Wednesday, December 09, 2009

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!

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