Married to my High School

“Don’t expect me to get married to my High School!”, said my daughter in a moment of teenage angst.  “Why do you like your school so much anyway?” Why Indeed?

Could it have been that imposing building that I beheld in awe as I entered its portals the very first time?  The same magnificent building that I look back with nostalgia even today?

Could it be the motley crew of young, nervous boys who started off on the journey through school with me and with whom I forged friendships that are still going strong today?

The playground upon which I chased shadows of kites, played hand-cricket, hockey and football?

Swinging from the banyan vines next to the Grotto, playing Tarzan?

The ecstasy of getting a merit card on my very first weekly test and the agony of losing it when I realized that Mrs Carmelita D’Souza had made a mistake when she added up the marks?

Of the Junior Library where I started reading Enid Blyton and Richmal Compton and graduated to Franklin W Dixon?

The Senior Library where I continued my odyssey devouring Arthur Conan Doyle and Alistair Maclean, graduating with Larry Colins and Dominique LaPierre?

Widdys! The crispy samosas, mutton and vegetarian, stick jaws, bondas, burfi and the green peas which earned their reputation as farting tablets?

Fr Shenoy who strode like a colossus through my years there.  Who knew that behind that tough, gruff exterior lay a heart of gold?

Picnics to Pearl Valley, Nandi Hills and ShivaSamudram where the mainstay was the delectable biryani brought by my classmates Abdul and Saad?

Cheering for Patricks in the relay and yet realizing that there was no shame in losing to Georges, especially when there was a once in a generation athlete called Roy Lemos who led the charge for Georges?

American Khakis, white shirts, navy blue tie, navy blue socks and black shoes. Navy blue sweaters or blazer on those cold, foggy Bangalore December mornings?

Chants of “Whiskey, Brandy, Soda, Pop!  We want Josephs on the Top”?

Mr Alan MacBride under whose coaching we rarely lost a final in the Eric Vaz memorial and Centenary shields?

Silenced by MacBride’s stare in the library but listening to him play Trio’s “Da Da Da” during lunch in the library?

Wolfing down Masala Dosa at Shanbhag.  The reward for our efforts of bravely forming a cordon with our scout staves during the prize distribution following the Hockey finals?

Shouting “We want a Holiday!” after we won the Juniors and Seniors hockey finals  and savoring the holiday when it was declared?

Mr Brishen, who dipped into his own pocket to buy prizes for the winning teams during Winter Club?

The kindly Mr S.G. Bhat who initiated us into the world of sheet bend, bowline and sheepshank?

Scout camps at Annie Besant park with improvised skits around the campfire.  Watery “rasam” and rice cooked by the efficient Mali?

The grandfather clock in the office and the bell that was rung punctually by Matthew. Did it ever sound sweeter than when it tolled marking the end of the final exam?

Eric, Wilfred, Mathai and Matthew,  How did those gentle souls put up with our shenanigans?

Cycleman, how many students knew his name was Anthony and that he was an ace hockey player for the MEG Sappers in his prime?

Grinding red phosphorus and potassium chlorate in the Chem Lab and almost blowing my head off.  Chat levitated a couple of inches above his seat.  “I say, by grind, I meant mix it in paper, why did you use a mortar and pestle, I say?”

Priests with exotic names such as Biscaro and Calligaro?

Legendary teachers like Papa Yates.  When I messed up during club swinging practice, he asked me, “Is your head stuck in a pot of glue”?

Swing, Half Swing, In Swing, Gloria, Underarm and Maze.  We remembered the order as SHIRU GOB GC HUM LM, or something to that effect.  Did you have the guts to say “Ball Swing” when Papa was in earshot?

Mass PT, Figure Running and Club Swinging.  Pop and Bun for our efforts.  Less than a buck but did it taste better when it is free?

The gifted athletes, strutting their stuff on sports day?  Cheering for Josephs in the final inter-school relay?

Fr Arthur Rasquinha wielding the baton with aplomb and beaming with pride when the audience cried “Bravo” or “Encore”.  Is he conducting a band in the happy sports ground above?

Listening in solemn silence to the Last Post as the school flag was lowered?

Boarders, I look back in awe.  How did they stay away form their families at such a tender age?

Mrs Jagan’s music class,  “Bachelor Boy”, “Jamaican Farewell” and “Fernando”.  Were we singing or braying?

Latin terms such as “Fide Et Labore”, “Honoris Causa” and “Victor Ludorum”?

Learning about Moraines, Eskers, Scree and Drumlins and thinking it was irrelevant.  Who knew that I would find them in my backyard today?

The teachers over the years, do they know that we still remember them with mostly fond memories?

Monday morning assemblies, prayer of St Francis of Assisi followed by “Ring Out the Battle Call of Duty”?

ICSE!  It struck mortal fear in our souls, did I realize at that time, that it would be the most interesting exam I would ever take?

Holderness and Lambert, DN Kundra, David and Spiers, Charles Farrow.  I could not wait to get rid of those textbooks and yet at that time did I know that I would go back decades later and purchase Panorama and Goh Cheng Leong and reread them?

Knowing even at that time, that I was privileged to receive such an excellent education?

The refectory with its paintings.  I never ate there during all my school years.  The only time I ate there was on OBA day – 1998. A breakfast of Eggs and Sausages in the refectory followed by Biryani and Beer for lunch at the multi-purpose hall. Was that ever a typical Indian meal?

Meeting a gentleman in a British Airways Flight at London.  Discovering he was an old boy, seventeen years my senior and yet feeling as though I always knew him?

Classmates of mine from Bangalore as well as those that visit from other states or drive down from other parts of the state for reunions when I’m visiting home?

The WhatsApp group banter that makes me feel as though I’m back in school again?

As is my wont, I had lapsed into a reverie. My daughter who no doubt was  used to this irritating habit of mine had returned to the comforting company of her iPhone.  I smiled with a faraway look and replied “I don’t know, I’m not sure you would understand.  But I did have the time of my life”!

This picture of my school was taken by me on a visit home in September 1998 just after the school had conducted the Sports Day. The building has since been demolished and a new one has been built in it’s place.


6 thoughts on “Married to my High School

  1. Picking up Indian badams next to the garden, bottling guppies from the garden in the water bottle only to realise they are tadpoles after two weeks, Wednesday clubs, swimming pool

    1. Tarun – I had forgotten the badams and the tadpoles. There were also the “kaka” sweets and poly mangoes sold by the hawker at the entrance of the school. Thanks for sharing your memories!

  2. These memories, so indelibly etched into our brains, are still a source of cerebral excitement for all of us. To our children, however, they are just the foreign-sounding names in the stories that they have heard repeatedly and which don’t have as much significance as they do to us!
    A beautifully written story Raj! It expresses your appreciation for the multi-cultural background to which you were exposed during those formative years.

    1. Thanks, Dan, I was indeed fortunate to study at my school. The building and the teachers are mostly gone now but I’m lucky to still have the company of my friends.

  3. Rajesh – you capture emotions that a lucky few can truly understand and appreciate. Glad to be in your company and proud to be a Josephite.

    1. Thanks, Everette – I have fond memories of our lunchtime football, scout camps and many other adventures in school.

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