Last Day At College

Annapoorani K.H., I Year M. Sc. Chemistry.

Every single year,
This month arrives,
This day arrives.
With it comes sadness;
And, a little hope and joy as well.
What is the day?
It’s the last day at college.
Sunny and bright,
This day probably looks the same as the rest;
Yet, the day doesn’t feel the same.
Today, we will say goodbye.
To close friends,
To memories,
Teachers and yes, even classrooms.
Today, the loneliness of future will strike us
Like a knife to the stomach.
The pain is there,
But the joy will override it.
Where does the joy come from?
After all, we are saying goodbye
To all things familiar.
It is the unknown that brings the joy.
To be man is to hope;
So, when thought of the future comes,
There’s not just fear but also, joy.
Today, we bid adieu to all the familiar
And throw our arms open to a future,
Always hoping for the best!

Restaurant Review: Backyard

Feel the Anti-café Vibes

Mathangi N. M., II Year B. A. English.

Have you ever been content just sitting at a table in a coffee shop but felt the stares of all the waiters silently urging you to leave so that the next customer could take your seat? Well, we bring you good news: you don’t have to be in that situation anymore.

Founded by two young architects, Akshaya Chittybabu and Nithya Fernandez, Backyard, is a cozy establishment tucked within the heart of Adyar and is the key to the above mentioned problem. Sitting on a comfortable seat beside the founders, with the air conditioner turned up against the heat, we begin by asking them about the concept of an “anti-café”. In the words of Nithya Fernandez, it is the reverse of a coffee shop. “In a coffee shop, you pay for a coffee and spend a certain amount of time there whereas here, you pay for the time that you spend here and get unlimited coffee.” When asked about how the idea for this venture came about, they speak about their respective research thesis on co-ideation and storytelling which, when put together, lead to the creation of Backyard.

The place has a diverse customer base, from musicians strumming their guitars to older people looking for a chat. When asked what children can do at Backyard, Akshaya replies that they mostly head straight for the blackboard tables the moment they eye the chalk. She went on to say that it wasn’t just the kids who grew excited but even adults and when they were creating something, they usually couldn’t stop. “I can show you pictures of sketches and doodles that we have seen and we don’t know who did it and they are so good that we do not want to erase it,” she adds. Stressing further on the theme of the anti-café, they speak about how two groups of strangers met at Backyard, played a game and went back to their work which is quite unlike a coffee shop experience where one isn’t too keen on speaking to the person at the neighbouring table.

When asked about the connection of the anti-café with architecture, they tell us that architecture has more to it than just drawings and buildings. While the anti-café was not structurally unique or designed from scratch, every other aspect of it, from the themed walls to the fluffy cushions, was intrinsically designed. “For us, this is Architecture. And in the small space that we have we just try to put in our concepts here and there,” says Akshaya.

While on the topic of space, the question of branching out pops up to which both of them enthusiastically respond in the positive, saying that they would definitely expand. Would they probably employ more people to manage the place? Nithya responds saying that it was a conscious decision to not employ a lot of staff. The concept of an anti-café was that one needn’t be “waited” upon. An intimacy between a waiter and a customer could never be established and that contradicted the very crux of an anti-café especially when events such as story telling happen; one could hardly stand up and speak in verse in a rigid café setting, could they?

Finally, we speak of the food at Backyard which one must note is prepared by private home bakers. Now why do they have contracts with home bakers and not more popular food outlets? They respond by saying that when they were creating a platform for different people from different fields, and thus they thought why not do it for home bakers as well as there were a rising number of them and also because they do not get the publicity that they need and deserve.

To anybody who tires of being a step away from getting kicked out of a coffee shop, remember the word ‘Backyard’ and get your feet there and meet two enthusiastic young women who would gladly welcome you into their space.

[Photograph Source: The Hindu]

Restaurant Review: Writer’s Café

Your Next Meal and Your Next Read

Uma Madhu, II Year B. A. English.

