Friday, December 10, 2004

KTWV05 - Issue 12 : Some Cathedralite / Stephanian news

Willie (Cathedral Physics Teacher 50s & 60s) in Canada has just updated me on some Cathedralite / Stephanian news.

He has only received a one sentence input of this year's Founders Day in Mumbai. Hasnain (59er) is travelling in India, Mumbai and Hyderabad. Will someone feed me with info.

Roshni, (wife of Stephanian Raj who is the son of former Prinipal Sircar of my era in Stephen's), who is also the aunt of my sister-in-law, is back in Canada after a holiday in Bangalore. Willie does say that Bangalore has become over-populated and polluted and as a possible result, Roshni was ill with bronchial trouble. I am fully in agreement with that statement about Bangalore judging from my last visit there a few years ago.

Willie and Pushpa are off for a 10 day, 6 island, cruise in the Eastern Caribbean. Hope both of you have a great holiday.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

KTWV05 - Issue 11: Popular Encounter Journalist passes on!

I must thank one of my very regular contributors, Aftab, of the old days representing our timer in Stephen's, for drawing my attention to this Obituary.


Melvin J. Lasky
Cold Warrior editor of the controversially funded 'Encounter'
21 May 2004

Melvin Jonah Lasky, journalist and writer: born New York 15 January 1920;
Editor and Publisher, Der Monat 1948-58, 1978-83; Editor, Encounter 1958-90;
married 1947 Brigitte Newiger (one son, one daughter; marriage dissolved 1974);
died Berlin 19 May 2004. ...more

The full obituary can be read online at

Certainly brought back memories of my time in the Stephanian Reading Room!!

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

KTWV05 - Issue 10: Need I Say More?

Wednesday 5th May 2004, 18:44 Finnish time, our daughter, Joanna, delivered a beautiful baby boy, 53 cm length and weighing 4 kg and 300 gm. Samu, Joanna's first born, was 54 cm when born but 3.9 kg.

Annikki and I were looking after Samu all afternoon and evening as dad, Tony, stayed at Joanna's side right from 09:00 hours.

I have just picked up Tony, giving Samu a chance to see his baby brother.

Samu was all excited telling me that his briother had brown hair, but he could not see the eyes!!

Annikki and I are thrilled to have an addition to our family, our third grandchild after a gap of 7 years!!

Mother and baby are well and that is all we asked of God.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

KTWV05 - Issue 9: Sasser Virus And You

How many of you have been hit by the Sasser virus?

Tony's computer closed down on Sunday as the virus hit Finland. There is worldwide chaos. With this virus you do not have to download a virus email or open any attachment. The virus finds the computers that are connected to the internet and which are not protected, and then infects it.

Of course, you have to be running a PC with the Windows operating system to be infected, which represents 95% of the world computing population.

On the other hand, I am perpetually connected to the internet, do not have any virus protectioon software, and in my 20 years of computing have never experienced a single virus since I run the Mac operating system.

As reports come to me from every corner of the globe about horror stories related to each virus, and there are over 120000 of them for the Windows platform, all I can say is that I am not following the rats off the plank into the murky waters below. I can sleep at night knowing that no-one can infect my computer network.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

KTWV05 - Issue 8: Some Stephanian Family Members

When Peter (Tubby) and I were Stephanian's, we were closely followed by Mammen and then his brother, Philip Mathew. After a long gap, several third generation family members became Stephanians and there have been marriages to Stephanians.

I try to highlight some of my Stephanian family members here.

I would like to wish Divya (daughter of Stephanian Peter Philip, also known in college days as Tubby), on her birthday, today.

Tomorrow is the birthday of Stephanian Adit (nephew of Stephanian Mammen - 1964 and Philip Mathew (??)). Best wishes Adit.

From what I understand, Adit is one of the growing band of Stephanians in the Kandathil branch of my family. Besides me (1963, B. Sc. , the ones I have listed so far are Ranjit Matthan (1960, did not complete his degree), Peter (1962 BA, Economics), Mammen (1964, BA), Ramu Katakam (1964- married my niece, Roshin), Philip (??), Amit (??), Riyad (??), Anu (??), Adit (??), Rohan (??), Harsha (??), Samir (??) and Rahul (??).

