Stella Through The Ages

Jerusha Christina Jose, III Year B.V.A. Fine Arts.

Being a normal third year student in Stella gives you an interesting perspective; you are now carriers of wisdom and advice and have watched yourself grow. In your two years, you would have witnessed quite a few changes such as the extension of the main block to H and A block, the addition of the momos to the canteen, the rise and fall of the satiety value of Dahi Papdi and what not. We can pride ourselves for knowing all the things we know. Sure, we’re aware of what’s happening inside Stella now – rules, traditions and more – but hold on, I have a surprise for you. Do you have any idea what happened on campus before we landed up here? Well, grab a bag of popcorn, and let’s go.

Phase 0            

I was planning to talk about my great-grandmother’s life as not only a Stella faculty, but her batch was the second to study in Stella. This was a time before the campus was where it is located now! But the poor 87 year old darling doesn’t remember much.

But she does remember a time when Sister Helen Vincent was the Principal, a very strict and intimidating one too. But seriously, right now does she look like that? She seems to be a sweet, harmless lady but I guess time changes people (come on guys, she is adorable).

Phase 1                             

We now travel back in time to around 40 years ago. To be more precise, 42 years ago, when my grandmother was once a teenager entering the portals of Stella Maris, eager to study the course of her dreams which kind of became a family tradition – Fine Arts. Paama (as I like to call my grandmother) always loves talking about her days inside the institution which has now become a family haunt (Yup, you guessed it, my mom and my aunt studied here too.) In order to size Stella up chronologically, I decided to pick her brains to fully comprehend what Stella was like in the 70’s. So 70’s, here we go.

Buildings – Imagine walking in into a magically circular array of paintings and artwork each speaking of a different student’s mind map and not paying a penny. Yup, the B block’s wooden staircase (please tell me you’ve been to the B block) served as a background/hanging space for the Fine Arts students to display their course work. And just so you know, B block was originally the obviously artistic home to the Fine Arts Department.

Watch Lady – I know we’re either terrified, empathize with or mock the ‘watchman lady’. But back in Paama’s days, there wasn’t a Hodor (got the Game of Thrones reference?) to guard the gate. In fact, the only thing which guarded the gate, the precious portals of Stella Maris was a mere iron lock. Since the poor lock didn’t have eyes, our ancestral counterparts, just as cheeky as us (if not more), fell into the habit of jumping over the then pretty short walls and escaping to freedom.

Dress code violations? I think not – back then, students were allowed to wear pretty much anything be it sleeveless or crop tops, jeans or leggings (wait, I am not sure if leggings were even a thing back then; but my point is, anything and everything was okay.)

Classroom learning – Be grateful to technology and to the guy who invented LCD projectors. For back in the day, teachers would carry around a fat textbook to show pictures to explicate or simplify her lecture.

Canteen Food – Apparently parents, back then, were not in the habit of  throwing money at their children. So eating in the canteen wasn’t an everyday affair and when a milk bar with ice creams and flavored milk opened up in the canteen, my grandmother and her friends would save up money for over two weeks to buy one ice cream.

Wild beasts – Paama says the only creatures that used to roam Stella were a bunch of overfed fat cats. So the annoying crows are a recent evil.

Last but not the least, attendance – a surprise to my grandmother and a shock for me, Stella was not so strict with their attendance requirement back then. Perhaps they don’t trust us enough. Well, that’s with good reason. I don’t trust us enough.

Phase 2

Now we land in Stella during the progressive 90’s. My mom and my aunt often talk about the various traditions and the rule structure of the old Stella just to taunt my sister and me.

Firstly, let’s talk about the attendance – 75%, but super flexible.

Gates rules – They got super lucky; no watchlady, no locked gates. You could walk in and out as you pleased.

Dress codes –They had an insane fashion show going on in campus. Students wore clothes which were completely in style – bellbottoms, bubble skirts – you name it, Stella in the 90’s wore it.

Back Problems – I know I sound like an idiot, I just mentioned back problems. But have you seen your classmates and college-mates lug around a laptop bag and a Hercules-style burden of books? My mom still laughs when I carry ten bags to college. Back then, they carried a fancy, mini handbag with a five subject notebook in their hands trotting down the Stella pathways like bosses.

Carbon paper – How many of us run to the DTP centre right before the CA/ end semester exams? I know I do. My mommy dearest and her classmates if needed notes would replicate the writing using the carbon paper we now see only in bill books.

Traditions and Union events – Sure they had what we have today: Retro day, Pongal, Onam, Ethnic day, Union day. But what they had which we don’t were: Turban day, Mismatch day (when they actually wore mismatched clothes; which we kind of do every day.)

Most importantly, for the hungry college soul, food – An abundance of North Indian food was served. What happened? Did we turn Desi into Madrasi? We should really bring back North Indian food. I really could use some Chola Bhature from time to time.

Stella through the ages has seen a lot of changes in rules, in food, in tradition, etc. But the one that has and will never change is us. We will always be proud Stella Marians. Sure we complain about its stringent rules but we secretly pat ourselves on the shoulders, for it took us quite a lot to get in and to stay in, not only in the college but in this community. We will always take pride in our Alma Mater (*sings College song chorus*.) So live on, Stella, you will always be in our hearts.


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