Writer’s Café, at Peter’s Lane, Chennai, is a delightful experience. Whether you are a lover of food or books or just unassuming hospitality, the half-a-year old café situated a little way away from Sathyam Theatre, has a lot of joy to offer. The ambience is calm, pleasant and relaxing. Shelves and shelves of books surround the café on the ground floor. You are free to stroll around and browse the impressive collection while you wait for your food. You could also unwind and relax to the soft music that flows gently from the speakers, or the hum of happy conversation and clinking cutlery.

The food is warm, delicious, and reasonably priced. The crispy, thin-crust Margherita and the various flavors of refreshing iced-tea make for a perfect late lunch. Among the mains, the Chicken Schnitzel, served with mushroom sauce with a side of fries and vegetables, is a popular favorite. Besides these, there are delicious skewers, warm, filling toasts and sandwiches, a few varieties of Pasta, and of course, an array of dessert items, of which my personal favorite would be the rich, creamy chocolate mousse.  Of course, the sweet, familiar politeness of the staff is a flavor on its own. You are greeted with a friendly wave and a “Hi!” and rest assured, they will remember you the next time you come around. And the food is just one half of the experience.

Up the narrow stairs you find what can only be described as a book lover’s haven. The bookstore upstairs has an impressive collection of Literary Fiction to Thrillers and Romance to Non-fiction. The store offers an extensive collection of Indian authors. The store also offers stationery and art supplies. Comfy couches, tables and chairs occupy the space which isn’t taken up by bookshelves. What with the free Wifi offered, it becomes a perfect place to work, write, read and relax. In fact most of the regulars here spend weekends from opening to closing hours bundled up on one of the couches, working or writing, headphones to block out what little noise there may be. Something unique about the café is that even in the busy, bustling afternoon hours, there is a sense of calm and serenity, a sort of effortless efficiency with which it functions.

Proceeds and employment in the Writers Café go towards the support of burn survivors. In fact, they make up the entirety of the kitchen staff. The café offers a kitchen tour to anyone who is interested. Perhaps it is the strength of this vision and compassion that really sets it apart from many other concept based cafés in the city.

So the next time you need a place to satisfy cravings of the gastronomical or the literary kind, or simply a place to “chill out” and give yourself a well deserved break, or even a place to cram for that test or get that assignment in order, you know where to go. It’s books and food, people. When has that combination ever gone wrong?

[Photograph Source: hungryforever.com]

Adieu, Democracy!

Shrishti S, III Year B. A. History.

In February 2017, Finance Minister Arun Jaitely made an astonishing move by capping the donations that political parties receive at Rs. 2000 to make the system of political funding more transparent. In this war against corruption, all parties are now supposed to accept funding only via digital platforms with appropriate records. Parties are not required to reveal the names of individuals or organizations making any donation below Rs. 20,000. But they need to mention them in the Income Tax returns. An average Indian citizen would have been more surprised by this move than at their own surprise birthday party.

All that glitters is not gold, and as the rain stopped, green meadows were replaced with mucky soil. Mr. Jaitely, much like the party-pooper at said surprise party, announced an amendment to the Companies Act, 2013 to remove the cap that barred a company from donating more than 7.5 per cent of its average net profit in the three immediately preceding financial years to a political party. It also removed a requirement that made it obligatory for a company to disclose in its profit and loss statement the name of the party to which the donation has been made. So, it’s a weak armour against corruption, rather like a bottle of Nimbooz – does not contain real lemon juice; it is artificially flavoured.

“This means, for example, that an infrastructure firm could theoretically pay up to 50 per cent of its net profits to a single party, as donation, without anyone getting wiser as to which party has been paid… this throws open the possibility that an order to build a highway or a railway bridge could be given to a firm and that firm could pay the donation to the party in power which placed the order with it,” said a senior official with the Comptroller and Auditor General’s office. Audit statements issued by companies will just state political donations, without mentioning the party to which the donation has been made.

