Wednesday, February 29, 2012

KTWV Volume 13 Issue 12: Not again!

When is our college going to be free of being treated so shabbily iny the mainstream media.

Today, I was woken up by the drama that is playing out about a sexual harrassment case lodged by a lady employee in the college against her boss.

I am not interested in hearing the merits or demerits of this case.

What I am concerned with is purely the fact this case shows up our alma mater in a negative light.

Any competent leader would have resolved this issue before it went to even Stage 1, the complaint being filed with Delhi University.

When are we all going to understand we have incompetence at the top in our alma mater!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

KTWV Volume 13 Issue 11: Mind is on food still

I certainly have good food on my mind. My dear wife dished out a great and very colourful pasta, accompanied by a spicy sauce and a meat ball dish for dinner. I am stuffed.

I never felt stuffed after any meal in College. I am not fussy about food and did not mind the college cuisine. I used to spend time in the kitchen talking to our gyps / cum cooks.

One comment to my last blog entry was especially interesting. The writer said he could hardly remember what he had for breakfast the previous week, so how in the earth could he remember what he had 45 years ago!

That is the best part as he actually did remember what he had 45 years ago, and even remembered the parathas that  were served for the vegetarian breakfast on Sundays in our College Mess.

His post did bring back a lot of memories as I used to alternate between the non veg and veg breakfast every morning. The eggs were sometimes quite cold, so I did not fancy having them every morning with the bread, butter, jam.

The roti was far more appetizing.

A few more posts about the food in college. till I have fried the subject!

Monday, February 27, 2012

KTWV Volume 13 Issue 10: Breakfast in College

I had alluded to the fact that when I woke up in the morning, usually around 5 or 6 am, I used to see Princi Sircar walk to the Chapel at 7 am. I used to be sitting on the verandah facing his home, usually with a glass of hot Horlicks or Ovaltine brought to me by Kundan Singh and reading the newspaper, as I had my own copy of the Times of India delivered under my door the first thing in the morning.

Before reading the newspaper, i used to do the crossword, something I had been doing in Bombay, beating my dad to the newspaper every morning.

I did not complete the crossword in the morning, and I would usually try to complete it by the time I went to bed. I loved the anagrams.

Besides the sports column, (AFST was really humorous besides touching on important issues), I was an avid news junkie in that I read all the news in the paper from cover to cover. Except for the Tender Ads (no pun intended) and the classifieds, I usually spent more than an hour or two reading all the news.

In those days I was not compelled to write Letters to the Editor, although I held strong views on what was fair and right and what was justice.

I hated the cold bath, even in summer, as the cold water made my spine to shudder and shiver. In winter, Kundan used to make sure a bucket or two of was made available, and as I was usually the only one awake so early, I managed to get the piping hot water before anyone else. (If I went for sports practice, I usually had a bath in the evening as well.)

After Chapel, I used to come back to the room and then gather with one or two of others from  R, S or T Block and trudge for breakfast.

I cannot remember, for the life of me, what we got for breakfast, but it was an important meal as we had to last till lunch with that. (Toast, Butter, Jam, Eggs??? And the Veg breakfast???)

Maybe someone can remind me what was served at breakfast!

Friday, February 24, 2012

KTWV Volume 13 Issue 9: Meeting operational Costs

Now that Kooler Talk (Web Version) is back on line regularly, establishing 16 years of service to our alumni, I am now a pensioner and keeping this afloat with my pension is quite difficult. Thanks to so many of you, I was able to install a dedicated server.

I have just 3 ad places to offer on this page, two at the top and one at the bottom.

If any Stephanian would like to help support this Web Version and would be prepared to advertise to the 3000+ Stephanians who visit this site at every update, I would be most grateful.

This is not a broad general audience, but a very very limited one.

Anyone wanting to reach my broader readership can advertise in Jacob's Blog, which is a very popular site, should look at Annikki's and my larger community called The Findians

Proposals can be sent to me at jmatthana (at)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

KTWV Volume 13 Issue 8: Joy unlimited

There are many forms of joy. Family, friends, acquaintances, achievements, all create different sensations of joy.

