Saturday, January 31, 2009

Photo Essay – St Stephen's College, North Campus

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Photo Essay – St Stephen’s College, North Campus

This institution's snob value is worth it.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

One morning, tired of wandering in tombs, forts, bookshops, malls, I went to a college campus instead. Not just to any college. St Stephen's, in north Delhi, is a glass bubble fantasy. It's the south Delhi of Delhi University. Snobbish.

Here's no noise, no dust. Just trees, hedged pathways, redbrick structures and English-speaking kids, rumored to be some of the country's brightest. (Wikipedia has a list of 'distinguished' Stephanians.)

Here you may think you are in a century-old English garrison. Not true. The building is as new as New Delhi, constructed during the 40s. Don't be disappointed. Keep wandering aimlessly. At St Stephen's, unlike other colleges in Delhi, anyone can go in, stroll around, and lie down on the grass.

Yes, even walk down the corridors. No problem. But don't stare at the classroom windows. Lectures maybe on.

However, if there is an empty hall, step in. The vacant benches and the portraits of dead professors make the surroundings as silent as a... well, tomb (!). If that's not spooky enough, try this: at the grounds is an old well, now locked inside a rounded structure. Peer through the dusty window and you will find stairs going down. Spooky.

Hurry down to the college chapel, circa 1952. Potted flowers guard its heavy wooden doors. Tiptoe in. If you're as lucky as me, you might find a beautiful girl reading a novel. Else you may read yours.

By now you may be feeling hungry.

The college has a mess for its hostel students. Yet I sneaked in. What a sight! Ceiling fans, framed portraits, and bearers laying out the tables. A special elevated dining area for teachers. The scene was straight out of Harry Potter's Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. However, being a muggle, not a Stephanian, I was shooed out.

So I walked down to the college canteen... oohps, sorry! At St Stephen's, there's no canteen. But café. I've never been to Calcutta coffeehouses but they must be like this one. Wicker chairs, ageing stewards, bone china plates, and forks 'n' knives. Bilkul English. No self-service, no samosas.

While I waited for buttered toasts (Rs 5), 'mince' (potato patty, Rs 10) and scrambled egg (Rs 7), Shraddha Shah, a Stephanian, started chatting to me. "It's not about the food here," she warned. "Here, you spent hours reading a novel and no one asks you to leave."

Lovely, but the food, too, was not bad. (So what if the mince was cold and the coffee too sweet.)

And did I mention there's a site for another kind of nourishment? The auditorium gallery, nicknamed Passion Corridor, lies in front of the teachers' room. It is often used, I'm told, by romantic couples to 'make out', but "only in the evening when the teachers' room is closed and it's dark."

Lucky folks.

Luckier still are the hostel students – residents in Stephen's-speak - who get to live in this bubble. But please don't grudge these 'resis'. A few years of debate, drama, dancing, literature, sex and then they would be out in the real world. Let them have their fun for now.

The beautiful chapel...

Photo Essay – St Stephen’s College, North Campus

...and a girl inside

Photo Essay – St Stephen’s College, North Campus

More girls outside

Photo Essay – St Stephen’s College, North Campus

The silent lecture hall

Photo Essay – St Stephen’s College, North Campus

The covered well

Photo Essay – St Stephen’s College, North Campus

No mess in the mess

Photo Essay – St Stephen’s College, North Campus

The cafe society

Photo Essay – St Stephen’s College, North Campus

More cafe people

Photo Essay – St Stephen’s College, North Campus

Shh, she's reading

Photo Essay – St Stephen’s College, North Campus

Shh, they're playing

Photo Essay – St Stephen’s College, North Campus

Shh, they're listening

Photo Essay – St Stephen’s College, North Campus

Truly snobbish

Photo Essay – St Stephen’s College, North Campus

Yet, well-grounded

Photo Essay – St Stephen’s College, North Campus

Class time

Photo Essay – St Stephen’s College, North Campus

The passion corridor

Photo Essay – St Stephen’s College, North Campus

Wrong spelling!

