OUR COLLEGE TRADITION AND LEGACY
Today marks the 150th birth centenary of the Mahatma. “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon the earth” was what Albert Einstein said of Gandhiji after his assassination. Today, a hundred and fifty years later, Gandhiji’s life remains an inspiration. Especially to us at St Stephen’s.
Educational institutions have a crucial role in preparing leaders for the future but leadership is not something only in the future. Leadership is also what we do now and, in that sense, it is the practice and constant refinement of a set of value-driven exercises. Every moment offers itself as an opportunity for honing our leadership skills. Even silence is an opportunity to become better, become a leader. Gandhiji’s life is a fine example. His many spells of silence often brought peace and sometimes solutions to a strife-ridden nation. We must learn from the Mahatma. Our leaders must be trained to choose between right and wrong. Our young people, the future leaders, must be made to understand that doing one’s duty wholeheartedly for its own end is sacred. The Bhagvad Gita says as much. One must even be prepared to give one’s everything including, sometimes one’s life for the truth. Just like Gandhiji did. The College crest symbolizes just that. The crown of gold will be given to those who stand for the truth.
Today is an especially good day to look back at our lives so far and see how truthful our lives have been. How steadfastly have we held on to what is right and just and true? Have we kept the faith and are we working towards that crown? Or, have we sold our souls to any number of distractions that come our way? We have to make choices. Wise choices. The inner voice of our conscience will guide us in making these wise choices. Gandhiji was someone who was guided by that inner voice. We too, can use that strategy to help us make wise decisions.
Choices imply exclusion. When we choose, whether we like it or not, we must, of a necessity, exclude several other things. That is the nature of making a choice. We cannot have it all. We may prevaricate or sometimes even sell ourselves to what is not right, just or true, but if that happens then we are simply going with the crowd. One among others in a characterless and faceless crowd. That is not leadership. Leadership is the ability to exercise one’s moral, social and ethical judgement. In both our personal and professional lives. We must choose wisely. Just like Gandhiji did. That is wisdom. That is what an education helps us do – choose wisely.
Mahatma Gandhi paid several visits to College. Principal Rudra encouraged CF Andrews to persuade Gandhiji to come to India and lead the freedom movement. There is even a photograph which hangs in my office from when he visited College in 1915. Gandhiji made his choices and he made them well, guided by his own conscience. It is now our turn. Several generations of young men and women have been educated at College and are now in positions of power. Currently another generation is in College and these future leaders are looking up to alumni, and others as role models. It takes courage and strength of character to look evil in the eye and say “No! Not for me. I am a Stephanian”. There are opportunities every day to choose what is right. Why, there are even opportunities to undo the wrong choices of the past. There are opportunities, every day, for every Stephanian to choose wisely and earn that crown. What will we do?
Principal Rudra and CF Andrews helped Gandhiji make the right choice. If I am able to nudge all of us, especially Stephanians, to choose what is right and just and true, then I would have continued the tradition of our College, for that is our legacy.
Prof. John Varghese
2nd October 2019