When I received an email today to approve a comment which had been posted on our Kooler Talk blog, it was another feeling of joy, one which I had been waiting to experirnce for many years.

When I shifted from the web site version of Kooler Talk (Web Version) to a blog, I was looking for a suitable picture for the masthead of the blog.

Father and son, Princi Anil and son, Amit, sent me an ariel photograph of the college. They also gave me permission to use it as the masthead of this blog. Unfortunately, neither of them gave me the name of the photographer.

The joy I experienced when the photographer identified himself in the Comments was quite different to the joy I have experienced in other situations. A joy of relief so I could acknowledge him on the masthead, the joy of knowing how and when the photograph had been taken, and the joy of knowing hiw unique this photograph was, all added up to a great feeling of satisfaction. To top it all, it has been taken by a Stephanian!
"Dear Sir,

Great. True many of these photos were given to Dr Anil by me through Dr Tara Chand. These were one of the first of many pictures which I captured while I was in Air Force and had an opportunity to see the college from air. Another air effort was made much later to have video, as well as stills, to make a blowup and then present to college on its 125th foundation day celebration.

Well, I joined SSC in 1975 and went for M.Sc (Phy) after graduation. I was not in Res and was not part of either the volleyball team of Arvind or cricket team of Kirti.

New science block, Dr TC, Dr Swami, Dr Mathur, Dr Bhatia, Dr Garg and so on were my guides and engagement. Then I joined IAF to serve for 28 yrs and took voluntary release in 2008.

For some time I was Head (HR) with one corporate before I went to a Mgmt Institute as HOD (Mgmt). Now I am on the visiting faculty with few other MBA institutes apart from providing Counsultancy for Org Growth to companies

Looking forward for synergy with you.

SSC (Phy) - 1976-81
e-mail - azadione (at)

He had given this photograph as one of many to the college through Dr. Tarachand..

Thank you Atul, a physics postgraduate from our college for capturing this and sharing it with the alumni through me.

And I acknowledge your contribution and hope you will share some more of your photographic talents about our alma mater with the readers of the blog, which is greatly obligated to you..

Thursday, February 16, 2012

KTWV Volume 13 Issue 7: Special dinners

After writing about the Mess I thought I should write a few words about the festival special dinners we used to be served up in the dining room.

The problem is that when I searched my brain, I could only remember the scantiest of details.

I do not remember all the exact occasions but it used to be about 4 or 5 times a year.

Founders Day, was definitely one occasion.

We used to get pullav rice with peas, raita, a tasty meat curry (not the fluidy daily serving), phulka rotis and some sweet to follow. The onions and chillis were in plenty on every table.

Little Santu used to bring the piping hot rotis as fast as we consumed our quota.

My memory is so bad these days I find it difficult to remember all these details.

If anybody can fill me in on the past as well as the present custom of special dinners - I, and many of my dementia ridden old folk Stephanian readers, would be greatly obliged.

Sufficient to say that we looked forward to these rare occasions.

I also seem to remember that once a month we also had a special dinner -on a Wednesday?

One more thing, again as my memory fails me - was Grace said every evening or only when we had the special dinners? We always had at least one staff member at the Head Table every evening.

Mr Summerscale, (honestly- 5 minutes before writing this piece his name was a blank in my mind) the tutor of Mukerji Court, Rajiv Bhatia, Balbir Singh (tutor in Rudra South) were regulars at dinners. I do not remember Rev. Jarvis there on many occasions. But Mr Pearson was quite regular in our second and third years. Rev. Luck, the Canadian who replaced Rev. Jarvis hardly ever attended dinner.

Princi Sircar occasionally dropped in, not to partake of the meal but to stop and chat with a few of those present. He used to invite some of us over to his place to share an evening cup of coffee. That way his pulse was always on what was happening amongst the students.

I am glad I wrote this piece as for two days I was struggling to remember the name of my Mukerji Court tutor - Mr. Summerscale!

Monday, February 13, 2012

KTWV Volume 13 Issue 6: Improving food in the Mess

I really wonder if the food in the College Mess has changed and improved over the last 50 years?

