Sunday, July 28, 1996

KTWV01-Issue 8: Ranjit Bhatia

Hi Stephanians,

This last fortnight, other than casting your votes in droves for which book I should serialise for the web (for technical reasons the poll is continuing for one more fortnight - so you can still cast your vote), all of you, except Indrajit Banerjee have been very quiet. Indrajit sent me a message about Chinmoy Banerjee (who I had mentioned in my last issue - Smoking Tea Leaves) along with the email address of Chinmoy in Canada. Thanks Indrajit.

Rhodes Scholar Ranjit Bhatia

I thought this week I would share thoughts about the return of Ranjit Bhatia to college in 1962-1963. Ranjit had been to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and was chosen to represent India at the Olympics in a long distance event - I am not sure which distance (was it the 800 metres or the mile?). Hence his return to college as a lecturer was much awaited by all of us.

Principal Sircar had been our mathematics teacher till then, and although he was a great guy, he was not much good at teaching mathematics to an idiot like me. He would come into a packed class room, mumble along for an entire hour, scribbling on the board, and that was the end of the lecture.

When Ranjit turned up, he took over this role as our maths teacher. He was infinitely better at it than good old Sircar. Within a couple of weeks I started to get a hang of the subjects, as vectors, matricies and analytical geometry and proceeded to more exotic and interesting subjects, as astronomy.

Ranjit was also a great socialiser with us students. He mingled with all of us, who, in turn, looked up in awe at this wiry superstar amongst us. I do not remember of which block he was the tutor. He frequently joined us for the after dinner coffee. Although he did not play "thumbing the matchbox" he certainly appreciated the mathematical probablity of the game.

Wonder where Ranjit has got to by now?

The Cafe

Talking of the cafe, I wonder if the quality of the mince cutlets and scrambled eggs (with tamatar) has been maintained. There was quite a quality difference in each speciality depending on whether it was Ganga, Shelly or Dolly who served up the choice, so much so that our choice was usually dependant on who was waiting on us. There was another youngster who started his career in the cafe at that time - was he called Sebastian? I personally loved the scrambled eggs from Ganga, the mince cutlets from Shelly and the vegetable cutlets from Dolly. The coffee was uniformly good from all four. I did not care too much for the tea (although today I am only a tea drinker - I have not been put off by the dire warnings of this habit which have been scribed by P. G. Wodehouse). The iced sweet lassi from Sebastian was out of this world. Not much difference in the fresh lime, however!

By the way, was the name of the guy who sold the Barfi at the cafe door Sukharamji?

And till when was Deep Singh the barber who gave us those atrocious haircuts but great head and body massages?

More in a fortnight,


Stephanian Jacob Matthan - 1960-1963

Oulu, Finland

Sunday, July 14, 1996

KTWV01-Issue 7: Holi Dunking

Hi Stephanians,

What I said last week seemed to have prompted some life into a few of you. Besides wishing my father-in-law a happy birthday, about a dozen of you have actually responded to tell me not to stop those reminders. It is no hassle as it takes me only a minute. I have rather a good email program (PopMail by Dave Johnson from the University of Minesota) on my ancient Mac PowerBook in which I keep all my mailing lists and update them as details come in. (Wish I could afford a PowerMac to bring some colour to this page!)

Many of you who wrote were wondering why you get the messages without a long list of names. I learnt this trick of putting only a couple of names - usually headed by our oldest web-surfing Stephanian from Canada, Samuel O Alexander, while the rest of you go into the Blind Carbon Copy space. So you do not get a message with hundreds of names to scroll through. In my Findians Briefings mailing list there are a few hundred on my mailing list. It does take a while for the post to actually be sent as I still use only a 2400 bps modem, but as the Mac has always been a multitasking machine, I am usually busy doing something else, or busy web-surfing, while the mail is being sent out.

Well Sree in New York thanked me for all the nice things I wrote about him. My contact paid off as he was able to put me in touch with a nephew of mine in New York, son of a Stephanian. I also got rid of the extra "A" in SAJA - the error had emanated from The WEEK. Think our New York crowd will be enjoying their get-together meal as I am writing this.

Holi Dunking

Has that absolutely filthy habit of dunking everybody in the slush just outside the dining room on Holi come to an end. After being flung in and sloshed with muck in my first year (and losing a lens from my spectacles), on subsequent years I was up early as a bird and went and sat in the muck so that I would not get thrown in. Of course several thought the whole affair was hilarious. I seem to remember that I was so early in my second year that it was probably me that turned on the tap to make sure that the slush would be formed. Since it was March it was still miserably cold to roll about in that murky water.

After the mud bath many of us would proceed to the residence of Principal Sircar who always had barfi ready for distribution and also some colour to throw at us students. He seemed to enjoy being part of the celebrations. I got the feeling that he would have been disappointed if we did not show up at his doorstep.

One year we even went on the VCs residence - It was C. D. Deshmukh, if my memory serves me right. He too was quite jovial and took part with good spirit although we did not get any barfi from him. Typical attitude of a Finance Minister!! Hey Montek, are you listening?.

Masala Dosais

Are the Masala Dosais (that was how it was spelt on the Kamala Nagar menu) at that dingy restaurant at Kamala Nagar and the Coffee House still up to character. Now-a-days Masala Dosas are available everywhere but in our time to get one in Delhi was like receiving manna from heaven.

My first visit to the Kamala Nagar restaurant was with a group of second and third year students who took a few of us newcomers there after dinner to be ragged. They did do some ragging but they were kind enough to buy us a cup of coffee after the ordeal.

I remember tall and lanky Kamlesh Sharma (now an Ambassador somewhere, I guess), stylishly attired in his traditional robes Chinmoy Banerjee (who tried to convnce me that smoking tea leaves was the thing to do), and Lalit Mohan (probably busy editing a newspaper somewhere in Punjab), then in their first year MA, met up with me on that first visit to Kamala Nagar - and so I even got to eat a Dosa, paid for by my mentors..


Talking of ragging - does this still take place? I remember some of the excellent ragging that I was subjected to - it was sheer mental torture, but when I later ran through the episodes in my mind, I had actually enjoyed being ragged by a few seniors who a few moments later became good friends. Of course, there were the crude and physical raggers which was distasteful, but those who knew the art of ragging really had us freshmen quaking in our shoes - something like a good April Fools Day joke.

Maybe some of you could fill us with stories about your best and worst ragging experiences.


Hope you have registered as members of GOPIO - the web link was not working for a good part of the last two weeks, but I kept hammering away at Professor Thomas Abraham. He finally got a new web address and I can confirm the site is working although it is not yet possible to register as his FORM mailto is not yet functioning. I , however, sent email to register.


I am off on holiday next week - enjoying the lake district in Eastern Finland right next to the Russian border - and considering my editorials in Findians Briefings of the last two weeks - I half suspect Yeltsin and Lebed to be waiting for me across the border with their Mafioso friends while the Finnish President Matti Ahtisaari makes every effort to push me over to the other side!!

Regards and take care,

Yours in a holiday mood,

Stephanian Jacob Matthan