Brit-Da or Thande Pitashri: Life as a Stephanian

The morning air hangs heavily as shafts of sunlight and memories sieve through. The crimson edifice of St. Stephen’s College looms large in the foreground, with the Andrew’s Lawn skirting the front portico. After the end of a memorable school-life, three years back, I had entered the College Hall on the first day of College. There was quite a hullabaloo that fine morn as students milled around. Having reached the Physics row, I walked and parked myself next to one Joseph ‘Tony’ Anthony, the guy who wanted Telangana so that one could have an extra holiday in Hyderabad (Ha ha…!) and who still is crazy about Math and AC Milan, with whom I developed quite a rapport over the years. Rev. Valson Thampu, ever-so eloquent, introduced us to the rich legacy of College. Not much later, we trouped into the Other side: the Science Campus. Not that this was a dark hinterland adjoining the Jedi Temple (read: Arts block). Having been renovated and ready for inauguration, the Science Campus, the entire setting for this new beginning could not have been any better! Everything seemed quite fresh and wonderful. The Science Dhaba (SD), the centre of most get-togethers and society activities in later years, seemed to almost qualify as a work of art. The first year was a whirlwind! Physics, much like the romantic idea of science many of us had fostered previously, was taught with ingenuity, especially by teachers such as the former Abdus Salam Institute of Theoretical Physics Fellow Dr. Vikram Vyas. Besides the Shake-Soc activities, especially Jerry’s production Psycho in Rajpal Fest, I found myself enjoying various sides of Stephanian life: music (Naqsh Indian Music Society), discussions (like the NDTV bout between Mani Shankar and Swapan Dasgupta on Modi), the time spent learning about socio-economic issues under Harsh Mander or simply the time spent in the JCR playing Table-Tennis. Some months and a few fests later (not to forget the first tech GD in the college’s history that the defunct Comp-Soc could prop up!), this fast-paced year came to a close, with farewells, yearbook write-ups (got the opportunity to write for my class, as the CR, the poem ‘The Fyjiks Fuchhas’) and a fairly productive vacation (albeit often trying to negate the ‘Stephanian Snob’ tag!). 2   Second year was probably even more fun: Prismatic exercises, Thermal Physics lab sessions (in the wrong half of the year!), Orfik treasure hunt and Techathlon, the Innovation Projects, Antardhwani, et al. And not to forget, small aspects such as the fertile imagination of my peer producing some pretty funny names: Zulfi, Thande Pitashri (literal translation of Daddy Cool) or Brit-Da (British Dada), added to life as a Stephanian! The department trip to Jaipur proved to be enjoyable as well, with the company of some great futchhas. Interestingly initiatives such as that of the forum Enthusiastic Physicists in Conversation (EPIC) found traction in other colleges more than in Stephen’s, often leading to healthy interaction with people from various institutions (although the first EPIC session, attended by Ankur Barua, was in College and was on Religion and the Existence of God!). Life went on. Physics, Youth Ki Awaaz, Societies, random talks and seminars around college on subjects varying from Politics to Physics, Innoclave, publicity for various events and societies: all this and much more made College life colourful. Third year brought the minor anxieties related to life beyond College to the fore. Applications, requests for reco, working on semester projects, getting to know some of the futchhes (FYUP test-batch, some would call; a fairly talented and cheerful bunch of juniors), SUS association, build-up for the National Science Fest (NSF): all comprised the first few months, the beginning of the end, so to say. My interest in politics, literature, history, sports and even activism helped me in associating with the various elements of College besides those of the Science Campus, and to break free of the parochial manner of segregating a student’s college life based on the half of College you are a part of. Sessions with eminent persons, be it Jesse Jackson or Shashi Tharoor, and SPIC Macay performances after lab sessions or after a few periods of Quantum Mechanics was never too bad for a change! All the while, we got to interact with the royalty in the various fields of Physics as well, be it Loop Quantum Gravity, Condensed Matter Physics or Astrophysics. These last few months present me with the opportunity to look back at the fairly short and yet long journey that I have undertaken as a Stephanian. I cherish the time that I spent at St. Stephen’s College and shall always be a Stephanian at heart, even with all the grey areas such as the absence of paper-cups in the Cafe (there’s a genuine hygiene related issue though environmentally the present scene is better).