I had my chance 50 years ago when, as President of the JCR, I had a seat on the Mess Committee.

Although everyone was complaining about the food in the Mess, when I approached all the guys, there was not a single suggestion forthcoming.

At that moment, I learnt that we guys were clueless about food or food planning. We could go to Moti Mahal or Jama Masjid and order a great meal, but given the chance to draw up a weekly menu for our Mess, not one person could come up with some workable ideas.

Possibly, if we had girls in residence, maybe it would be different, I thought.

As I had quite a few friends in Miranda House, I called for meeting of them at the restaurant at Miranda House back gate - I do not remember the name (Wengers?).

Besides complaining about the food in their mess, not one valuable suggestion emerged. It cost me a few tens of rupees, as the girls certainly appreciated the snacks and cokes in the restaurant. Good thing I did not host them at Nirula's as I would have been cleaned out!

I was forced to discuss the subject with Mr. Marr. I called at his home and spent a delightful evening in the company of Mr. and Mrs. Marr and their daughter (beautiful girl), but I did not make much headway in getting a decent menu for the Mess.

All I was promised was that the food would be nutritious, fresh and served hot.

At every Mess Committee I was at a loss as nothing new ever emerged and we spent our time looking at the finances (Mr. Raymond's(?) ledgers) and how well they were managing to buy the oil and onions and potatoes and rice and wheat and vegetables and and....... so economically.

Count this as one of my failures as JCR President! :-)

(PS: My wife has turned up a nutritious, varied, economic meals for 45 years - which is proven by the size of me and our children. Should have married her before I was on the Mess Committee!)

Friday, February 10, 2012

KTWV Volume 13 Issue 5: Moving from S2 to S8

When I first arrived in College, I was assigned S2 in Mukerji Block. There was only one building at that time. (Mukerji West?)

My room faced the lawn and the JCR. I felt totally confined in a room with only one door opening onto a corridor and a small window.

I soon got used to it, but I was not happy.

Opposite me was another newcomer, Rajan Narayanan (Economics). He was a good tennis player but very introverted and egoistic and also very unsure of himself.

He found in me all that he was lacking and he spent more time in my room than he did in his.

Within a few months he thought of my room as his and all his friends including the grandson of our then President, Karthik Sandilya, and the son of our Admiral of the Indian Navy, Ravi Kataria, were haunting my room. (They were all ex-students from St. Columbus School in New Delhi.)

One day, in passing, I mentioned to Rajan that I did not like S2 and was thinking of moving to where I could get a room which opened out onto a verandah.

He was horrified that I would move out of Mukerji Block and also not be his neighbour.

Rather than lose me, he offered to switch rooms with me. I did not want to impose on him but I wanted him to make the decision.

Mukerji block was great, as not only were there several of my course mates but my school friend, Sujit Bhattacharya (Economics), was also in S Block. In the short period of just three months a very close bond had been formed by all of us in R, S and T Blocks. Also Kundan Singh was a great gyp.

Once Rajan confirmed his decision was irrevocable, it was just a matter of a day to get the paperwork done and we switched rooms.

I thought that Rajan and friends would start using S8 once I shifted, but I was wrong. (Reason was probably because S8 had a common wall with the tutor's room!)

They had all got used to S2 that S8 became my private domain, so much so that I even closed the corridor door from S8, making the only entrance from the verandah.

I occupied S8 for the rest of my time in college and was really happy in that room which had both the window and door facing the Princi's residence! As I was an early riser, Sircar would wave to me on his way to the Chapel for the morning Service. I used to frequently Attend the service as i was asked to do the Bible reading, something I used to do regularly in School Assembly in Mumbai.

Sammar Singh, a very quiet physics honours student, was my immediate neighbour, boisterous baniya Tich Arun Aggarwal, was in the room next to him, and the college goonda, Babbar, who later joined the Indian Police, next to him.

Except for the squat toilets and the ice cold showers, I really enjoyed college residence!