This ‘innocent’ amendment made it to the Finance Bill 2017 in Section 182 of the Companies Act, 2013. It says, “in sub-section (I) – (a) the first proviso will be omitted”. While this seems an innocent deletion of a section, in effect it removes the cap on political donations which till now stipulated that the aggregate amount contributed by a company in any financial year shall not exceed 7.5 per cent of its average net profits in the preceding three financial years.

Usually, legal provisions in India are mere words on paper. However, this move was an open challenge to democracy, as companies can affect both the public support and the financial funding of political parties in turn for their vested interests. Transparency is nothing but a concept under the broad, cracked aegis of democracy. The government has taken the concept of blind justice much too seriously. The scales weigh money while the government cannot see who is weighing it. As we usher the new budget for the year 2017-2018, the writer bids an unfortunate farewell to democracy.

Club of the Month: Event Management Club

In conversation with the office bearers, Lavanya John, Immaculate Trishia Santhus and Vridhi Khanna.

Shakthi Bharathi, III Year B. A. English.

Whether it’s enjoying a plate of steaming bajjis or cheering passionate OAT performances on, celebration injects vibrancy into the monochromes of college life. But how many of us spare a thought for the faces behind the glitz? As the key players in the organisation of almost every function on campus—from the memorable Chennai-86, Rewind 90’s and first ever Horizon to the lesser known Non-Teaching Staff Day and Project Woods—the EMC is the poster club for dedication.

Their eclectic roster of duties is undertaken by various committees—be it the snazzy backdrops whipped up by the décor kids or the design squad’s innovative, often meme-based promotional content. They have a creative team that brainstorms thematic ideas, a division dedicated to sponsorship and funding, and more. This well-oiled functioning is no easy feat.

“With over seven hundred members we’re the most populous club but only a fixed group is active. The others rarely turn up, either because they lack enthusiasm or aren’t keen on sacrificing their time,” reveals the Secretary/Treasurer, Trishia.

President Lavanya John, says, “Another huge problem—and I’m sure it’s the same everywhere—is that people back out at the last minute and we’re left scrambling for replacements. It’s a nightmare.” She goes on to talk about the coaxing and cajoling involved in getting procrastinators to cooperate.

In light of their strength and the necessity of constant communication, the office bearers are all praise for social media. The EMC has several WhatsApp groups filled with event heads, registration heads and volunteers. Unlike most clubs which have a clear majority of one shift over another, the EMC’s network is spread out indiscriminately. Thus, timings are often tricky to negotiate and not everyone can afford to attend the meetings in person. Online, they’re kept in the loop with a smooth exchange of information.

It is the EMC’s unbridled passion for their craft that keeps them fuelled through these obstacles. “It’s so much fun putting together events, running around and getting things done. There’s definitely a case of the jitters every time an event begins but seeing your efforts come to fruition… there’s nothing more satisfying,” says Lavanya.

Trishia adds, “One thing the club gives you that’s unparalleled, is the vast amount of people you get to meet and interact with. Because the EMC has roots within all departments I’ve made friends with those I wouldn’t have had the chance to know otherwise and that’s amazing.”

This year, the EMC added traffic and crowd control to its list of achievements. A common issue during functions is the audience’s blatant disrespect for the entertainers. People walk out in the middle of dances or songs, generate little response and often don’t bother giving these guys a chance. The EMC might not be able to change the latter two but they ensure that the crowd is kept attentive enough to not distract those on stage.

Another new laurel on the lapel of this club is their involvement in the creation of promo videos for various events, particularly by Trishia who is quite proficient at video editing. They’re the Student’s Union’s staunchest helpers and as M. H. Monica, Cultural Secretary Shift I, says, “a constant source of support whose assistance we’re grateful for.”

[Photograph Source: John Lavanya]

College Day Celebrated by Honouring Students

Mercy Johny, II Year B. A. English

As the academic year 2016-2017 is slowly drawing to a close, the 70th college day was yet another day of celebration at Stella Maris College on the 4th of April. Parents and friends trickled in, hoping for some respite from the heat, but nevertheless looking forward to watch the program. The day began with the Invocation and the prayer song then proceeded to the presentation of the Annual Report by the Principal, Dr. Sr. Jasintha Quadras, the main highlight being the extension of the status of autonomy and the praise that the college received for its various programmes, especially the introduction of the research programs as well as alternative courses for students.

