His situation was such that he was working in Jabalpur but his family was living in Indore. However, I received a warm welcome at his home. Being Diwali I was expecting some festivities with a visit to a nearby temple, but it was a great surprise to see the unending fireworks that lit up the sky late into the night! It was my first visit to the city and like a proper host, Jagat showed me the sights around town. Two places stand out. One is a palace with French and English influences and the other is ‘Chowki Dhani’. His hospitality was great. It was the first time in over 20 years I had celebrated Diwali like this. Usually here we used to visit a family from Allahabad/Indore, do the Shree Ram ‘aarti’ and have dinner. Here it is illegal to burst firecrackers. Oftentimes, being of a commercial inclination, they set up a huge ‘mela’ which is mostly sales/exhibition. But one can still buy a good painting, clothes jewelry and, of course, have Indian snacks.
On Nov 15 ’04 Jagat and I took a train from Indore and landed in Madan Mahal station the next day. We were met by Babulal, alias Prabhir Mitra, for whom I was carrying what I call expensive plyers! It was early morning. Little by little I met them all. First of all I was struck by the change in some of them. I remembered their faces from a long time ago. It is a trick the mind plays. They too would be wondering at my change, right? I met all kinds of people – my old classmates from school and college, others who were ex-college, and school and college teachers. I will stop the reunion stuff here and move to the years at school.
My dad was in the Ordnance factories service and in ’67 he got transferred to Khamaria, near Jabalpur. This is his second posting in the area, the first being GCF where he was till ’62. So after moving we had to find a school for me. I remember when I went to SGHS how they tested me. They gave a set of questions to answer and I remember ‘Godavari’ was the answer to one of them. There was also an ‘interview’. I was anxious how my test had gone, but I was admitted. In those days there were very few houses near the school. One could look out and see open land outside. Ditto for the area behind the school. Here is a list of teachers who taught me that I remember. Br. Joseph, Br. Bosco, Br. Gilbert, Br. Frederick, Br. Justin, Br. David, Mr Shrivastava, Br. Paul, Mr Sharma, Mr Dinkar, Mr Choudhary, Mr. Khare, Pandit sir, Mr Mehra, Ms Khera, Ms Usha, Ms D’Souza, Ms Pathak, and many more. There was a young Englishman visiting, was it ’68? I don’t remember. Later, I wondered what prompted him to come to SGHS.
Br. Joseph was our 8th grade class teacher. With him we went to the yearly picnic to Khatau(?) with a truck lent by Barkat’s dad. We had great fun with all rolling around! Gooseberries (amla) along the river bank were a hit. The next year it was Bargi Tank and then Burno Tank? I do remember seeing the movie ‘Aradhna’ starring Sharmila Tagore and Rajesh Khanna in ’70 after the picnic.
Ms Khera, who joined SGHS in ’69, always used to be dropped off at school by her husband, riding pillion on his scooter. It used to be a Vespa. Barkat used to come to my place to play badminton. I remember one prank played by him. One day in Ms Khera’s class he brought a rose. I am sure he was playing with it innocently when all of a sudden Ms Khera caught him! She gave him a good scolding. What was he doing? Only he knows! She was very strict. I was scared of her, for you know, she would require her home-work on her desk as she walked in. If not, get out! I remember another drama associated with her. Once she stood us all in a line and asked us a question. As to what I don’t remember. She told us to speak the truth. An act of hypnotism followed. We thought we were invincible and she was not able to find out. Here is another prank. In ‘71 her whole class bunked to watch the newly released movie ‘Purab aur Paschim’ starring Manoj Kumar and Saira Banu! But she is what made us all we are today. Hats off to her! The last I spoke to her was in ’05 when she was in Pune.
Simultaneous equations used to scare me in the 8th. So would titration because I thought the end point could vary. Hope they have some sort of ion sensor now-a-days to determine that. But Br. Frederick who taught us Chemistry was very kind. He even helped me do a science project involving photography which is when I was able to coax my dad to get me a camera. It was an Agfa Click III. He taught me the basics of photo development.
I did the NCC program at school. It was the naval corps, so were dressed in white for the evening exercises. Even though tough I remember eagerly waiting for the snack at the end of every session! There was a wiry instructor barking at us to straighten up. The camp at Gwallior stands out in my memory. It was a 10 day event ending just before Diwali in ’69. The camp site in Gwallior was beautiful with a lake nearby where we practiced rowing and took other routine classes. I remember weighing myself at the station before and after the camp and discovering I lost 5 kg in the camp!
Mr Shrivastava was our Hindi teacher. Why we called him by the nick name ‘chussad’ I can’t recall. He used to have dreamy liquid eyes. Mr Sharma also taught HIndi. I remember he made a joke with the song ‘Aaj maine ladki pasand kar li …’ He was tall and had sharp features. It is a pity that with such teachers I find I have not studied the language enough. I am OK with any conversation but it is the reading that I think I missed. Other than one Gulshan Nanda novel, I don’t remember reading any Hindi books. But more than this, I did much injustice to Sanskrit and Pandit-sir who taught us the language from 8th to 10th. I always had the question in my mind what is the need for ‘avam’ in ‘aham, avam, vayam’, that is, the use of a separate word representing two of anything. It is not so in English. Today I wish I had learned Sanskrit more diligently for so many of our ancient texts are in it. The ‘Manorajyam’ story stands out clearly over the years.
Mr Khare had been our Math and Physics teacher. He was strict. One day as a punishment he made us all go out to the ground, kneel on our knees and crawl! That was very hard! I must have been overweight. I saw some sprinting across.How many of you remember the movie we all went out together after 11th? If you said ‘Kati Patang’ you are right! That pretty much ended my association for the time being with SGHS when I went to do Engineering in the nearby Govt. College. But I remember my days with SGHS and the subsequent reunion fondly. I will always hold those memories dearly in my heart.