Thursday, 31 July 2008


The English Association, Madras Christian College, kickstarted its Association activities for the Academic year 2008 -'09 with the Inaugural Address by Mr.Frederick Kaplan, Public Affairs Officer and Acting US Consul General, USIS, Chennai. Excerpts from his Address:

It's nice to see people giving a lot of value and importance to Literature, when lots more are worried about earning money. My fourteen-year old son asked, "Why study or read literature? Will it get me a job? My reply to my son and to others gathered here is that, literature is for pleasure, for sheer enjoyment, and secondly, it is there to instruct you.

The anthropologist or psychologist may discuss human experience, but literature presents life appealing to our feelings and senses, recreating experiences. "If you ask me what books one has to read in order to understand India, I'd suggest reading novels, rather than history or academic texts. By opting for a career in Literature, you're spending your time wisely and enriching your life in the process," he opined.

When I think of your country and mine, the word 'connectedness' comes to the forefront. In my job, I practice 'public diplomacy' a diplomacy that reaches out directly to people across schools and universities. Indians and Americans are always connected, today more than ever and probably even more tomorrow.

When President Bush visited India in March 2o06, he decided to open a new consulate in India at Hyderabad, at a time when we've been closing down on our Consulates the world over in the last 20 years, and that is because we have a lot in common. There has been collaboration in Academics, Agriculture, Science and technology, including the historic agreement on civil and nuclear energy.

A small example is Madras Christian College's partnership with Davidson College, USA. That's one example of how Americans and Indians work together without any governmental interference.

It's amazing to see people from India coming over to the US and vice versa in large numbers. We process 1400 visa applicants per day at Chennai - that gives you an idea of how much people travel from Chennai to USA. Roughly 3500 visas from the country are processed per day, amounting to a million visas a year. I attended the University of California, and at that time there wasn't a single student from India, but now there are thousands from India.

Vinod Khosla and Sabeer Bhatia studied in India and started huge companies. While the former founded Sun Microsystems, the latter developed Hotmail. One in every seven Companies in the US is founded by an immigrant from India. Even in politics, Indians do remarkably well. Bobby Jindal is a case in point.

Americans are getting Indianised without knowing it at all. Cremation was virtually unknown in the US thirty years back. But today, more than a third of the Americans are choosing cremation rather than being buried. Also, yoga has become popular in the US since the 1960s. Turn on any TV station and you can easily learn yoga.

He cited Thoreau as an example of the interconnectedness between India and the US.

So, reading Literature shows that we're all interconnected and the lives and destinies of the people in US and in India ar connected. Those who read and understand human connectedness would never succumb to extremism or terrorism. When we see that we are all together in this adventure called life, we'll all live together in peace and in happiness.


In his vote of thanks, Dr.V.Rajagopalan, our beloved Head of the Department observed,

In a few minutes of phatic interaction between Mr.Kaplan and the Principal (Dr.V.J.Philip), Mr.Kaplan came up with several literary ideas that made me so happy that I came to the conclusion that an American diplomat is primarily a humanist before he is anything else.

He said any human being should know the literature of his own country before he learnt the literature of other countries. He also stressed the Eliotian idea of seeing holistically about the literatures of the world. He is very much informed about Thoreau, Emerson and Gandhi. He also said that he was advising his son to read great classics.

Lastly, Mr.Frederick Kaplan, we want to tell you we are thankful for your meaningful presence and address by stinting your time . We want to thank you through the via media of one of Shakespeare's characters who says, "beggar that I am I am poorer ever in thanks." The raison d etre of this inaugural has been completely vindicated by your wonderful inaugural address.

Performances by our students followed the inaugural.

In Dumb Charades, that ensued, the freshers from I BA English and I MA English were split into four teams based on their respective months of birth. It was a neck-to-neck contest, and finally, the results tally thus:

Team I (Jan, Feb, Mar) bagged the Third spot clicking 38 seconds,
Team II (Apr, May, June) got the Second spot clicking 26 seconds, while
Team IV (Oct, Nov, Dec) bagged the First slot clicking 17 seconds flat.
Team III (July, Aug, Sept) scored the fourth place with 68 seconds.
Freshers then introduced themselves to the English Department Family.
Dr.Ganesh, President of The English Association, then delivered the common Vote of Thanks.
Credit goes to the beloved students of our Deparment, especially the office bearers who made the occasion a very grand success. They will be acknowledged individually by the President himself very soon.

The program ended at around 12.30 p.m with delicious lunch for everyone.
P.S: Snaps of the Inaugural will be posted soon, once we get hold of them.

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