Ad Dei Gloriam.

 

Some random topics I wanted to write on:

 

#CompSoc

Promoting the rapid evolution of the society in recent years, with the assistance of my peer (Shailaj), besides being associated with a bunch of enthusiastic juniors, has been a highlight of my College life. Event such as Orfik were followed not only in India but abroad as well! We surely had traveled a long way from the ten participant strong Computer Society events we had before the present bunch of motivated council-members took up the cause of running the society. I just hope that the society does not go six feet under again, now with the FYUP programme removing the important computer science courses in college.

Drama-baazi and Sangeet @ Naqsh

Dramatics was something I experimented with, since first year, with Jerry’s play ‘Psycho’ and culminating with Rajiv’s (Chetta? 😉 ) play ‘The Mute Dictator’, with not much in between, and as has been widely recognized, the entire dramatics scene in college is vibrant. The Shake-Sabha does bring to the table cultural and linguistic diversity, and thereby may be as important a part of the College as the more widely followed Shake-Soc. Naqsh, the Indian Music Society in College, was christened and began functioning with renewed vigor in my second year. Going for events/fests with a bunch of loving, crazy seniors in first year had been fun, and yet, given the all-too-obvious time constraints for us Physicsies, in particular, and sciencees, in general, the second year was a time when I became a little irregular with regard to the Naqsh. Riyaz became a privilege and participation in events a rarity. The present members have however done a brilliant job in keeping the society afloat.

YKA, Poetry and more

Having been bitten by the writer’s bug in my school days, I took up the cause of writing on every damn topic I could lay my hands on, and which I was interested in, in College, be it pseudo-secularism, populism of AAP, Sariska, Telangana, LOL Salaams, the Indian Army and what not. It was an interesting excercise, which most importantly involved the zealous responses by those who agreed and disagreed with my views. Having written for YKA (much to the displeasure of certain sections of College), I eventually did write for some other places as well (hope to see TIE come up and compete with the leaders in the field). As for poetry, again the time-constraints may have kept me away from the poetry-reading sessions in College, but I must congratulate the newly founded Poetry society for its work. Nikhil, good work!

The Fyjiks Fuchhas

A motley crew of the most disparate elements who survived the mix, through thick and thin, with a fairly cheerful disposition. Some of us may have had the most iffy relation over different points of time during the year but all in all, it was a time well spent together. Enjoyed the winter-sun on the SCR lawns, the engrossing chats on random stuff in the cafe. And the times I had to bear the brunt of a teacher’s ire on the class. Why? For being the CRO (Class Rep. Officer)! There may have been some undesirables and some all-to-desirable elements, but all in all, the Fyjiks Fuchhas were an interesting lot.

Physics @ St. Stephen’s College Studying Physics in St. Stephen’s College has been a mixed experience. One presently has seasoned teachers in the department who have made learning Physics an interesting, if not engrossing, experience. I still remember the enthusiasm Dr. Vyas infused in us in the very first semester. The initial, near romanticised notions of studying Physics, were given a realistic and yet enticing hue by our teachers, be it Dr. Cherian, Dr. Abhinav Gupta or Dr. Sanjay Kumar, be it for simple and yet fundamental topics such as the Schuster’s Method or more involved topics such as Neutrinoless Beta Decays. However, the funny machinations of the Physics Society were a slight put-off, especially in the last two years. But then again, the society is such a small portion of the department, so no complaints there. Some people may not have liked/appreciated/noticed any of the work some of us did (with talk of not knowing of any notable research undertaken by any student in the past so many years; a claim humbly refuted by certain results), but that will have to change if one carries on with one’s pursuits with enthusiasm and concentration, and is able to do well hereafter (a motivating thought). One rather interesting thing about the department, even in today’s maniacal rat-race, is the welcome apathy with regard to trying to obtain obscenely high DU marks, unlike respectable establishments at other colleges in the university. Physics was about going for a stroll in the evening and thinking about the ideas that may arise, about what insight you can provide with regard to an otherwise boring presentation of a physical concept  The department stands as one of the pillars of College today (both in academics as well as otherwise – a point validated by the number of people who do well in 47-seconds-to-fame’s and the cultural events), and I am happy to have been associated with it.

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