Second cousin, Ranjit Jacob (1962), now retired in Chennai, is also a Stephanian. Ranjit qualified as a lawyer and worked with the SPIC group of companies in Madras till recently. He lives in Adyar. Ranjit was two years senior to me but had a terrible accident when he was going home for the annual holidays when he fell off the train at Jamuna bridge. He recovered and returned after a year off from college. Ranjit's brother, John and I have been corresponding for several years. John lives in Denver, Colarado but is presently in the UK.

How is Stephanian Ranjit related to me?

Varughese Mapillai, the founder of Malayala Manorama, had two children, a boy and a girl. The boy was Ranjit's and John's grandfather, K.V. Eapen. The girl apparently died young. K. V. Eapen also died in his thirties. He had four children, two boys and two girls. Ranjit and John are the sons of the elder daughter, who was called Omana. Their father worked with the forest service in Assam and retired to Madras. John was born pretty late in his father's life. He spent most of his early years in Madras (between 1963 and 1979). They lived in Gandhinagar, Adyar where Ranjit still lives. Ranjit spent his early years in Assam.

Ranjit is extremely talented as a musician and used to play the guitar in college. He was extremely popular with all groups because of his friendly and always smiling attitude to life. I did not know he was my second cousin while we were in college and only worked it out after corresponding with John, when quite to my surprise I discovered he was Ranjit's younger brother!!

The person who took over Malayala Manorama on the demise of Varughese Mappilai was my grandfather, K. C. Mammen Mappillai from where streams a long line of Stephanians.

I believe there is soon going to be a marriage of Kandathil to a Stephanian colleague of mine very shortly. The daughter of my cousin Jacob (brother of Stephanians Mammen and Philip Mathew) , Malini. will be marrying the son of George Verghese. Georgie was in college at the same time as me and also in the same class (1963).

Maybe someone could fill me in on the years and degrees earned by each of the Kandathil Stephanians, as well as the current email addresses.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

KTWV05 - Issue 7: Stephanian Directory Project

A few seem to be clamouring to get their names into the Stephanian Directory.

A laudable objective, but for what purpose?

As alumni lists, we have several online, including "the official" one on the Stephanian website and the master one at the world alumni project website. Group lists as New York, Singapore, Bangalore, Mumbai, and of course, Finland, with two very active members, Ajeet and myself, exist.

Many Stephanians on my comprehensive Kooler talk (Web Version) mailing list, probably the most comprehensive of all, do not want their email addresses or their mailing addresses published for various reasons.

So I doubt whether the Directory Project will be successful.

The objective of publishing this Directory appears to be to raise some money for the College just as the release of the "short-lived" MINCE. I have yet to receive the copy which was supposed to contain the article requested off me and submitted.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

KTWV05 - Issue 6: The Irony Of It All

Rahul's "Simputer" is with me now. I received three last week, thanks to Anil and Lalitha. One of them has been submitted to the local newspaper, Kaleva, who are testing it to do a special feature to appear on the 1st of May. The second was given to a friend who does all the special scripting for Nokia. He was just leaving for Egypt for the Nile Cruise. He started to play around with it the minute he received it, so much so that his wife banned him from carrying it with him on their vacation!! The third is being played around with by me as I set it up to be handed over to Annikki. Maybe she can start reading this blog using the SIMPUTER!!!

Sorry folks, here is an off-topic blog. I have been busy with visitors from Bangalore to be able to keep this blog up. Anil (Baldwinian from my own era and area, Richmond Town) and Lalitha, sister of a dear friend, Malathi, and Business Development Director of Anil's company, arrived in Helsinki last Friday afternoon. I drove the 630 km to Helsinki, leaving Oulu with a good friend, pentti, in my company, did some work on the way, picked up some Indian spices, pickles, papads from the Helsinki Indian Market, picked up my guests at the airport, had dinner with Gopa and Timo, and left Helsinki at 9:30 pm to drive back all night. I handed the wheel to Pentti for a mere 150 km, when I took a quick shut-eye. Reached Oulu on Saturday morning by break-of-day at 4:30 am.

