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!!

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