Tuesday, September 13, 2011

KTWV 12 Issue 4: Hansraj / Kirori Mal / Stephania ruckus

The recent rather denigrating statements by 60er Mani Shankar Aiyar has drawn much debate in the local press in Delhi as well as Stephanians who are communicating via the internet.

What Mani said was  totally nonsensical, obviously meant as a booster for his sagging political fortunes.

(But I do not understand why Valson Thambu had to visit Hansraj College to apologize on behalf of the College. Will he now run to apologize to Kirori Mal college? Valson Thambu should have rung Mani Shankar and talked to him about it! Neither the College nor the alumni have anything whatsoever to do with any of Mani Shankar's many out-of-order remarks!)

But Mani Shankar has been famous for these rather wild sarcastic remarks even when he was in college. It was his way of trying to be snooty, but it did not wash with most people. He would occasionally stand at the head of one of the dinner tables in the dining hall, rather nattily dressed, and make a comment about something or someone. Nobody laughed! He just smiled to himself, pleased as punch with his clever wit.

His brother, however, 62er Swaminathan Aiyar, used to be equally sarcastic, but he always had a twinkle in his eyes, which meant we understood what Swami meant, and we laughed it off or laughed with him.

And the difference between the two brothers is as between chalk and cheese. Swami was always dressed in a very casual, almost untidy, way, and he walked around with his hunched shoulders trading remarks with everyone. Everyone liked Swami, crazy as he was.

Not so with Mani Shankar, who had his close band of friends.

Their professions show the difference. Mani Shankar was in the Foreign Service for 16 years. He had to maintain a stiff upper lip and clean exterior. That lip got loosened when he joined politics. He has been the centre for many controversial statements, such as the Veer Sarvarkar incident in the Andaman prison, which even had the then Prime Minister disassociate himself from Mani Shankar's outburst.

Outspoken as he is, Swami is a excellent journalist and a good economist as well.

Mani Shankar never related much with us juniors, so I was a bit surprised when he stood for Parliament. Swami was, however, one of us, as he was friendly with everyone. He used to enjoy the crowd in his smoke filled room playing Flash or Bridge!

There have been a few Stephanians who have made remarks quite out of keeping with our Stephanian heritage. One only needs too think of 59er/61er Arun Shourie who has written and said the most outrageous things so as to draw attention to himself. While in College Arun was a very controlled individual. He was my hockey Captain and a very dedicated and disciplined individual. He went on to win the prestigious Magsaysay Award in 1982 for his outstanding journalism. His columns were full of valid criticism.

Then his head got bigger than his boots. He had a love-hate relationship with Ramnath Goenka of the Indian Express. When he was publicly humiliated by Indian Express owner, Goenka, he wound up a very bitter person and focused on the method where he would be in supreme power. He then used some of his journalistic ability very unwisely. Many of his radical statements offended almost every rational thinking Stephanian. However, we did not have the Principal of our Institution running after those deeply offended by Arun  to apologize for what Arun had written.

I hope that Mani Shankar has the decency to personally apologize publicly to those offended by his remarks, as any true Stephanian would do! Mani Shankar's statements have nothing whatsoever to do with our College and our Alumni.

1 comment:

nileen putatunda said...

dear uncle jacob,
namaste from kolkata!

it was very interesting to read your comments on mani shankar aiyar, arun shourie, etc. i am a Stephanian of the batch of 2000. i had written to you some years ago about my spiritual poetry books which you had featured on your blog. i totally agree with your views on both mani shankar aiyar and arun shourie. mani shankar aiyar is a VERY odd character whose sole aim is to draw attention (he should have joined some circus instead of national politics)while arun shourie is with a party that i cannot tolerate.

do look after yourself, uncle.

thank you again.

warmly, nileen putatunda