Fergusson College magazine hits a century

The 100th issue of a Pune, India university magazine reflects on the past, contrasts with the present

The Times of India
Tuesday, July 21, 2009

By Kalyani Sardesai

One day in the distant future, as Nupur Nanal, Kaushal Kulkarni, Mruga Gandhe and Umesh Nikam, all undergraduate students of Fergusson College, look back on college life, chances are that one memory will stand out. All four of them were part of a teacher-student editorial board that brought out the uber special 100th issue of the college's annual magazine, 'Madhyam'.

An exercise they cherished simply because it helped them appreciate the finer aspects of their alma mater even more. "The connection has become more emotional," says Nupur.

For, not only did the experience involve collecting and compiling of articles and the layout of text and graphics, it also required them to delve deep into the archives for old pictures and articles. "Take, for instance, the annual magazine issue of 1961 which also coincides with the 75th year celebrations of the college," says Sunita Gupta, faculty member of the department of sociology. "It contains articles on the quality of education by the legendary social reformer, D D Karve, who had also served as the principal of the college. He argues for the need to do away with the perception that mass education and quality education are incompatible with each other."

While there are several articles that are testimony to the scholarly bent of mind of that both teachers and students possessed in those days, there are several lighter entries -- redolent of the bitter-sweet nuggets of living and learning in college. "I particularly enjoyed the 'Diary of a woman student' as narrated by a student in an era when girl students were not that common. The writer had a wicked sense of humour, as is evident by the article," says Gupta. Sure enough, the article is replete with witty potshots at fellow students, made all the more hilarious by the fact that the comic observations are cloaked in formal, old-world language.

Marathi lecturer Rupali Shinde, another member of the board, points to some thought-provoking articles in the older issues. "Fergusson College has always had a much-cherished tradition of debate, and this is evident in the range of subjects taken up -- be it reflections on whether women ought to act in plays or the importance of education for women, in the form of a dialogue between brother and sister."

Rajendra Mahamuni, head of the department of photography, who served as editor for the issue, enjoyed the process, because it brought him closer to his students. "It's interesting to note the difference between how students of today think, as compared to students of yesteryears. Today's youth is more pragmatic than idealistic," he says.

The 100th issue is a painstakingly put-together read: from elaborate listings of departmental activities to essays and poetry to articles on the college's first woman graduate, and the three generations of the Kosambi family who taught at the college; a newly added social outreach section that lists the socially relevant initiatives undertaken by the students in the year; not to forget the archival section called 'A 100 years ago', with articles in both Marathi and English from the older issues of the magazine.

For their part, the students thoroughly enjoyed the process of sorting out old photos and magazines. "We have juxtaposed the old and new pictures to tell a story of contrast and change in the 'Then and Now' section of the magazine," says Umesh. "Like, the annual gathering of 1894 next to a snapshot of the annual gathering in 2009; a play in progress then, as against today's performances, so on and so forth. In fact, earlier this year, there was an exhibition of old magazines and photos."

Principal Ravindrasinh Pardeshi concludes: "Apart from being a student-teacher effort, it serves as an important interactive tool by giving a detailed account of various activities. What makes the 100th anniversary issue even more special is the fact that it coincides with the 125th year celebrations of the college."