Sunnah.

If a woman has a discharge like men upon excitation, is a bath necessary?

If a woman discharges without co-habitation, is a bath necessary?

If a man knowingly inserts a finger in the vagina of a woman, is a bath due upon the woman or not?

If to put some medicine or to examine some problem, or even otherwise a woman inserts a finger in the vagina of a woman, is a bath obligatory?

If a minor boy has intercourse with a woman who is a major, or a major man has intercourse with a girl who is a minor, then on whom is the bath due?

A man's semen is thin; he urinates, bathes after that, and then the remaining semen emits, is the bath due or not?

Obviously Arun is trying to answer these questions in his book - so to find out you will have to get hold of it.

The book was reviewed by Saslin Salim in the December 3rd 1995 issue of The WEEK. He castigated Arun for his lack of knowledge. Reading the review seems to indicate that the homework had not been properly done and I get the feeling that Arun probably wrote the book to gain notoriety to become a second Salman Rushdie! I do not intend to comment but if you hear that Arun is now in hiding - you will know why!!.

The Chief Editor of The WEEK, 64er Mammen Mathew, was a Stephanian from 1961 to 1964. The Managing Editor, Philip Mathew, was also a Stephanian (I am not sure which years. but I remember visiting him in college at the end of 1969 or early 1970). It has come a long way as a reliable English weekly ever since it was first published at the end of 1983. It reaches me here in Finland before it hits the newstands in India!

I think Arun did either English or History at college, but from the review I found that he obtained a degree in Economics from the University of Syracuse. He was doing his MA when I joined college. We had a common interest, Hockey. We were part of the same college team. He was the Captain, and a stickler for training and discipline, although not to the same extent as Vijay Singh, the cricket captain of that year who was a glutton for punishment.

My interest was to play as goal-keeper. I had been my school goal-keeper for the previous two years. There was a fierce competition for this place with my classmate, 63er Norval Prakash, who was from Sherwood College, Nanital. I was reasonably fit and always punctual for practice. My six foot two plus frame also gave me a tremendous advantage of reach compared to shorter Norval. It seemed that I would get the place, being chosen to play for the first few games of the season.

Fate played a cruel trick on me. During a hectic game, a splinter of wood from my hockey stick entered deep into the index finger of my right-hand. I managed to get out most of it but did not realise that a small piece had been left inside. The finger became septic. The doctor at the WUHS, in the hospital sometwhere on top of the ridge (wonder if it is still there?), decided to leave the splinter in till it was infection had fully matured, meaning that for four critical weeks I was in sheer agony. The finger grew in size to that of a ripe tomato (non-hybrid Indian variety). When he lanced it I had lost all nerve sensations in that finger and also my place in the hockey team.

Norval was a great goalkeeper. I am sure that in the long run he would have won the place anyway, as in those days, our opponents, especially the Hindu Collegites, had one objective when they saw a Stephanian goalkeeper playing with glasses. They would enter the D and cut the ball straight at the face. I survived my few games by sheer luck. I do not think I would have had that luck through three years as it was not yet the day of contact lenses.

We had some great hockey players in our batch. Ashok Daga was a natural sportsman. Besides hockey, he was also a superb basketball player. Datta Singh, also from our batch, was a tireless centre-half. And, of course, I return to Arun, who was a good captain and a solid full back who got me out of a lot of trouble.

And now to some of the correspondence of the last weeks. I had a letter from one 92er Amitabh Dubey in which he said:

"I was in Stephens 1989-92 (BA Economics) and in my third year Vijay Tankha and I restarted KT. The first issue came out in 1991 if I remember right and while I was editor we brought out two issues which were very successful. Siddhartha Sivaramakrishnan was the next editor and he too brought out two issues (I think). (Tankha, a philosphy professor, was the editorial advisor)."

(Ed: We have reached Issue 2 and I have Issue 3, 4 and 5 ready and raring to go.)

When I replied to Amitabh I mentioned there had been a 63er Suman Dubey in my year who was doing English or Economics. I asked whether Amitabh was any relation. The reply from Amitabh was a

"Wow! He is my dad and he was doing mathematics"

I did then recall Suman was doing just that! I commented to Amitabh that it was small small world. (If you happen to read the next issue of "Seventh Heaven" due on 19th May, you will realise that this true not only for us Stephanians, but for Mumbai Cathedralites, as well.)

Alexander from Canada conceeded that I was the oldest on the web till he got his page up. I replied that I would willingly give up my place to him.

Rahul Siddharthan from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, did point out that being so fresh out of college, it was difficult to be nostalgic like us older ones. I fully agreed with him as the nostalgia only sets in once you leave the shores of India and lose complete contact with the alma mater for a decade or so.

Well that is all the reminiscences for this week. More interesting episodes in a fortnight. Till then keep well and God bless.

Yours sincerely