stephania was seven years of my life,
that
and much more
was stephania.
it is now a dappled forest of memory
in which i wander, directions not always clear.
but stephania was….

the blacksmith and its song,
kooler talk and onset
and other college rags.
it was a twenty-five p. coke
and a sixty paise packet of wills.
later it was sixty charminars a day
and all night rehearsals.
it was the rain dance
and
“f… you, freshers, if it doesn’t rain.”
the miss fresher night in a sweaty j.c.r.
was stephania.
stephania was witness
to the first breathless sight
of a mirandian.

it was
the noisy nine o’clock assembly
with green-covered roll-call registers,
and the silent through-the-hedge entry
after the ten p.m. register.

it was residence not hostel
cafe not canteen.

it was founder’s day
and burfis and curly-edged sandwiches and tea
at innumerable society meetings.

it was the british high commissioner and
delhi’s elite
at the opening night of the shakespeare play,
and, once in a while, a favourable review
in tomorrow’s daily papers.
it was cast parties
and walking the girls back
on wintry midnights.

stephania was prof. s.k. bose,
a legend even to legends,
both in class and on the cricket field.

it was durga prasad, the dhobi,
and a fight every monday morning
because the only undies he ever lost
were always yours.
why me?
was stephania.


sometimes stephania was
the passage of leftists
rightists,
ists,
and other labels-
always it was sukhia
and the minces and scrambled eggs
just an order away.


for a while stephania was a long walk on the ridge
with t.s. eliot for company
and wondering why nobody else walked there.
later it was with a girl for company,
now wondering why everybody walked there.


shocked
was stephania
when girls first walked into its cafe or sat
unconcerned

upon its lawns.
but times change.

stephania was never . right’ or . wrong’
often it was . just not done’
and there lay a world.

it was tutors and gyps
and even a dean.
“no smoking in the corridors”.
he said.
we replied: “avoid yaar”.

failure and success-
but most of all
being there
was stehania.


stephania
stephania
i wonder…
did you ever really trust me after
all that we gave each other?
after all
you admitted the girls
the year i left.

Benjamin Gillani was a student of College in the late 60s and is now an eminent theatre and television personality.