Wednesday, March 31, 2010

KTWV 11 Issue 20: Secularity in Educational Institutions

(Posted on all my main blogs as this is one of my more serious postings meant to get the broadest reach.)

I learnt from the Times of India of 25th March 2010, Bishop Cotton school principals to resign, that my second alma maters, the Bishop Cotton's Schools in Bangalore, both the Boys and Girls schools, are going through a huge upheaval. The alleged interference of the Church in their running and the seemingly marginalisation of the Principals (also known as Wardens) into puppets, possibly all in the greed for the rich pickings associated with running a well-known educational institution, appear to have taken these two schools from reality into a fantasy world. Accusations are flying left, right and centre.

Sitting 7000 km away from that base, I do not know who is right or wrong, but it is such a shame to see the schools where my late father (he was also the Old Boy's Association Chairman for many years) and all his siblings, and a greater part of my generation of Matthan's, including my four children, being destroyed by these bickerings and the unfortunate media stories being put out.

A similar situation of the differences between the Church and the Principal is causing the rot of the fourth of my alma maters, St. Stephen's College in Delhi. The Alumni in different part of the world are taking actions, but that may not stop the rot.

However, my Mumbai alma mater, The Cathedral and John Connon School, seems to have overcome this problem, or it probably has not yet come to the forefront.

Trying to remember my days in each school and college, I knew I was in a Christian Institution in all these three cases (and also my first, The Good Shepherd Convent School in Mysore).

In Bishop Cotton's Boys' School we had to go, being a Christian by birth, to the Chapel for morning service before the start of school, every single day.

In Mumbai, we had School Assembly every morning with the reading of the Bible by one of the Prefects and singing of hymns. But it was not grossly evident that it was a Christian school.

My 59er class consisted of Atheists, Christians (a handful), Hindus, Jains, Jews, Muslims, Parsis, Sikhs, Sindhis, and probably various other sects and sub-sects. Not once did it cross my mind that my classmates were from different religions.

The only time I was aware the difference was we took our shirts off for PT. I noticed a few of my classmates wore quite different vests - the Parsis, as they had a sleeveless type muslin (?) vest quite different from the rest of the class. Other than mentally noting this difference, and I never even bothered to find out or understand the reason for this, we were all equal in every other respect during our hours in school.

The only differences were those imposed by the time table, as the Christians had to do Scripture as a subject while the non-Christians were exempt from this.

These secular values, and the continuation of the same which I imbibed in St. Stephen's College of the early 60s, has stood me in good stead through my life. I learnt to respect people for what they do and achieve and not because of their religion, caste or creed.

I wish this would be the universal philosophy across the world, as the wars that plague us today are based on these stupid artificial values, called as faith - be it by any religion anywhere in the world where the religious hierarchy fights for power and prestige, misguiding the masses along the way.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

KTWV 11 Issue 19: History of our College

I have written about the book authored by 61er Ashok (Tony) Jaitly for the 125th Anniversary of our College. Tony, like me, was a 57er Mumbai Cathedralite and then a Stephanian. The character of both these great institutions he graced do come through in this book.

Tony joined the college for exactly the same reasons as me - to save a year! Little did either he or I know at that time that we were joining to the most prestigous educational institution in India!

Yesterday, I completed reading his treatise for the third time. Although quite a slim book, it is crammed with the most interesting facts about our alma mater, that I have not been able to absorb it all in just one or two readings.

Almost everything that we need to know about the history and character of our college is included. The author has not blown his own trumpet in the book. He is an outstanding personality and was, during his time in college, on several fronts - on the sports field, in the theatre, in studies, and also as a Stephanian in Rez.

He has also not blown my trumpet ;-) , as although I get a mention as the 1961 JCR President and also the publisher of this outstanding blog (!!), he failed to mention that I was the only 2nd year student ever to be elected to the JCR Presidency, the organiser of the first JCR evening made up wholly of our internal talent in acting, music, comedy, and also the organiser of the first JCR indoor tournaments - chess, carrom, bridge, draughts, table tennis.

