It has been exactly 25 years since I graduated and I suppose that’s as good a time as any to look back. Much wine has flowed under the bridge since then, but memories come thick and fast. In retrospect, the overwhelming sentiment is of an institution that cocooned you in a protective amniotic sac to let you develop as you and circumstances dictated. This was both good and bad. On the plus side, it led to the nurturing of a creative spirit that finds expression to this day. It may not have been possible in a less cloistered environment. On the minus side, it left me considerably unprepared for the rigours of what has been a periodically harsh life. The world is not like St. Stephen’s. It can be brutal, cunning, back stabbing. Nothing in college had prepared me for this. But I have survived through qualities that college did foster. Intelligence, a little learning, a respect for talent, a willingness to let others live the life they choose. But I must confess that very little of this survival kit for life ….. which is what a college education is….. came from the class room. I learned from the other students in college. It was a hot bed of activity in every way except, alas, in the most literal sense. (Of which more later). But people were always involved in something or the other. They were writing poetry, or for what used to be the Junior Statesman magazine, or acting in plays, or doing programmes for Yuva Vani, or discovering new authors to read. It was like a stream in ferment. I took a few dips, much fewer than I should have. Though I have had some striking professional successes. This has not been duplicated in my personal life, particularly with regard to women, which remains strikingly unsuccessful. I’ve been divorced once and I sometimes feel that college could have done something to help me deal with the other sex, particularly since I came from an all male boarding school. St. Stephen’s too was all male then. Since I was too intimidated to hang around Miranda, I passed out more or less innocent of that other vital sex. I called them “leg spinners” in a novel, to the great anger of several reviewers, but its true. I still can’t “read” women. I can’t tell which way they’re going to turn. But then I know very few men who can, and perhaps I shouldn’t blame college for that shortcoming. Still, that aside, St. Stephen’s was quite an experience. More than an education, it was almost an upbringing.
Anurag Mathur studied at College in the early 70s and is now a columnist with a number of leading dailies and the author of ‘The Inscrutable Americans’ and ‘Are all women leg-spinners, asked the Stephanian?’