A LIGHT IN ST STEPHEN’S
A LIGHT IN ST STEPHEN’S
Darkness abounds and there is sadness and sorrow all around. I refer to not only the world where Covid rages and war is rampant globally, but I also refer to our College campus which is now bereft of one of its iconic sons – Dr Baker. Unusually though, there is a light burning in St Stephen’s. The light is burning tonight in the Principal’s office and the light is burning to signify the presence of Dr Baker in the College. Though he is no more, he is there all the same. And that light brings warmth and comfort to all who belong to St Stephen’s.
A light is burning in St Stephen’s and it is burning brightly. That is the light of what Dr David Baker leaves behind. There was a light in his life, and he shared this light with all who he came in touch with - mali or maharajah alike. Dr Baker had his quirks, but then who doesn’t? Just like a ray of light can be broken into seven colours, Dr Baker too was a blend of some qualities which merged in his personality and shone brightly for all to see.
The light of love: Dr Baker loved intensely, and College was his first love. After his retirement, for a short spell, he went away from College to stay outside the campus (and mind you, not too far away!); he soon came back to the place which was his real home. He couldn’t stay away for too long from College. He loved his work in College and carried it out faithfully. Numerous students will testify that every lecture was a freshly made one, worked upon intently even if it was an old and repetitive syllabus. Dr Baker loved his students, both the ones in his class and the ones in residence. It was a father’s love - strict at times, indulgent on other occasions but always driven by love. Today, that has been passed on and the light of that love burns brightly tonight in the hearts of his students, the Block Tutors for whom he is now a legend and for teachers for whom he is an inspiration.
The light of discipline: all who knew Dr Baker will vouch for the disciplined life that he led. In his personal life as well as in his professional dealings, he was meticulous. He was punctual to a fault, and you could set a watch looking at his daily habits. That love for order and discipline was what he managed to pass on to many in College and outside. The light of that love for order and discipline burns brightly tonight.
The light of scholarship: he was a teacher, first and last. Generations of students, including many who are teachers today, were groomed in his class to read, study, and submit their understanding of what they had read. The fractions he awarded for tutorial assignments reflected how intricately he assessed his students, and it revealed his own scholarship. A scholarship that he passed on to many. In the annual residence allotment marks and grades were important and were accorded a place in the wholesome assessment that went into a decision on whether or not a resident made it into residence the next year. Wholesome scholarship and not a mere knowledge of facts. That light of scholarship burns brightly tonight.
Dr Baker is no more. Malis and maharajahs will mourn him tonight. The many who came for the service at the Chapel today came because they were all drawn to a man who inspired them; a man who attracted them with the light that shone from within. Whether it was his famous teas, whether a reprimand for wearing shorts to the Dining hall or whether it a straightforward recommendation that he wrote, everyone knew that he did it all with love and a deep sense of service. That light of love and service now burns brightly in College. In and through each one of us.
There may be a darkness which abounds in the world but there is a light that burns brightly in St Stephen’s. That light has been burning now for a hundred and forty-one years, dispelling the darkness of the world, even if only a bit, and spreading from College. Tonight, that light got just a little brighter.
Prof John Varghese
24 August 2021