KTWV Volume 13 Issue 4: You guys are lazy

I have a fistful of requests asking what was special about my JCR Presidency. If you take the trouble go to Volume 1, you will get the answer. However, for you lazy guys, here is what I wrote in 1996:

"And now about the JCR - 1961-62. As I mentioned it was about the dullest thing in college. As soon as I got elected, we formed an action committee consisting mainly of second year students. (We had a couple of third year students on the Committee and one I remember was 62er Sarwar Lateef - I wonder where he has got to?) We prepared a plan. It was great but it looked expensive as the wants were a stereo gramaphone set, a better radio, lights and a new table tennis table, carrom boards, chess sets, card tables for bridge. It was my task to convince Principal Sircar and the Staff Member on the Committee Vice Principal Shanklin (if I remember his name correctly as I seem to remember a d at the end of his name).

Surprisingly, at the Sunday morning breakfast when I put the case to Principal Sircar, he understood the issue and organised the funds almost immediately. Even before the end of the first quarter we had a JCR with great equipment and even the Table Tennis competitions between the College and others were hosted in the JCR. We had a couple of very good players and I especially remember 62er Kishen Mubai in one dramatic encouter in a packed JCR.

Not satisfied with this level of success, the Committee then decided we would organise competitions for the residents. Chess, draughts, bridge and table tennis were held and were extremely successful. I reached to the final of the bridge competition with Ajay Verma as my partner, only to lose to the twins 63ers Suraj and Chander Rai (great squash players) on the very last hand with some superb bidding on their part - a virtually uncallable slam being bid and made despite some fantastic sacrifice bidding by Ajay and me. We are convinced that it was the telephathic communication by the twins at that stage which got the better of us as Ajay and I had played impeccable bridge the whole evening to see a grand slam, doubled, redoubled being made by Suraj taking an unbelieveable finesse of the 9 of spades.

These competitions, which lasted through the whole of the winter, really made the JCR popular. However, what really got us the support of the entire college was the organisation of the first ever JCR evening where the student talent in the college was used to put up an evening of music and drama. I do not remember the names of all the performers, but Principal Sircar and Dean Rajpal were amazed at the amount of talent we discovered in the college. Principal Sircar made sure that we had tea, samosas and barfis for all. We had a packed hall which cheered the entire performance. We even had some Miranda House girls turn up (although we had not intended it to be an open evening).

I do not know how many of these traditions have continued but already the next year we saw them dying as the Committee was taken over by a few who thought at the start of the year they would do something better than us, but finally did not do anything as they did not establish the correct rapport with the authorities.

The crux of the matter was to have good communication with the staff. That was possible because Principal Sircar was always open to suggestions and agreed in the students interest on most issues. In our dictionary I would describe him as a Montessorian - The Child is the Father of Man - and he showed that it was possible to have a happy environment for us students who were far from our homes. Many may disagree, but I think our second year in residence was one of the most active and pleasant ones that I can remember - and it was not due to me - I was only the figurehead of a group which was active enough to be successful."

Thursday, February 09, 2012

KTWV Volume 13 Issue 3: How to get elected

This was posted on an another one of my alma mater blogs but has mention and relevance to Stepanians. If you are a Mumbai-ite you to can act in your self-interest!

When I got elected as the President of all Residents in St. Stephen's College in 1961-1962, I was the first 2nd year student to ever hold that post.

I do not know whether anyone else has achieved that in the last 50 years. (I got elected because of a wonderful band of 1st year students - Rajen Mammen Mathew (now Padma Shri); Ramu Katakam; Azar Siddiqui; Suresh Mehra; a great set of guys from my second year all from Mukerji Block (Ajay Verma; Sujit Bhattacharya; Rajan Narayanan; Davendra Pratap; Ravi Batra; Norval Prakash; Rajiv Srivastava; Badrinath (Padma Shri): Chandu Rijwani: Tich Arun Agarwal; etc.) and the support of a few well respected seniors (Commonwealth Secretary Kamlesh Sharma; Chinmoy Banerjee: Dr. Peter Philip; Ashok (Tony) Jaitley; Sarwar Lateef; Ambassador Niranjan Desai, Prakash Joseph; Ranjit Jacob; Zafar Hai; Jerry Lalit Mohan; Swaminathan Aiyar; etc.)