The report also highlighted the different achievements of the college, ranging from the activities of the NCC and NSS students to disabled students succeeding in their very own way. The teachers were also praised for their work in different areas of research and work. The workshops and programs held within campus were also mentioned, and a special initiative that was spoken about was the Changemaker Initiative which was introduced during this academic year.

Overall, the awards and the introduction of several programs were the main focus of this report as the Principal concluded and, ensuing this, the retiring staff were brought on stage, as 9 teachers were felicitated for their dedicated work and contributions toward the betterment of the college.

The Chief Guest presiding over the function, Shri. Ashok Sajjanhar, former IFS officer, took the opportunity to  emphasise women’s empowerment and education. This was followed by the prize distribution for students who had received proficiency awards and the cultural programmes following this sparked the interest within the audience as they watched the performances by different clubs in awe.  Finally, to bring the program to a close, the college song and national anthem were sung as each student departed with a sense of pride and happiness.

[Photograph Source: Stella Maris College Official Website.]

Shades of Nature

A Look at this Year’s Wall Paintings in Stella

Sreenidhi Venkat, III Year B. A. English.

The Stella Maris compound wall got a fresh coat of paint upon it! Out with the old and in with new! Here’s what the students from the department of Fine Arts (Third Year) have to say about it.

“Most of us haven’t painted anything this big before. Painting on a large scale is not something we do often,” says Roshni Kumaravel. She also added that the college collaborated with Gallery Veda for this project and hence it has taken on a larger scale. There are 30 panels which include 15 murals and 15 quotations about nature. “The wall gets re-painted every four years. I think it’s done that way also so that each batch gets it turn to paint it,” adds Bianca Joseph.

The paintings revolve around the theme ‘Hope for the World’, focussing on the beauty of nature and the destruction on it caused by mankind. Rhea Fabian added, “There are panels featuring Cyclone Vardah and the Chennai floods. The idea is to use simple visual messages to sensitise the public on the importance of protecting the environment we live in.”

“It is traditional folk art,” said Bianca. “We hadn’t done any artwork using this style before so I enjoyed learning it. It’s a lot of detailed work.” All were also of the view that any artistic experience is worth having and Rhea also added that this project, being the biggest she has worked on, taught her how to work with a large number of people. “It teaches us how to accommodate a large number of people without compromising on uniformity,” she explains.

    The painting began two weeks ago and was completed last Monday, the 20th of March. “Do take a look,” Bianca urged. “Everyone who volunteered has put in their best and we hope the end result is satisfactory.” Well, it looks great to me! The Fine Arts Department certainly has done their best. Do take a take a look for yourself!

Union Day: Students Union 20167-17 Says Goodbye

Gowri S., III Year B. A. English.

Union Day, the last official event hosted by the Students Union 2016-17, was held on 15th March 2017 in the OAT and marked the culmination of this eventful academic year leaving the students in an emotional high. The event officially declared the end of the term of Union 2016-17 when the office bearers passed the baton to their successors, thereby announcing the beginning of a new term.

The program began with the General Secretary, Cultural Secretary and the Treasurer presenting their annual reports for the year. The meticulously prepared reports spoke of the various cultural events that were held in the college and the achievements of the college with regard to the cultural activities. This was followed by the swearing-in ceremony of the newly elected representatives who would form the next Union. Sharline Richard took the oath as the President, Immaculate Trishia as the Vice President, Anitta Jason as the General Secretary, Atulya Jessy Mathew as the Treasurer, Swetha Thomas as the Cultural Secretary Shift I and Sangeetha Joseph as the Cultural Secretary Shift II.

