Why blame Thampu when he batted for Unmukt Chand first!
Valsan Thampu, the Principal of St Stephen’s College, was pronounced guilty of attempting a Lasith Malinga on India’s young cricketing prodigy. In a cricket-crazy nation, he was branded the spoil sport for derailing young Unmukt’s case for gaining the right to take the BA Programme First Year (Part-2 exam) of the University of Delhi (DU).
Nearly a week after these columns unveiled the attendance problems castling India’s new batting sensation, the case generated so much storm that millions seem to want a revision of guidelines to enable world-class sportsmen to pursue their degrees. So much so that DU Vice-Chancellor Dinesh Singh has issued a suo motu promotion for the talented cricketer!
Prima facie legal infirmities of that notwithstanding, it begs the question: was Thampu the villain for leaving Unmukt in the cold?
Now most commentators and anchormen are impatient people. They obviously don’t have the time to read the rules: that Unmukt’s short fall in attendance was beyond the discretionary powers vested in the Principal of St Stephen’s, and exemption, if at all, could only be done by the Vice-Chancellor. [Unless, of course, Thampu had decided to fudge the attendance anyways.]
But back to the cryptic question.
Was Thampu the villain? Was he that cricket-hating maniac who is out to screw up the nation’s next Tendulkar?
The answer lies in a hand-written application and its trail of notings from Thampu, DU V-C’s office, and other DU-crats.
Here’s the sequence:
On Saturday, May 5, 2012, Unmukt applied for permission to take his BA Programme 2nd Semester Exam, his application, addressed to the Vice Chancellor. This was backed in writing by Thampu’s endorsement. I quote:
“Dear Prof. Dinesh Singh,
Manifestly a deserving case. Strongly recommended and forwarded for favourable consideration.”
For those familiar with bureaucratic notings, this is as strong a recommendation as there can be.
What happened next?
The application was received in the Office of the Vice Chancellor on Monday, 7th May and marked under the initials “DS” to the Registrar. Do we imagine the initials are for the V-C, a true-blue Stephanian himself (Prof Singh didn’t just excel as a Math student there, he taught in the college for several years)? I don’t know.
Unmukt also carried his hand-written plea to the Dean, Student Welfare (DSW). He employed a true-blue babu’s gambit:-
“DSW, may please see”.
Not to be outdone, on the same application, the DSW wrote to DR (Academics) that the plea be “processed as per rules”.
To DU’s credit, all the notings were through within May 7, 2012 and the, I would suspect, rested there! The DU recommendation didn’t get past Thampu, as it was apparently under a citation where Thampu didn’t have adequate powers.
Meanwhile, the star player was totally exhausted and left for a camp in Bangalore, having to drop his first paper.
Unmukt’s family, losing heart, filed a petition in the Court (WP2922/2012) on May 15, exactly after a week.
I would stick my neck out and argue that Thampu didn’t just act, he acted in time, in fact, at least well before Arnab Goswami woke up to Unmukt’s fate.
Why is the jury still out on whether Thampu displayed sufficient compassion and to help a sportsman? If at all, has he been unfair to other students similarly “short” of attendance, albeit chasing less glamorous sports? By-the-way 15 other sportmen, similarly barred, still don’t know the fate that awaits them.
In Goswami’s formulation, “Rev Thampu, the Nation wants to know!!!”
Now that netas like Kapil Sibal and Ajay Maken have decided to flood the Yamuna with their crocodile tears, the Math whiz has the thankless job of balancing illiterate expectations and breaking the news on how young non-Unmukts will be handled. Also, there’s now a monthly register of attendance that DU demands from Colleges. With Unmukt’s exoneration, is that system as good as junked? Will there be a new guideline on sports attendance, if so will it include private tourneys like the IPL? Frankly, with Unmukt in the clear, the “nation” doesn’t care for these dull and boring detailing. I bet, so doesn’t Arnab!
Tail Piece: There was some worry among Stephanians that Arnab’s alma mater, Hindu College, might make an offer for Unmukt to walk across. Such offers have worked in the past. But Unmukt’s “I love St Stephen’s” tweet settles that!
Disclaimer: The columnist read at St Stephen’s in 1985-88 and serves on the alumni trust.