Such a mixed team helped me overcome the traditional voting groups as the Doscoites, Sherwood Collegeites and other similar clique groups.)

My election Group had a well laid out plan as to what we would achieve during that year. This was of specisl significance to us from Mukerji Block as we were virtually living in the JCR, next door to us. (We achieved all of our objectives during that year because of the cooperation of Principal Sircar.)

That was my winning strategy with the Seniors giving me the respect factor; my year group standing firmly behind me: and the freshers working their guts out at all levels.

What more could I ask?

The reason for bringing this up here is that I learnt a lot from that experience. I have helped many people get elected, since.

I share this with you now, as a very dear friend, a classmate, is standing for elections for the Mumbai Muncipal Corporation, and I would like all of you to work to get him elected.

Captain Vijay Shivdasani is 69, retired from the Indian Navy after captaining the aircraft carrier, ran his own business in Hong Kong, and has been doing literally hundreds of things in Mumbai since returning.

He walks tall, still plays a great game of tennis, and is honest and dedicated to the core.

You may be 1000s of miles away, like me, and feel you can do nothing.

But you can create a viral pitch by activating just 7 friends, who in turn can activate 49 more. Within just 1 week we could have an honest man doing things in South Mumbai.

The vital step is NAME RECOGNITION. This is very critical. Almost 70% of people going to vote have no clue whom they will vote for 24 hours before voting day.

Just a phone call to a friend telling them about Retd. Captain Vijay Shivdasani and asking your 7 friends to spread the word to 7 more each, has a viral effect when it comes so close to election day.

Reaching the correct voter bank.

I did not know how to reach the bulk voter bank in South Colaba, but one of our contacts, former Cat Alumni President Rajiv Bhatia, was one step shead of me. He had been helping a fisher girl from that area. He has put her to work to reach as many of that group as possible. The effort will be renewed now that he knows that someone 7000 km away is also pushing for Vijay.

Just like the fisher folk, the small shops of South Mumbai are thronged with shoppers. There must be a pitch to get Vijay's flyers in each of those shops.

I would like all of you or your relatives or friends, to take this up with your favorite shop in South Mumbai. The effect will be seen in the result.

Then there are large apartment main doors. A flyer pasted on each main entrance has a remarkable effect as every resident bonds with a person who is visible every time they come home.

Then there are the Community Centres. A flyer in each helps each community trust a person who shows appreciation for their community.

Grass roots exposure in schools, colleges, cinema halls, religous establishments, hotels, restaurants, clubs, buses, in the local area are all important places to place flyers as they get the highly mobile population informed about Vijay.

(Remember that flyers on Mumbai could be in English, Marathi, Gujarathi, Hindi, Konkani, Malayalam and Tamil.)

So let us get started and get Vijay elected! D-day is 16th February 1 week from today.

Let it RIP, let it THUNDER!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

KTWV Volume 13 Issue 2: Robert Sa'ab

Interesting discussion on some of the Facebook Stephanisn Groups that a Room N will be named as the Robert Sa'ab Room in honour of a person that every Stephanian from 1943 to 1984 remembers with affection. Is Sa'ab a drop out from India's colonial past or is it a title of endearment of someone we love. I stsnd by the latter interpretation.

Although greatly overworked, he never chased anyone away, during my time, patiently answering any question put to him.

Although a very public person, he was at the same time, a very private person.

I do not know whether he had a super memory but when I visited college in April 1984 (21 years after I had left college), just as I was leaving for Finland, he met me from the hole on the wall and remembered my first name.

And he had time for me. He offered me a cup of tea through the hole and ensured I had a few minutes with the Principal. He announced me correctly as Mr. Jacob Matthan, which truly astounded me.

After my 10 minutes with the Princi, on my way out I asked hom how he had remembered me.

His answer shook me: "Jacob, you were the first JCR President who was only in the 2nd year and you changed what the JCR was. I remember you for what you achieved!"

What a personality!