Ms. Abarna M, Vice President of the Students Union 1998-99 and a Chartered Accountant by profession, was the Chief Guest of the event whose words left the crowd with a lot of valid thoughts to mull on. She also congratulated the incoming and the outgoing Students Unions on their respective ventures. This was followed by the Chief Guest felicitating the Changemakers for their laudable efforts and innovative ideas. The best Changemaker award was bagged by Priscilla (I year, B.Voc.), for her unique idea and brilliant contribution to the Changemaker Initiative in relation to food processing. Also, the much anticipated award for the Club of the Year was won by the Photography Club for their notable and passionate contributions in the field of photography.

The Students Union 2016-17 was recognised as the best Students Union of the year in the city by Didar Motors in the event of the 86th birthday celebration of Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam. The event was concluded on a happy note with Students Deans presenting each of the Unions members through a guessing game which was followed by a fun dance performance by both the Unions.

The time of the year when the transition from one Union to the other happens, was thus very well celebrated leaving most of the outgoing students a tad emotional. As the newly elected Students Union geared up to serve the term, the Students Union 2016-17 bid adieu leaving an indelible mark on the minds of all Stella Marians.

[Photograph Source: Students Union 2016-17 Facebook Page]

Created, Connected, Changed

The Student’s Union 2016-17 Reflects On Their Year

Rochana Mohan, III Year B. A. English.

In conversation with the members of the Student’s Union 16 – 17 on the successes and failures that comes with being at the forefront of the student body.

The Student’s Union 16-17, comprising of Catherine Saranya, President, Kavya Ravi, Vice-President, Nikita Wilson, Secretary, Trishna Bhattacharya, Treasurer, Monica ‘Momo’ M. H., Cultural Secretary Shift I, and Shwetha Priya, Cultural Secretary Shift II, retires gracefully at the end of this academic year. Over the course of the year, Union 16-17 have made great strides forward in terms of student participation and activity. The members speak more on their year.

As SU 16-17, your motto for this year was Create, Connect and Change, with the intention to empower the students in a way. How did you manage to do this?

 Catherine: Our broad areas of concern, which was waste management, green environment, electricity and water, students’ physical and mental health, and women empowerment, which aptly suited our social theme, The Changemaker Initiative. We tried to ask students to submit projects – like we’d have friends suggesting that they want certain things to be done. Our idea was to give them a platform to launch these kinds of visions they had for the betterment of the society.

Kavya: I think we really tried to work towards being huge changemakers. We introduced the Changemaker event and have more Breaktime Events. It was all in the small things that matter. That’s how we worked towards our motto.

Horizon 2017 was the very first Club Day held at SMC. Can you tell us on the response from students, as well as the reasoning behind creating such an event?

Kavya: Horizon was a new initiative. We felt this was a really good opportunity for the clubs to shine. We all want the talent within Stella to shine, where our students get the maximum opportunity to showcase their talent.

 Catherine: We knew we would restrict ourselves if we only request the clubs to participate, so we got workshops to bring in more people and enhance the skill of students.

Monica: We decided that by having workshops and guest performances, we’d bring out student’s interest and each student will get an opportunity to learn something they wouldn’t have before. We also had the clubs performing and two external performances, to show them that we can go out that and these things can be done. We had about 15 workshops, which were a huge success. We had dozens and dozens of entries for the workshops, in fact, Folk Dance Club had over a 100 participants.”

Trishna: “Cultural activity is a part of our lives. Since we have ample number of clubs and their members in our college, we knew they were waiting to showcase what they have learnt over the course of the year.”

What were your motives behind the Breaktime Events conducted? To what means do you believe they were effective?

 Catherine: These events work in line with our broad area of concern, like self-defense for women empowerment. We organized around 12-14 Breaktime Events this year. These Breaktime Events ranged from workshops to fun games such as musical chairs and even a stand-up comedy routine by an in-house stand-up comedian. The Events were usually held in the Big OAT and drew in slightly sizable crowds of interested students.

Trishna: Now that we have two clear shifts and shortened break timings, it’s really hard to organize for an event in that limited time. We did try to best of efforts into making a break time successful, but unfortunately the results weren’t that fruitful. Interacting with the students was the sole motive of break time events and connecting with them. I guess because of limited time everyone just chose to stick to the canteen.

