St Stephen’s College, Delhi University, established 1881, celebrated an anniversary recently. In this government, there are at least half a dozen top bureaucrats, if not more, who are from this institution. The list includes current Chief Justice of India (CJI) Justice Ranjan Gogoi, new Reserve Bank of India Governor Shaktikanta Das, NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant to name a few.
Many of them are history graduates. So is one of the oldest boys, K Natwar Singh, who wrote fondly about college recently. He recalled when he joined the BA programme, David Raja Ram was the principal. “A Jat converted to Christianity, his spoonerisms delighted one and all. He introduced Countess Mountbatten and Mountess Countbatten” writes Singh. Pandit Lachmi Dhar Shastri taught Sanskrit. He had been the high priest at the wedding of Indira Gandhi in March 1942 in Allahabad. S K Bose had a unique status. He was at Cambridge in the 1920s. In St. Stephen’s he taught philosophy and was in charge of games. He was a chain-smoker, with lungs of steel. Bose was a good judge of character. He, in no time, spotted transparently fraudulent characters.” Singh recalls that transport was a scarcity, “only bus no. 9 took one from Kashmere Gate to Connaught Place. The fare, if I remember rightly, was two annas. A cinema ticket in the upper gallery in the Regal cost 12 annas.”
He recalls that outside the college café presided Sukhia, whose pedas and barfi were in great demand. “The University Coffee was immensely popular. There we drank cold coffee with straw, ate tomato sandwiches and befriended Miranda House girls. The most sought after was the stunningly beautiful Sagarie from Coorg. It was impossible not to fall for her.”