Monday, December 28, 2009

KTWV 10 Issue 28: Crisis in College

There is a document being circulated amongst the Alumni which is entitled "Crisis in College". Leading alumni member Ashok Jaitly sent me a copy. I received several copies via various alumni groups that I am associated with. Many alumni who are readers of my Kooler Talk Web Version also sent me the document for my comment.

Very serious allegations are being levelled in this document. The fight between the Bishop and the Principal, former allies, has now blown into full scale war. That some of the staff are now in with the Principal seems to give his hand some strength.

However, the issue is much deeper than what is laid out in the document. It is the scramble for money and control of the money making machine.

As i noted on my recent visit to the college in early December, the state of the college and the upkeep were certainly not up to international standards. It seems that parts of the college are still being kept in the middle ages. The toilets are still squat toilets. There is no running hot and cold water. The green lawns in many places have vanished. The Junior Common Room was in shambles. There appears to ne no water harvesting on the college grounds. There appears to have been no effort to tap renewable energy resources.

It shows a lack of vision amongst the people at the helm of affairs in the college.

The college, rated as the best for learning skills should be modernised and maintained on par with international institutions.

Education is far more than just what one learns in the classroom. It is the inculcation of civic sense and modernisation of systems which make life easy and rewarding. It should eliminate waste and ensure new technologies are quickly implemented within the college so that the students go out with confidence to take these skills and knowledge into the outside world.

I was given the opportunity to make my views known by the Philosophy Department. Sadly my time in Delhi was cut short. I was unable to make what small contribution I could have. Maybe in these blog entries I can make some effort to bring some of the issues to the forefront in the coming months and years.

If the college cannot change with the times, it shows bad leadership. That is why the in-fighting and bad publicity are at the forefront. It is an effort to divert attention from the real issues.

Certainly the staff and the alumni must play a role in the running of the college, but if they spend their time in issues far related from what the situation is on the ground, they will remain as isolated as the Bishop and his cohorts.

At the Founders' day coffee session, one respected alumni member (1955) castigated another respected alumni member (1957) for a lack of interest in the affairs of the college.

Both are right as the alumni should be more than involved in making sure that the college develops on all fronts so that we can be proud of our alma mater. Success breeds further interest. Bad press drives people away from involvement.

Let us rethink our positions before we start taking sides with one group or another. Let us put forward a modernisation programme for our alma mater which will make any other institution in the world look up to our alma mater.

When we achieve that, and that is where our finances should be directed, not on the outside show, but the inner workings, then we will see that we are clean both on the inside and the outside.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

KTWV 10 Issue 27: Criminal police investigates

I recently got a spam message from one Kapil Jain addressed to the

Today I got an email from one Shiv Nair, also through the same group, that the spam mail from Kapil Jain was being investigated by the Criminal Police a cyber crime and fraud.

I did actually click on the link sent by Kapil Jain as he mentioned having bought an Apple Mac at a low price. The site he sent me to appeared to be selling unlocked Apple iPhones as well as Apple Mac laptops at ridiculously low prices.

I knew from that that the site was either hawking stolen stuff or it was probably a scam, so I left the site.

It came as a surprise to read about the action started against the individual.

This information is being given to the appropriate legal authorities dealing with cyber crime and fraud. Once criminal action is commenced against you, the person to whom you sent the email reserves the right to use whatever information that may emerge from the said criminal investigations to take both criminal and civil action against you for damages both punitive and putative and any and all other forms of legal and financial redress for the attempt you have made to cheat him or initiate actions that would have led to his financial loss by fraudulent means.

No further intimation will be sent prior to the commencement of the actions stated above.

This message is copied to the relevant authorities, both legal and judicial.

Can anyone explain what is going on?

Gone are the days when one could hawk anything and cheat all and sundry on the internet. It is most important to check sites which you intend to recommend.

My only wish is that none of the people involved are actually Stephanians, although that may be hoping to much as to send an email to the southern-stephanian-society, one obviously has to be a Stephanian.

Take care folks!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

KTWV 10 Issue 26: I finally got it

I have been waiting almost three years to get my hands on this. I had asked several friends passing through Delhi to try and pick it up. with no success.

The very day I arrived in Delhi, I went to the nearby store and asked if it was available.

First they said it was, but after a search, they said it wasn't.

They promised that they would order it for me. They did it straight away. They told me it would come immediately.

That was on the Monday the 30th of November. I have been going almost every day to check whether it had arrived.

Imagine my joy when I went in this evening and found it had come.