In fact, other than mentioning my JCR Presidency, Tony, covered almost every other institution in the college,  but forgot that the JCR existed as the main centre for the residents in college, the main meeting point for all residents in the evenings and also for day scholars who had to pass the time of day between lectures. The JCR President was the Head of all residents and served on various Committees including the all important Mess Committee! I did a lot of campaigning to change the quality of our food in 1961-62, but it fell back to old standards in 1962-63!

I was lucky to have Shanky (R. I Shankland) and Sircar (S. C. Sircar) supporting all my efforts and 62er Sarwear Lateef on the JCR Committee, who used his diplomatic skills to get many things done. We installed the first gramaphone in the JCR during that year. We installed colourful curtains. We allowed students to stay after 10 pm so that they could listen to Test Match Commentaries from places such as West Indies.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, the present JCR is quite a morbid place compared to absolutely electric atmosphere we enjoyed there in 1961 - 62. When 63er Norval Prakash (Sherwood College, Nanital), my classmate, succeeded me at JCR President in 1962 - 63, he did not have the same hectic agenda as he was busy with his final year studies!

Coming back to Tony's book, it is superb on all fronts except where it was outside his control - the publishing. The sequence of pages in my copy is as follows:

102; 109, 110; 107, 108; 105, 106; 103, 104; 117, 118; 115, 116; 113, 114; 111, 112, 119. 120: ...

Whether it is a simple binding error in my copy or one which has been carried in all other copies, certainly is a spoiler in an otherwise brilliantly written book.

The book is also lacking an all important Index and Bibliography, which are most important for any book purporting to be "A History". That again is not the author's responsibility, but the publishers! In this age of computerised editing, these should have been a couple of the easiest tasks to accomplish!

The amount of research Tony has done, not only from written matter, but meeting and talking to Stephanians of all ages, has been a heroic effort. His comments, like a true diplomat are guarded, but the importance of our college as a secular institution from Day 1 comes through.

I would advise the present Principal, Valson Thambu, to read this book to understand something about the college, as almost everything he has been doing for the last 5 years is diametrically in contrast with the hopes and wishes of our founding fathers and all the Prncipals that have preceded him.

Valson Thambu would do well to remember that the first four students of our college were 'Hindoos' (Sansar Chand, Har Gopal, Kirpa Narain, Ram Lal) and the fifth a 'Mohammedan' (Sajjid Mirza).

I was certainly not aware of the involvement of many of our past staff and students with all the drama that India went through during the last century.

I was certainly not aware that the massacre of Jallianwala Bagh was condemned by, in writing in the Stephanian 1920, by the editor C. B. Young!
As a public institution it is our duty to avoid taking sides on strictly political issues... (but) we are in emphatic agreement with the condemnation bestowed on the action of General Dyer... as Christian missionaries we cannot avoid the duty of forming and expressing a judgement on such a deed of horror as the slaughter in Jallianwalla Bagh.
All the characters that I knew are portrayed with great accuracy throughout the book and it is a credit that Tony was able to write it without causing offence!

I was not aware of the close connection of our college to Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore and many more historic personalities of the world stage.

I will be using this book now to put many of my blog posts in context, in future. It is something which has been at my bedside for the last 3 months, but has now been moved to my office table so as to be of service to the rest of you.

I recommend that you get yourself a copy, also! Certainly worth every rupee I paid for it - just Rs. 365 (€ 6!)  in New Delhi. They had to order it from the Publisher and I was able to pick it up just hours before I left the city.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

KTWV 11 Issue 18: Who is Stephanian 1?

Whoever has been sending me emails revealing the inside goings on in the Governing Body, much of which is scandulous, if true, could you please reveal who you are?

I am not prepared to publish stuff from anonymous sources.

What you say is important.

So be a Stephanian and stand up and behave as you should - or shut up!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

KTWV 11 Issue 17: Who or what is Stephanian 1?

Who or what is Stephanian 1?

The email that reached me from Stephanian 1, stephanian1 at, about the interference in the selection process, if true, is shocking.

If what is contained in this email exchange is true, the entire Governing Body of St. Stephen's College, the Principal of the College, as well as some other senior members of the Staff should resign, if they have one Christian bone in their body.

But I doubt many have!

As I do not publish anonymous emails, I can only hope that the person who mailed this to me will have the courage to stand up.