Photo Essay – St Stephen’s College, North Campus

23 comments:

applepiecrust said...

so quaint :)

Magnus Linde said...

Thanks, enjoyed the glimpse of St Stephen's

Anvita Lakhera said...

Snobbish: tick.
Aspirational: tick.
Hung out in the Cafe despite not studying there: tick.
Grateful that some things maintain their charm: tick.
Article brought smile to face: tick.

Rima Kaur said...

they eat with knives and forks?!

आवारा - যাযাবর - آطارا - Vagabond said...

Here is my checklist about the place:-

Snobbish: They have no reason to be
Aspirational: Phooh
Hung out in the Cafe: All colleges have hang-outs.
Charm: The place is as charming as a graveyard at midnight.
Article brought smile: No, maybe a smirk.

Although I'm a techie muggle who had no higher aspirations than
(1) Earn zillions
(2) Own a fleet of Ferraris (Techies rate them higher than RR, Maybach or Merc)
(3) Design spacecraft for interstellar flight
(4) Marry Madhuri Dixit lookalike (hoping secretly that her type digged shy nerds)

I went to the place quite often to know a few nuggets:-
1) They call it 'Stevens'
2) Gen. Zia-ul-Haq was an alumni
3) They all chase media or finace jobs

Snobster said...

Awww this makes me want to work even hard (i.e. rote,cram) whatever it takes to satisfy CBSE and somehow make it.But alas,98% for english is not exactly easy now.

redkazim said...

zabardast post -- lovely pictures.

shaunna said...

of course the college is snobby if you walk into the cafe that is. its filled with guys who grow beards to prove to the world that they're intellectual and girls asking mohan bhaiya not to put butter on their toast. but a similar crowd can be found in d-school too so all the snobs in the city are not really contained in st.stephens. but its undeniably got the best college campus in Delhi and the spooky areas makes the campus cooler.

Milan Kuchhal said...

Like any College Stephens also have some not to forget things for its students..........
But it is one of the few college who are the factory of successful personalities.....
Mayank your presentation is great, it seems you are also the part of this great institution........
hats off to you.....

MILAN KUCHHAL
9891205786

Anonymous said...

We, Indians have a tendency to bring down everything good about our country (case in point Sachin Tendulkar): Tick
Indians can’t accept that something that doesn’t belong to them/they aren’t a part of can be good: Tick
People who spell their names in four languages can’t express themselves in any (case in point the comment above): Tick
Too much hate, too little understanding floating around: Tick
Not just this post but also the entire blog is awesome: Tick
I studied in CVS, look way better than Madhuri and own a Ferrari but still the earth rotates around the sun: Tick

Keep the great articles flowing!

Tashi Doshi

आवारा - যাযাবর - آطارا - Vagabond said...

1. Is there anything so good about Stephens that it needs bringing down: Don't know. Waiting for enlightenment
2. IITian believe: There are IITs, Tech schools, Med Schools and a lot of useless joints: Tick
3. People who spell their names in four languages are generally cool or erstwhile shy nerds trying to be cool in cyberspace: Tick
4. No hate, only pity and empathy: Tick
5. Not just this post but also the entire blog is awesome: Tick
6. Nobody can look better than Madhuri in 'Tezaab'. Aspirants need to check the film and a good quality flat mirror: Tick
(Ferrari part was taken with a pinch of salt)
We love you Mayank..

Alice said...

Awesome post... Brought back some really fond memories :).. Thanks for that.

And all I can say to u 'dude' (if thats what u r trying to be) Vagabond - GET A LIFE!

आवारा - যাযাবর - آطارا - Vagabond said...

I do have a life and it is rocking.
I have 2 PCs (John & Bips), 2 Laptops(Harry & Sally), one Mobile phone (Samsung Omnia a.k.a. Zango), One storage drive (Fat man). They are all connected by WiFi so that we talk to each other effortlessly.
I answer all the questions I can on yahoo answers. I'm a member to at least 40 online forums on various subjects ranging from Sex to Alien studies.
I've workbench in spare bedroom where I practice micro robots and artficial intelligence.
The list is endless but I guess it gives an idea.