I quickly thumbed through it and found where my Kooler Talk Web Version was mentioned. On page 85.

Sadly, probably the only spelling mistake in the book is the name of the town where I live - it has been spelt as Ouli whereas it should be Oulu!

Not that it matters. Unfortunately the URL

has not been given, so many will not know how to reach the longest surviving version of Kooler Talk!

The book "St. Stephen's College : A History" was written by Ashok (Tony) Jaitly. Tony was three years ahead of me in school in Mumbai and also the same in college. He was a great sportsman, much like his brother, Ravi. He is also a wonderful friend as are all the Jaitly family.

As I went through this book, I found it very readable.

I think I am going to enjoy my flight to London from Mumbai on Sunday night as I get through this book. It will provide me much material for the blog as I recall many of the incidents recounted therein!

Unfortunately, things are getting worse as far as the College is concerned.

Such immature childishness is hard to understand. It was reported in today's newspaper that the Bishop has now filed a show cause notice against the College Chaplain for being outside his house with some protesters.

Does it not as if he is behaving like the Pharisees and Sadducee's when the went after Jesus Christ?

KTWV 10 Issue 25: Delhi Roundup

St. Stephen's College Founders' Day being Sunday, the official programme was put over to Monday. The Communion Service in the College Chapel was scheduled for 08:30 am. I was already at the College by 07:45 am.

I walked around the Chapel and took some photographs. Compared to a few days ago, the grounds looked clean and tidy, with lots of flowers, etc.

It reminded me of a story my dad used to tell me that some friends of his, a husband and wife, were the model of a great relationship on the surface to the outside world, but once they were on their own, they were bitter enemies.

It is not enough to put on a show for the neighbours. That is not the genuine thing!

I waited in the Chapel as people started to roll in. The Chairman of St Stephen’s College’s Supreme Council and Governing Body, Bishop Reverend Sunil Kumar Singh went in through the vestry door. The Principal, Reverend Valson Thampu, showed his colours by coming in through the Chapel main door.

That the atmosphere between them was at the lowest of lowest ebbs was visible to me as they each silently fought to show that each was in control of events.

It was a regular communion service. The sermon by the Bishop was not a very moving piece. I think I could have written a more inspiring one for the assembled gathering.

The service was followed by coffee / tea and some snacks on the Chapel lawn. A far cry from the breakfasts that used to be hosted in our day by the Principal.

I managed to speak to a few of the assembled gathering including the pastor who had been the one in St. James Cathedral in Kashmeri Gate when I was around. Surprisingly, he looked quite young considering his 59 years in service to the Church in India.

There were a couple of Alumni who attended the service, but in the main, it was the students, and predominantly girls.

There was about an hour to spend before the Chief Guest for the Founders' Day commemoration programme in the Assembly Hall was due. The former Indian President Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam was to address the gathering.

I spent time roaming the gardens and the building taking photographs.

I sat in the seating meant for Guests, just behind the Teachers, who had streamed in, in their colourful robes denoting their status, followed by the Bishop, Principal and the former President of India, APJ Abdul Kalam.

Here, again the bitter feud between the Principal and the Bishop was more than evident to those assembled.

In this day and age, to honour the Founding Fathers, there are far better ways than doing a physical read out, totally incomplete, of their names. But Principal Rev. Valson Thambu wanted to hold centre stage and show he was in charge of proceedings. He used this opportunity to show his position - sadly the approach of one lacking in knowledge about the ways of the world.

What a world of difference between Founders' Day in Mumbai for our school, where the entire St. Thomas Cathedral was packed to the brim with the alumni and a moving tribute was made to our Founders, and this today, where there were just a handful of alumni present.

Give me the Mumbai celebration any day as a strong alumni means a strong institution. There has been criticism of senior alumni who do not show any interest in the affairs of the college. This was expressed to me during this Founders' Day.

Is that because of their indifference or the indifference of the college to the alumni? In my opinion it is the latter. The alma mater should instill a sense of belonging to its alumni, whereupon, the alumni will respond. I know that I get that response on my Kooler Talk Blog, as everyone loves nostalgia!

In his attempt to make this a solemn occasion, Rev. Thambu advised the audience not to clap during the proceedings.

When the Chief Guest was introduced, the clapping of the audience was instantaneous. When he finished his speech, it was again a sound of appreciation!