It was a truly hectic week as I had organised a work schedule for Anil and Lalitha to present their Enterprise Resource Planning software to major potential customers and also had former Motor Rally World Champion Driver, Jussi Kynsilehto, take them to his home town of Pulkila, to meet with the town authorities to finalise plans to produce Anil's fabulous Electric Scooter range, in Finland.

This was Lalitha's first trip abroad. She was counting on seeing and feeling snow, and, especially, on seeing it floating down from the sky. It was, on the contrary, the warmest week of spring that we have had in a long time. The snow cleared up almost completely, even in our back garden which usually has a mound of snow right until early May.

I put Anil and Lalitha on the train to Helsinki on Friday morning, a superfast Pendolino double decker, so that they could enjoy the view of the country side on their trip south.

Guess what we woke up to on this Saturday morning?

The ground is covered with snow. It has snowed right through the early hours of today.

Back to blogging in real earnest, so welcome back to a springy wintry Oulu.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

KTWV05 - Issue 5: Bee Bop A Luulaa

What does the title of the blog mean?

It means that I could not think of a good enough title for this entry. This hit tune of the fifties passed through my mind, so down it went. Could not have found a better title...

When I had the email from Cathedralite 54er, Rumy Kapadia, with the subject line "Help", I sort of acted and sent his request out to a few on my list. Promptly came a reply from my faithful correspondent, Willie Shiri, our school Physics mentor, now retired and living in Canada, who identified the brother of one of the persons that Rumy was trying to contact. In the process, Willie mentioned that his local contact, Atul Shenoy, a Cathedralite 52er, had known of my family in Bangalore and had remembered me from my exploits way back in 1953, even before I became a Cathedralite.

I wrote to Atul and elder brother of Cathedralite 54er, Arun. We had a lively email exchange of those really old days. I was amazed that he could remember a 11 year old boy and his exploits of 51 years onwards.

At that time I was an active Bishop Cottonian and had many friends from Cottons who used to form part of our evening cricket team. Cottonian classmate, Om Prakash, cousin Anand, brother Ranjit, Clifford Ealing, Sahadev (now somewhere in Brazil), and a whole host of other little ones whose names I cannot remember were all part of our crowd.

In 1952 and 1953, I used to frequent the St. Joseph College Hostel on Lalbagh Road, Bangalore which was opposite our house. I made friends with several hosteliers. I used to watch the cricket and hockey matches as the college hockey and cricket grounds which were adjacent to the hostel. I used to fly kites on the college grounds.

I became so close to the cricket team which was captained by L. T. Subba, brother of Mysore Ranji Trophy player, L. T. Adisesh. Subba later went on to also become a Ranji Trophy team player for Mysore. My contacts with them gave my friends a chance to use their pitch for our practice and cricket games whenever we wanted, which was just great when we youngsters wanted to play matches against teams of others in Bangalore.

I started my career for the St. Joseph College team as the runner to update the scoreboard. Later I was promoted to be their scorer for their local games. Also, Subba got us passes for the Ranji Trophy and international matches (the MCC team with babyface Tom Graveney is the one I remember) that were played in Bangalore.

The college hockey goalkeeper, Abe Tharakan, also became a close friend. I was so taken up by Abe's superb goalkeeping that I took up goalkeeping myself to later become the Cathedral School First Eleven goalkeeper for two years running and later became the St. Stephen's College goalkeeper. However, my goalkeeping career in college was tragically cut short when I got a splinter from my hockey stick into my right hand index finder. It swelled up to the size of a ripe tomato. That put me out of the game at the crucial time when the season was at its height, and being in St. Stephen's, we had at least two others knocking hard at the doors of the team. Six weeks away from the top team was the end of my career at the top. The spot was filled by a good friend and classmate - Norval Prakash from Sherwood College, Nanital. Norval was one of three Sherwoodians in my class, the others being Rajiva Srivastava and Kuldip Singh Shergill.

Norval was a great goalkeeper, and once given the spot, it was virtually impossible to get back into the top team except as the reserve goalkeeper.

