Gardener's Son Begins New Chapter in St.Stephen's 133-year History

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New Delhi:  This year has been one of making history. A tea-seller became the prime minister of the country and now a 21-year-old youth with a Hindi educational background has become the student-president of the capital's elite St.Stephen's College - opening a new chapter in its 133-year history.

Rohit Kumar Yadav, the son of a gardener, has grown up in the institution as his father stayed there and pruned the lawns of the college. Yadav's simple, down to earth persona doesn't fit in with the elitism and snobbery associated with this institution.

Popularly known as "R.K. Bhaiya" in the campus, his popularity can be measured by the fact that students come out and shake hands with him when he walks through the portico of the college.

"I have made history, so I want more people like me to come and lead an institution of such stature," a humble Yadav, dressed simply in jeans, t-shirt and slippers, told IANS.

Declining to recount any incident of having to face snobbery, Yadav smiled and said, "I had some problem adapting in my first year due to English, but I was lucky to have good friends and teachers who supported me. Since then life has been a smooth sail."

Founded on Feb 1, 1881, by members of the Cambridge Mission to Delhi, St. Stephen's College was initially affiliated to the University of Calcutta. After a year it was affiliated to the University of the Punjab, Lahore. Later it became one of three original constituent colleges of the University of Delhi when this institution was founded in 1922.

In his childhood, Yadav lived in the college campus for a couple of years. He was sent to his grandmother's house in Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh when he was in Class 5.

Though living far away, Yadav recollects how from the very beginning he always wanted to "be a part of this institution".

Having cleared his Class 12 board examination from Allahabad with 65 percent, it was smooth sailing for Yadav to get admission into St Stephen's that is synonymous with cut-offs as high as 98-99 percent.

"The college has provision for giving admission to the children of teachers and staff; so I easily got into it," he added.

Standing for the college presidential debate had always been in his mind.

"Since the time I got into college I was very determined that I would speak at the Open Court and fight for the post," said Yadav, who is pursuing his B.A. programme.

With the institution having a culture of Presidential Debate like in the US, Yadav broke the tradition of English debates by making his speech in Hindi and even answered five questions posed to him in the same language.

"I am comfortable speaking in Hindi, so I did. But the language one wants to speak is very personal and it should not be a part of anyone's agenda to enforce it," he said when asked about Hindi becoming the lingua franca of the country.

Certainly students must have liked him, as he stood victorious in the presidential election with a whopping 134 vote margin.

Not just the present batch of students but several alumni have also Rohit Kumar Yadavet and congratulated him.

"Congress leader Shashi Tharoor and former election commissioner S.Y .Quraishi have also tweeted about me. You can imagine how happy I must have been," he said.

Tharoor, who was president of the institution in 1975, said in a tweet; "As a Stephanian, I'm proud of Rohit Kumar Yadav, and of St Stephen's!"

While Quraishi tweeted: "Something very right with India if army chief is a subedar's son and Stephen's president is a gardener's."

Yadav said, "When I told my parents after becoming the president, they did not believe me."

Yadav, an ardent cricket lover, is the eldest son of gardener Harish Kumar.

"I love watching and playing cricket very much. While playing once I broke my little finger because of which in Class 12 I had to change my stream from science to arts," he narrates.

Describing himself as an introvert who wants to do social work, Yadav clearly has no political aspirations.

"I have not thought about getting into politics. For now I know I want to pursue masters in Political Science," smiled Yadav and raced for his class.

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