Janani Raj said...

awesome post...brought back many fond memories....!!

sophia said...

Brought a lot of old pictures in to the mind yet again...time spent in Stephens cant be replaced with anything else!!!

keshav said...

Simply amazing..

I dream to have a reunion with the same kinda feeling...aaahhhhh

XM909 said...

I was at the place 3 years for my undergraduate study. I would definitely say that it scores over other DU and most of the Indian liberal arts colleges, thanks to the management because classes were actually held, and professors would not fail to show up. So you do end up learning.
All other aspects, I agree with Vagabond…the IITs and the techies are our future. Stephanians are clinging on to an imagined past; bootlicking imperialist-colonial ideas.
If India has a name today and a global presence, it is because of our democratized tech institutions and not some claustrophobic class preserving antique piece designed by some benevolent Brit.

jigar said...

Moral of the story:
(I simply cannot find better words than these!)

All other aspects, I agree with Vagabond…the IITs and the techies are our future. Stephanians are clinging on to an imagined past; bootlicking imperialist-colonial ideas.

If India has a name today and a global presence, it is because of our democratized tech institutions and not some claustrophobic class preserving antique piece designed by some benevolent Brit.

prashansa said...

and what exactly is wrong with holding on to something thats so beautiful.
not all of us run after money and some of us actually still value things that money cant buy. the experience and the memories one makes in stephens cannot be bought even with a million dollars.
i dont care about the fancy cars, what i do care about is that staphens made me into the person that i am. it helped me realise my dreams..

Ali said...

Hey nice pics :).... though for some reason the comment board is full of spite.... For a record, Stephanians are some of the most brilliant and down to earth people you would ever meet in our country.

Brilliance is a relative issue and every person has some airs about him or her as per their intellectual standing...... its jus tht in our college everyone is brilliant, so plz try and absorb the shock.... thn its not abt the cut-offs..... Stephenians dnt come through cut-offs.... we have other criterias for the final admission.... @ vagabond- you must read more abt our almuni before you judge.... 60% of the union ministry is stephenian.... :) and despite all the noise abt being english, we are around 45% of the indian bureaucracy.......... and it is quite obvious tht mr. vagabond aspired to be stephenian.... which he is not... and plz keep your cars and wi-fi wid u.... i knw a lot of Nouveau riche who find it hard to contain the show-off( and thn call others snobbish)..... we dont run after finance jobs..... finance jobs run after us... and whn they do, ppl. here go high enuf to have more than your wi-fi and samsung omnia..... pleez dont judge an issue untill you knw fully about it..... St.stephen's college is sacred for the way it is........

Mayank i loved your coverage of the GB Road..... :)

P. Chattopadhyaya said...

Four IAS from my batch says it all. I don't need to deliver a long sermon of who I am or what I have achieved, I've got a real deal and I've got no time to check upon people trying hard to reach our league. There's no game. HAIL, HAIL TO YOU MY ALMA MATAR

Anonymous said...

Hi! EvrYoNe....me mYsElf pranjal..stydin in XII(aRtS) wAnTs 2 be A stEPhniAn bUt wot d hElL Is wid mE Dat nEveR i oPen My BoOks...afTer alL sTepHen's aSk cEnt abvE 90...sorRy i diDn't cum 2 ma TOpiC..afTEr sErchiNg 4 sO ManY dAyS..aT laSt fOun NicE gLimPsEs oF sO wOt caLled sT.sTepHen'S ColLegE..d iMagEs oF mAiN BuiLdiNg..LecTuRe rOomS..CaFE..all mAkin mE 2 StUdy bUt bOokS R n AlLergy bT Leav ya...C ya Nxt yEaR...!! FUTURE STEPHNIAN...

Abhinav said...

Which college is better??
SRCC or St. Stephen's ??
Vote by Clicking on SRCC vs St. Stephen'S