Just as an aside, the Captain of the St. Stephen's hockey team was none other than Arun Shourie, noted Magasay award winning journalist, who gave up his morals to become an anti-Christian, anti-Muslim activist in his ambition to become a politician so as to get his own back on the newspaper that cut him down to size. He has almost achieved his ends by now becoming a Minister in the Indian Government, but in the process has lost the respect of many of those, like me, who used to admire him and his journalistic talent prior his hate journalism days.

Going back to Atul, he did know that Abe had a crush on my late elder sister, Nalini. I was the go between them. We moved from Bangalore to Bombay in 1954 (Nalini went to Women's Christian College in Madras) so that blossoming friendship ended.

Nalini's classmates, our neighbour Chitra Rao, and other Cottonians, Niino Bhagvagar and her brother Aspi, who served in the Indian Air Force, Nimmi Apoodorai, Pushpa Bhatia, Beverley Wilson, now in Australia and daughter of then Police Inspector Doug Wilson (whose family wife Marge, brothers Abe and Cedric and sisters Dinky and Zeena) were all featured in our reminiscences.

Was it not amazing that this contact with Atul in Canada revived all these great nostalgic memories of the past!! Thank you Rumuy and Willie.

Monday, April 12, 2004

KTWV05 - Issue 4: Response to the blog

I am glad to say that the response to the Stephanian blog has been very positive. The first person to write in was Akash, my regular correspondent from our Singapore Stephanian group. Then, Rajnish weighed in. This was followed by the steady stream of congratulatory messages.

To get to the regular blogging habit, it is best to subscribe to them. It does not cost any money. Use blogging subscription lists so you do not even need to have a traditional web browser. The iBlog software I use permits me to subscribe to various blogs in the Reader Mode, such as Apple, News summaries, etc, and this makes my communicating experience a little more specific than just web surfing.

My decision to blog was vindicated by the fact that out of the 1435 Stephanians that I sent out the message to, there were 97 returns of persons whose email addresses had changed and not informed me of the same. It sort of clogs up my Inbox to get so many returns after a posting.

I had an interesting discourse with one person to whom I sent out the information about the blog. He wrote back asking, quite rudely, to be taken off the mailing list as he was not a Stephanian and that he came from a much better college.

I checked and found that he was not on my list, but his wife, who was a Staphanian, had asked me to mail her at that address. It is possible that they are no more together and this may have been a sort of deep seated feeling of resentment on the person's chest. I informed him the cause for the posting to him and told him that he was now off my mailing list. I then asked him, very politely, to let me know which was the "much better college" than our Stephania.

He did not answer me on his wife's subscription to our email list or even apologise for his outburst, but his short answer was "presiency" in Calcutta.

I commented in my reply that I knew very well "presiency" :-) and told him that I had several friends from Presidency College in Calcutta who are on my email lists for another group that I run.

Well, I guess that sort of shut him up.

I think I was quite relieved to know that we hail from a far superior college than "presiency" and from one where the students know about polite conversation.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

KTWV05 - Issue 3: Is Finland's Education System The Best?

I have just been reading an article in the Seattle Post Intelligence of Friday, April 9, 2004 by LIZETTE ALVAREZ of THE NEW YORK TIMES which is entitled:

"It's unorthodox, but Finland's education system ranked No. 1"

Would Annikki and I, who have put our four children through parts of it, and now our grandson is going through it, agree with the conclusions of the report and this author?

Having been educated in the two best schools in the universe, Bishop Cotton's Girls' and Boys' Schools, Bangalore, and Cathedral and John Connon School, Bombay, and following it up with having been to the very best college on the face of this planet, St. Stephen's College, Delhi, and then having watched our children through this Finnish system in parts and having lectured to products of this system in the University of Oulu, I must disagree with the writer.

Finland's school system is nowhere near the best as far as "education" is concerned.

Am I being overtly patriotic to my alma mater's. I think not, as my better half is also a product of the Finnish system, and our personal experiences belie the claim.

The Finnish system was one where the Finnish "teacher" stood in front of the class and told the students what was what. In my lecturing days at the University of Oulu, I was astounded by the lack of ability by Finnish students to question what the teacher says. Everything was gospel truth as if it was delivered from the pulpit.

