ST. STEPHEN'S COLLEGE, which celebrated its 125th Anniversary in 2006, has a special niche amongst educational institutions of excellence, not only in Delhi but also all over India. Apart from its revered internal traditions, the College has also been an integral part of the social and structural changes that have taken place in the nation. And it has been the school for a long and impressive alumni list which includes sportspersons, writers, poets, actors, journalists, entrepreneurs, politicians, bureaucrats, ambassadors, technocrats and corporate executives.
This volume, written by Ashok Jaitly, a former student, traces the history of the College from its original conception by the Cambridge Mission as an institution for higher education in 1881, through the travails of the freedom struggle, Partition, Independence and into the present world of relentless academic pressures, sporting compulsions and ever expanding opportunities. During all these turbulent and exciting years, St. Stephen's College has stood firm for certain fundamental values which celebrate cosmopolitanism, pluralism, a degree of iconoclasm along with an immense enjoyment of learning in the widest sense.
About the Author:
ASHOK 'TONY' JAITLY was at St. Stephen's College from 1958-61 where he studied Economics (classmates say, 'in exception'), played football and badminton (teammates say, 'on occasion'), was active in the Shakespeare Society (theatre-mates say, 'with trepidation'), indulged in sundry other activities (conspirators assert, 'without hesitation') and made many lifelong friends. After completing his Economics tripos from Cambridge University in 1964, he was selected for the Indian Administrative Service and served in Jammu & Kashmir and with the Government of India on several interesting and important assignments, including a few which evoked some controversy. He retired as Chief Secretary, J & K after a record tenure of more than five years, from 1996-2002. Currently working as a Distinguished Fellow at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in New Delhi on rural development issues, his primary concerns are water, rural energy and decentralized governance.
Back of Book:
"Mahatma Gandhi or plain Mr. Gandhi as he was then, first came to St. Stephen's early in 1915... On the persuasion of... C.F. Andrews who was then the Vice Principal, he stayed in the house of Principal Rudra which continued to be his Delhi abode for several years. The 'Burra Sahib's house thus became the rendezvous for important national leaders like Rabindranath Tagore, Madan Mohan Malviya, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Surendra Nath Banerjee... It was here that Gandhiji, perhaps for the first time, enunciated his doctrine of non-violent non-cooperation or Satyagraha... It was here that Tagore completed his English translation of Gitanjali. And it was here that the pact between the Congress and the Khilafat Movement was sealed."
"Most would agree that it could only have been idle minds busy in some devilish workshop which gave birth to Kooler Talk, 'the first purely student run rag aimed at providing an avenue for budding and 'froost' - College slang for frustrated -Stephanian writers who could not find solace in the sedate pages of The Stephanian magazine.' Sarwar Lateef, Roshan Seth and Peter 'Tubby' Philip were the intrepid perpetrators of this plot way back in 1960... To add respectability luminaries such as Kamalesh Sharma, Shankar Menon, Swaminathan Aiyar, Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Inderjit Badhwar were co-opted onto the editorial board while poor, unknowing Rev R.I. Shankland was persuaded to act as the figurehead editor."
IN 1958, TO US BOMBAYWALLAHS, DELHI WAS A NORTHERN overgrown village (a derisive and dismissive term that was to become a clichéd descriptor for several decades to come) with laughable, urban pretensions. So, when I announced to my friends that I was thinking of going to college in Delhi, their initial amazement and scorn gave way to some serious concern about my sanity. Why would anyone in his right mind, want to leave Bombay and that too, for Delhi?
My decision was a purely pragmatic one. It took four years to get a Bachelor's degree from Bombay University, whereas in Delhi, it took just three. Motivated by my father, my eventual destination was Cambridge University, to which I had secured provisional admission. A Bachelor's degree was mandatory in order to get 'affiliation' at Cambridge, which then allowed one to complete the Tripos in two instead of three years and thus save considerable expense. I chose to apply to St. Stephen's College in Delhi on the advice of an uncle, an illustrious but somewhat infamous Stephanian (Kanwal Krishan who, through a rather devious manoeuvre ousted the first elected woman President of the College Union in 1945!). Little did I know then that it was to be a decision that would have such a wonderful and profound effect on my life because of what I came to learn from the traditions of College, from the commitment of my teachers and the joy and strength from the friendships that I made, which have sustained me in all these years.
When I agreed, needless to say without too much persuasion, to write a 'fun history' of St. Stephen's as part of the 125th Year celebrations, I really had no idea how much fun it would actually be -and, of course, also hard work! Hopefully it will also be fun for the reader. I also had no idea that I would discover a legacy so rich and so amazing, of which most Stephanians are not only unaware but have also taken for granted. It has been a truly rewarding experience even though ferreting information has not been the easiest of tasks. Whether it qualifies as a 'history' is a good question, which I leave for others to answer. For me it is a great story.
I cannot but bow my head in respect and gratitude to that enigmatic figure, F.F. Monk, who wrote the first and seminal History of St. Stephen's College to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary in 1931. It is an exceptional contribution and has not only been a source of very meticulous information but also provided an insight into the spirit that has made the College what it is. My second debt of thanks must go to all the editors of The Stephanian who, over the years, valiantly persisted in recording the happenings within the hallowed precincts and beyond, despite the lackadaisical response of the 'aam junta!' There is a wealth of fascinating detail contained in the pages of the journal. Sabina, my wife, would be rather amused at my self-absorption, while chucking and talking to myself as I went through old issues late into many a night.
For access to the archives (so much can and needs to done to build this potentially valuable repository of the history of the College) Dr. David Baker, the intensely committed guardian of this treasure, has been the kindest host. And I am sure that David would not be able to accomplish his chosen task without the help of the watchful protection of Ms Malik, Chief Librarian, (and the first woman to enter the College Library!) whose unstinted cooperation was always forthcoming, along with her charming smile. Young Aditya Pratap Deo, a highly popular History don, in good Stephanian tradition, has not only been extremely patient with the demands on his time from an 'old codger' but went out of his way to arrange meetings with present students, which helped to put many notions into perspective. Of course, without the support of the Principal, Dr Anil Wilson, which came forth so readily, it would not have been possible to accomplish this project. My deepest thanks to all.
I am also extremely grateful to Renuka Chatterjee of Roli Books for all her editorial help and to Pramod Kapoor, Publisher, Roli Books for his enthusiastic support. In response to my request for their contribution, I received spontaneous and affectionate encouragement from Joy Michael, Shankar Ghose, Ranjit Bhatia, Suman Dubey, Sudhir Sahi, Deb Mukerjee, Roshan Seth, Kabir Bedi, Rahul Bajaj, Mani Aiyar, Sarwar Lateef, Nandita Narain, Maya John and many other Stephanians. I would not have expected otherwise, for that is what makes our fraternity special. It is to this bond that the book is dedicated.
New DelhiMay 2006
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