If the Delhi University is amongst the premier educational institutions in this country, it is primarily because of the contribution of some of the teachers who not only helped shape the destiny of students but also laid the foundation of excellence.
The list of such luminaries is long, and in an attempt to identify some of them, many may get left out, not because of an oversight but on account of the huge numbers. Teachers both in the university as well as in colleges have left their mark and therefore any omissions are totally inadvertent and not meant to deprive anyone of their rightful place.
Prof Frank Thakurdas, of the famous Thakurdas family of Lahore and fondly referred to as “Uncle” by his students and junior colleagues was one of the most admired teachers who taught western philosophy and drama. Associated with the Kirori Mal College and the Political Science department, “Uncle” was a major influence in the lives of so many. Cine star Amitabh Bachchan, actors, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, T.P. Jain, V.M. Badola and Shyam Arora were all his disciples.
His residence on the K.M. Campus was an open house for anyone to walk in and have a drink with him in the evening. He would regale everybody present with innumerable anecdotes from his illustrious career.
Prof] Randhir Singh of the Political Science department was considered to be an authority on Marx and was amongst the founders of the Left movement in the Delhi University though later on he fell out with many of his associates. However, there is no denying that his classes in the arts faculty were attended by maximum students, many of whom would come prepared to prove him wrong, something they could not do.
Prof Bhisham Sahni, younger brother of thespian Balraj Sahni and former president of the Punjab University Teachers Association was one of the most respected teachers of the university and Delhi College where he taught English. An author who also wrote in Hindi, he was revered by even the most notorious students who would never ever do anything objectionable in his presence.
Arun Bose was a member of the politburo of the undivided Communist Party and one of the most illustrious DUTA presidents. His articulation and knowledge would leave all those who came in contact with him spellbound. Both as a teacher activist and as a scholar, he excelled.
Prof Sydney Rebeiro, till recently the dean of the alumnus affairs of Delhi University has had a long association with his alma mater. A committed teacher, he helped the authorities to put together the history of this great institution and also record the contribution of its students and teachers towards society and the country. If the DU authorities in the centenary year wish to confer honoris causa degrees on distinguished alumni, he should be up in the front.
The university had legendary Vice Chancellors from Sir Maurice Gwyer to Dr C.D. Deshmukh, V.K.R.V. Rao, K.N. Raj, Sarup Singh (he was the first DU student to be selected for the post), Moonis Raza and V.R. Mehta. There were many famous principals as well, such as M.N. Beg, Sayed Ahmed Ali, B.M. Bhatia, W.S. Rajpal, G.S. Randhawa, Rajendra Prasad and G.P. Chopra.
Amongst the administrators, Delhi University should always be grateful to K.N. Thusu, the former Registrar and Madan Mohan, the Controller of Examination and later Registrar as well. They and many others, helped in ensuring that the sanctity of the DU ordinances and statutes was never infringed while they held office. Such dedication is not easily found these days.
Two deans, Mohinder Singh and A.S. Kukla, left an indelible impression on the affairs of the university. Kukla, as Dean Students Welfare shaped the careers of many student leaders including Arun Jaitley and Sudhanshu Mittal. His friendly approach helped the university to resolve many contentious issues.
Mohinder Singh, on the other hand, was a nuts and bolts man, who knew the university working like the back of his hand. Without him, vice chancellors felt inadequate. As Dean of Colleges, he regularly briefed the media on the happenings on the campus and helped defuse many crisis-type situations.
The DUTA has always been a pillar of strength. Besides Arun Bose, it has been headed by Kumaresh Chakravarty, O.P. Kohli, Zahoor Siddiqui, Murali Manohar Prasad Singh. S.S. Rathi, N.K. Kakkar and Shashwati Majumdar amongst others. The DUTA movement also produced Prof V.P. Dutt, Kiran Walia, Yogesh Gondal, U.S. Mathur, Inder Kapahi, Rajendra Pawar, R.M. Kohli, S.S. Goyal and many other illustrious activists.
The DU evolved with the assistance from the departments which had many iconic teachers. Prof Seshadri in the Chemistry department, Prof Maheshwari and Prof Mohan Ram in the Botany department, Prof Nagendra in the Hindi department, Prof Ganguly in the Psychology department and Prof Wahiyuddin and Prof Ansari in the Philosophy department wielded a lot of academic influence.
It should be mentioned that St Stephens College was Delhi University’s most famous college and there was a time when the Indian Civil Service had many of those who had graduated from the portals of this esteemed institution. When the college celebrated its centenary many years ago, the then Vice Chancellor had commented that Stephens was an example where part of the whole is perhaps larger than the whole meaning it had more clout than the university itself.
The role of teachers, administrators, karamcharis and students have made the Delhi University what it is and without the combination of all these factors, nothing could have been achieved. Delhi University has a long way to go in its journey. Between us.