stephania was seven years of my life,
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
“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
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.

was stephania
when girls first walked into its cafe or sat

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.

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.