Did President APJ Abdul Kalam say something stirring and moving. In my opinion - No! He talked about some of the teachers who had inspired him by their concern for him, but that is hardly anything soul moving. For instance, he talked of the kindergarten teacher who came to his house because he missed a day of school! Presideent Kalam spoke as if he was speaking to bunch of kindergarten kids! He pushed his own web site more than once!

There was a samosa, gulab jamuun, tea and coffee serving on the lawn outside the Assembly Hall. I did manage to meet a few former Stephanians, including a 55er. It sort of reminded me of tea we had offered (thanks to Principal Sircar) after the first ever JCR Evening we had held in 1961-62 when I was the President!

I rushed back for lunch with some dear old friends including Balan, the professor of economics in Hansraj College (and a wizard about cricket politics) and my old and dear friend, Krish Veerappan, formerly of MRF and now CEO of OSS, an MNC company marketing helicopters.

It was Balan and Krish, who with my late cousin, Ravi Mammen, and Ratnam in Madras, who had put together and successfully run the 1989 Cricket World Cup and also put together the MRF Pace Foundation.

Balan reminded me that the first choice to be the coach at the Pace Foundation had been Madan Lal. Madan Lal had said he wanted to operate out of New Delhi, where he would fly out to Madras when required. Ravi had countered this by telling him that he would have a permanent flight ticket between Madras and Delhi, but it was necessary to operate out of Madras. MRF used to have 5 seats blocked on every Madras - Delhi flight those days. As luck would have it, the negotiations fell through, and the job was given to T. A. Sekhar, who with Ratnam, did a phenomenal job for the MRF Cricket Division and the Pace Foundation through the next two decades along with Dennis Lillee. In the background Balan and Krish kept the atmosphere going in New Delhi!

Although I was in Finland at that time, my close friendships with many of those involved kept me briefed on almost all the major developments during that time. Those were indeed exciting days!!

Gossip has it that Sekhar who was drawing a very nominal salary in MRF has now moved to Reliance at 50 times his previous earnings. He certainly deserves it as besides his job as the coach, he was a person who could pick up the phone and speak to any top cricketer, world wide, and Reliance intend to use him just for that!

It was Cathedralite 64er Deepak and his business partner, Kuki Chawla, cousin of my dear Stephanian 63er friend Ajay Verma, who organised this reunion of old friends.

We had a solid gup shup session where we got to renew our old friendships.

Amazing how we are intertwined at the hips in spite of all of us being poles apart in our regular life! The bond is so deep as if we are one family. I always consider Krish as a younger brother, and he has always treated me as his elder brother, showing deep respect for our friendship. Krish and Nair (and Guptaji) have contributed so much to the success of MRF during the days of licence Raj, so much so that till my uncle (Kochappachen, K. M. Mammen Mappillai) passed away, Krish did not leave his post as the one running the Corporate Office in MRF, Delhi. Nair, had to come twice to the Guest House where I am staying in an attempt to see me. Such is the depth of friendships that has existed between us that time and distance cannot change them. Personal loyalties far exceeded the demands of personal goals, something which is rare in professionals.

Then it was time for me to hit the wayward ICICI Bank. Despite their apologies, nothing has worked. Maybe tomorrow will see some progress as I have asked them to give me a concrete solution as to how THEY intend to solve my problem!

In the evening it was time to meet my cousins, Suresh (Peter Philip) from Mumbai and Ashok (Kuriyan) from Bangalore, as we intended to get together today, to thrash out some issues. More about that, possibly, in another update.

We tried to go to Karim's in Nizzamuddin for dinner, but found it shut, as it was Monday. So we went to our old college day haunt, Pindi Restaurant in Pandara Road Market.

And so ended another exciting day in the Indian Capital!

Friday, December 04, 2009

KTWV 10 Issue 24: Meeting Another Heap

(Also posted on my main blog - Jacob's Blog, where I am posting all the entries during this extended trip around India.)

Lunch yesterday at the India International Centre in New Delhi was a most pleasant experience. (Not just the Thali meal!)

I renewed contact with another of my dearest St. Stephen's College friends - Niranjan Desai (also know as Heap 1: Ajay was Heap 2: I was Heap 3 - meaning a Heap of TROUBLE!). Niranjan was a year senior to me and was studying English Honours. He was from East Africa. He was and is still is a thorough gentleman with a great sense of humour.

In college, we were a group who lived between 1960 amnd 1963 in Mukerji East residential block. (Mukerji West did not exist in our time.)