I used to put in some absolute rubbish in my lectures, and the students would just mop it up like a sponge. Then I would let fly and give them merry leather. By the end of my lecture series I did usually have a bunch of students who were a little more argumentative and able to analyze situations based on their own thought.

I do remember our debating classes in Cathedral which helped me acquire some of these skills. I could question Willie about physics problems, or Greg about Chemistry. It only nurtured my interest in my subjects. I learnt that most of the answers had to be obtained by myself. The experimentation in these subjects helped me to be alive. That stood me in good stead in my university life and later in my working life. This is, even today, sadly lacking in Finnish education.

The writer comments about the reading skills of Finnish students. The reason for this is not the school education system, but the nature of the Finnish language. If any of you have been through a speed reading course, the first thing you are taught is not to stop at reading a word but to go on to reading a line and then a couple of lines, till you can read a paragraph at a glance. Sadly, in the English, and most other languages, word lengths are usually quite small, 5 to 10 letters, and hence the skill of reading long words is not gained by the student. The Finnish language uses the concept of compound words. Words can be exceptionally long, 20 and 30 letters are commonplace. Hence the eye grasp skills becomes exceptional. That is one reason. A second reason is that a small mistake in word construction can have a dramatic effect on the meaning. Hence spelling mistakes and reading mistakes become quite uncommon.

Having been a professional editor for many years, I was astounded by the reading skills of very ordinary Finns, many who have not even completed high school. Only a detailed study of several such people revealed the true reasons to me.

The article is absolutely wrong to characterise that Finns to not boast or gloat. The Finns are masters of spin. They are so superb at it that most even believe the spin themselves. Not only are they masters of spin, they are also masters of ensuring the spin reaches the correct audience in believable packets. For instance, the claim that Finland is the least corrupt nation today is just a spin story which has been done so masterfully that Finns believe it right until they are personally affected by the bureaucratic, judicial, political and legal corruption that face them.

Our former special correspondent for our web site "Findians Briefings", Sinikka Ikni, who used to write the column "Finland - Oligarchy?? = Democracy??", touched on many issues for several years till the system came down on her so heavily that she had to stop writing her column!!

I have been personally hounded by the Finnish system, but being used to corruption in India, I knew how to stand my ground. Even to this day Annikki and I are facing an enormous battle with Finnish bureaucrats who hide everything behind a veil of legal secrecy that they write into their laws, not for the benefit of the people but purely of the power brokers.

The claim that all Finnish teachers need to have a Master's degree is not only wrong, but it is also a false notion that a Master's degree can help anyone to be "educated".

When we arrived in Finland, our youngest son came back from school one day and opened his geography book, written by these so-called "Masters" degree holders. He asked me how it was possible that everything that was written about India in this book was wrong - politically, geographically, economically, socially, culturally? For instance, it claimed that the north east monsoon was a dry wind!!

I took this up with our then Indian Ambassador in Finland, K. P. Fabian. Diplomatically, he asked the Finnish Ministry of Education to at least let Indian educationists help to create books containing data about India with some help from Indian experts. But it was no go and misrepresentation of almost every developing country has been commonplace in Finnish school text books. It is done to create a feel-good factor amongst the population. And what better place to start but from the very very young.

When I was working in a Committee to help Finnish university students learn about developing countries, my request that the books in the curriculum, should at least include some titles from experts from the developing countries, rather than the purely text book knowledge of Finns, fell on very deaf ears.

The glamourization of the 45 minute class and 15 minute let-off steam time presents a wrong picture. Students indulge in many activities which one should never allow on a school premises such as severe teasing fellow students. Of late, the drug problem in Finnish schools has become endemic.

We have to disagree that the Finnish education system is far from being No. 1. The methodology of making this choice was flawed, flawed, flawed....

Friday, April 09, 2004

KTWV05 - Issue 2: Good Friday, the old and the new

Welcome to the Kooler Talk Blog for Stephanians with its first real entry this Good Friday, 9th April 2004.

Would somebody send me a better image of the College logo. The blog will be updated many times a week with my reminiscences, so please bookmark this page. You can add your comments in the Comment section or, for more private comments, please do email me.

This entry in the blog is about Good Friday and its relationship to my association with college and our Principal Sircar.