What about Aquillae this year?

 Catherine: Aquillae was originally scheduled to be on Deceber 10th [2016]. We had completed about 80% of the work involved for it, except the final decorations and backdrop. We even had an ad published in the Indian Express. Aquillae was cancelled three days before the scheduled date due to the passing of our Chief Minister, followed by Cyclone Vardah. We were then closed for the December holidays. When we came back, we were determined to have Aquillae, however, there is a rule that all collegial events must occur on a Saturday. The first Saturday of January was unavailable due to Pongal Celebrations, and the second Saturday had an Alumni Association meet. The Autonomy Review was also scheduled around the time of Aquillae, and it had been postponed twice already. We tried our best to make it happen but we didn’t have dates or a place.

 There have been comments on Student’s Union 16-17, with regard to your efficacy. A few people have the opinion that you are the least effective or active Union. What are your comments on this?

Kavya: It’s fair that some people felt we were ineffective. Personally, in terms of the events we conducted – Fresher’s, Interyears, Breaktime Events and Horizon – we introduced a whole new number of events and the kind of effort we put into these events was massive, which we are very proud of. We’ve taken the input the students have given us and although it’s too late to execute these changes, we’ve spoken to the incoming Union about our shortcomings in hopes they can succeed.

Nikita: That question depends upon the basis in which you call us ineffective. We were effective in promoting the vision and mission of the college through our activities. Those who involved themselves in different activities enjoyed what we did for them. And ultimately how effective your leaders are majorly depends upon how much you support them and participate.

What were your most memorable events this year, beside major events within college?

Catherine: There was this girl who walked up to me after Union Day and said, “Akka, you’re my role model.” It was really touching. I didn’t expect I would reach out to so many people like that. It made my day, it made my year, it made my life. Also, Horizon 2017 was that there was nothing to refer to, and we had to start from scratch. Every minute detail we had to think about. We usually have the reports from past Unions, but this one we had to do by ourselves.

Kavya: For me it would definitely be after we pulled off a major event and we’d be sitting in the Union Room feeling like bombs because we aced a particular event. Also how the six of us watch some K-Dramas or movies together when we are free. Whenever we’re with each other, be it working or not working, it’s a favourite memory for me.

Nikita: So many! We 6 bonded absolutely well. Watching K-dramas and singing and dancing to k-pop was killer, dancing to Kala Chashma, our last sleepover…there are too many.

Trishna: Oh there are many, every day was a new lesson to be learnt. It’s the team that made it so, so much fun. Be it watching Korean dramas in union room or horror movies, even getting caught for sleeping the Union Room turned out to be a fun punishment. My favourite moment would be any moment where all 6 of us are there working towards something, backing up for each other. I love them!

Monica: Oh, there is a huge list I can give you. We sat together and we did watch K-Drama – when we were free, mind you – and that really strengthened our bond. If any issues or problems cropped up, we would solve it together. If you can’t work it together as a team, you cant be a Union. It’s a bunch of people running like headless chickens. It’s because we were at the same wavelength and we worked passed our differences. Each birthday, we’d get a cake – we’d cut it, laugh and have a whole bunch of fun. We did these little things and we bonded. When people go through tough spots together, they can be called friends.

Shwetha: There are so many memories. At the end of the year, all of us are content, happy and hopeful that we created, connected and changed. We have provided opportunities od our utmost support to the students. Many students appreciated and thanked us. I feel it is the biggest gift of my college life.We made so many friends and I remember so many faces that helped me. I’m grateful for all the lessons I’ve learnt. All the union activities are my favourite events.

We will miss Cathy, Kavs, Niki, Trish, Momo and Shwey – the six amazing girls who led an equally amazing student body. As we bid adieu to the Union 16-17, the most colourful, approachable and motivated group of leaders, we welcome the upcoming Students Union and wish them the very best in their endeavours.

[Photograph Source: Students Union 2016-17 Facebook Page.]

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