Even though I say it myself, we were a great crowd. Besides Niranjan and myself, Ajay (Sweden), Badri (Switzerland, youngest every Padma Shiri), Choppy, Daisy (London), Norval, late Rajen, Rajiv, Ramani, Ravi, Rijwhani, Sujit (Kolkotta), Titch, etc., were just a few of our very happy and lively bunch. We were like one family.

The group consisted of Eco, English, Chemistry, History, Maths, Physics, and General Science students - but that did not make a difference, as we were all on the same wavelength.

When I met Niranjan this time, it was not as if a day had passed since our college days. He was looking trim, and except for his white hair, like mine, he was still the same smiling jovial self.

He has seen much of the world as he took up Indian citizenship, joined the Foreign Service and after being declared persona non grata in Uganda, when Idi Amin was on the rampage, he has served in various capacities including his Ambassadorship to Egypt, Switzerland and senior appointments in London and USA (both New York and Washington D. C.). He organised the Festival of India in both London and the USA, both of which received wonderful international coverage.

Of course, I did not know all this, but learnt a lot during our lunch together when time just passed quicker than one wanted.

Niranjan now works for an interesting organisation run by a brilliant young NRI presently based in Mumbai, who was described by Niranjan as a talented workaholic, Neville Tuli. Known as the OSIAN's, their contribution to Indian Culture is something which takes the breath away. They could not have found a better Ambassador than Niranjan.

Among the many things that have been established, two stick out. They have attempted and succeeded in launching the first serious Auction House in India, much on the lines of Sotheby's, Christies and Philips.

Niranjan gave me the Catalogue they had prepared for the first auction which took place on 29th October 2009. It is a publication which can be treasured as it is of the quality that one expects only from the large international auction houses. And Osian's has built up the in-house expert group which is the only way such an enterprise can succeed over the long term.

The second interesting avenue that this group has organised is film festivals covering a range of subjects. This is something which is different from the film festivals which used to be the attraction for those interested in seeing flesh exposure in the old days!

Anyone who is serious about buying genuine Indian Antiquities and Modern Art, may I suggest that they get in touch with this group. They know what they are doing. Their catalogue explains all the laws and procedures in the simplest of terms, so anyone following their guidelines will hardly fall foul of the "laws" as they are practiced in India!

Niranjan was a bit sceptical about the future of India. Like me, he is of the opinion that the country is fast moving into a state of terminal decline. He agrees with me that civic society has collapsed and the only driving force is the bottom line, which is neither Indian culture or heritage. Corruption has increased to such an extent, in his opinion, there is no meaning in the rule of law. He too is of the opinion that the Naxals will wait and make their move at the appropriate time, resulting in horrific bloodshed.

Having been a diplomat and a civil servant almost all his working life, his assessment coinciding with mine was indeed very strange.

We also agreed that what is happening in our alma mater is a sign that that too is in terminal decline. The college is not about education any longer, but persons in the "administration" jockeying for more power as they file suits and counter suits in the law courts. Even today, the High Court chided the Principal for his misuse of power. Further, the battle between the Bishop and the teachers has hotted up!

Is this what one wants appearing in the Press day-in day-out?

  1. St Stephen's row: Court pulls up principal

  2. HC chides Stephens Principal for misuing power

  3. Stephen's tense over bursar appointment

Are these the examples to set for the students of this august institution?

And, is all this "Christian"?

My visit to the college certainly demonstrated that what is important in the college is being forgotten, while all these external battles are in progress. As I had already mentioned, it appears that no one cares about the state of the college.

The Junior Common Room (JCR) is in shambles. That pained me immensely, as when I was the JCR President, it was my close work with the then Principal, Mr. Sircar and the Vice Principal, Mr. Shanklund, that had driven the JCR to become something of a force in the college for the college residents. The students earned the respect of the staff by the way they organised all the different events and finally the JCR Evening.

The beautiful lawn and rose garden which stood in front of Mukerji East is no longer there - it is just a barren piece of brown earth. The lawns have not been swept of the fallen leaves.

The white interior walls of the college are dirty.

The pictures in many places do not hang straight.

It feels like one is in a third rate institution.

Where is the order and pride in the alma mater that had existed in our time?

It is obvious that people are more concerned of their own political ambitions rather than the state of the college.

Niranjan also expressed that many of our friends had changed over time with their own priorities weighing in their lives. Natural, but unfortunate.

What values we shared when we were in college are those that are worth standing for, even today. A strong alumni can influence the happenings of the alma mater.

Thank you, Niranjan, for showing me that we can still hold our principles, whatever we have been through in the intervening years.