"From the earliest times the Christians kept every Friday as a feast day ; and the obvious reasons for those usages explain why Easter is the Sunday par excellence , and why the Friday which marks the anniversary of Christ's death came to be called the Great or the Holy or the Good Friday. The origin of the term Good is not clear. Some say it is from "God's Friday" ( Gottes Freitag ); others maintain that it is from the German Gute Freitag , and not specially English. Sometimes, too, the day was called Long Friday by the Anglo-Saxons; so today in Denmark."

When I was a small boy living in Mysore and then Bangalore, which were relatively small towns, compared to the huge metropolis of Bombay, that they have now become, Good Friday was a holiday in a different sense. Normally, on Sundays, a religuious holiday for our family, we would go to church early morning and then come home to have our breakfast and then relax for the rest of the day.

Good Friday was different. We ate nothing whatsoever when after we woke up. We would go to church around 11 in the morning and the service would be long, about 3 hours, as the stages to the cross of Christ were gone through.

When we retuned home, tired and famished, it was not a traditional family meal that awaited us. It would be "kanji" which is rice served in the water it is cooked in, "pieara" a sort of boiled beans served with pickle to give the food some taste. The intention was to remind us of the suffering of Christ and to share in it with our simplicity in the food we consumed.

The atmosphere was always one of saddness. This would last right through the Saturday till we went to church on Sunday where there would be much happiness and Easter greetings being shared between all.

The resurrection of Christ was to be surely seen in the joy which was seen in all those at church.

Going home after the Easter Service would be such that we had a fabulous Easter meal waiting for us. (I do not remember much emphasis on the custom of Easter Eggs.)

When we moved to Bombay, although the same procedure would be followed, it did not have the same ring of involvement that we had in the smaller communities of the small towns. My mother would sometimes go to attend the church service at her Orthodox Church where they actually stood right through the three hours. In the Protestant Anglican St. Thomas Cathedral, the service was usually in the morning, followed by the three hour service from noon till three. the music would be great.

Easter in Delhi, when I was a student at St. Stephen's College, was a wonderful event as we shared a hearty breakfast provided in the home of Principal Sircar when we got back from church.

Although the atmosphere of Good Friday did not have the same degree of sadness, the college chapel was filled with Christians and some others, including Muslims and Hindus who were curious to know the significance of the words and deeds that Christians followed on Good Friday. Many of my friends would accompany me to the Good Friday service.

These days, living far from my homeland, and not being part of the mainstream Christian community in Finland, the atmosphere is not the same. I go about my daily chores but at the back of my mind those days in Mysore and Bangalore are foremost in my mind, as also the time shared with Principal Sircar and his family. His son Raj was not there during my time in St. Stephen's as he was away in the UK. Prinicpal Sircar's gracious wife and charming daughter were always there as our hostesses. And we would discuss so so many topics as Principal Sircar was genuinely interested in the lives of all of us, our separation from our families during this sad and joyous times, that he understood that he was our stand-in parent and not our Principal.

Unfortunately, my children, now grown up, do not have the same sense of feeling as I do as they were never able to partake of Good Friday and Easter in the same way as I did.

I wonder whether it is my gain or their loss?

Saturday, March 20, 2004

KTWV05 - Issue 1: Welcome Stephanians to my Kooler Talk Blog

7 year Itch

Welcome Stephanians to the Kooler Talk Blog, which is the nearest one can get to the original concept of the nightly meetings of gup-shup around the Blacksmith, from which Kooler Talk was born in 1961-62.

It is over 7 years since I first put up Kooler Talk Web Version on the internet. Many thousands of you have kept the steady flow of emails to me which has helped me create some degree of nostalgia.

Now it is time to do something new as others are putting "other" versions of Kooler Talk on the web.

So I have moved over to Blogging.

I will keep my flow of nosatalgic reminisences flowing from my never-ending tap of informants in all six continents so as to keep you all "cringing" for the next episode, just like in "Bold and Beautiful" :-).

The inputs from you can either continue as emails, direct to me from the blog, or as appropriate Comments in the blog, so that others can see what you have to share with them.

Happy Blogging Stephanians.