Saturday, September 24, 2011

Back to Sainik School - Day 2

September 24 was a momentous day in the history of my alma mater -- the day when 20 former teachers were felicitated during a programme called Guruvandanam, by the school and the Old Boys Association as part of the school's golden jubilee year. The senior-most teachers, who are now over 80 years old, joined the school right at its inception in 1962.

Pending construction of the 500-acre sprawling campus, then defence minister V K Krishna Menon laid the foundation stone at the Pangode military campus in Thiruvananthapuram. The school moved to Kazhakootam, about 20 km north of the capital in 1964. Much of the present campus was forested area. A few years ago, quite a lot of the 'waste land' was handed over to the Kinfra (Kerala Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation) by the defence ministry. I feel sad that the forested area has now been barricaded from the school. As kids we used to go to those areas as part of childhood adventure and boast about having seen the 'pond' where tigers used to come to drink water!

Alumni meetings began in 1969!

Alumni meetings are now common, thanks to easy networking. But Sainik School's Old Boys Association was formed in 1969. Every year the OBA has been meeting, usually in June-end or early-July. In those days, forget mobile phone, there were no proper landlines even. All the networking was done by post, usually through the card, which during those days cost 10ps or so.

On 24th, the programme began with laying of wreaths and lighting of torches in memory of departed alumni and teachers. We all then moved to the auditorium, where the Guruvandanam programme began with a presentation: 'Down the Memory Lane"; then followed presentation of mementos to the former teachers. Some of them made short speeches recalling their days in the school and offering inspirational thoughts to staff and students. This was followed by a musical programme by a troupe led by an alumnus, in memory of late P C Satish Chandran, former director of All India Radio. After lunch, former students and teachers got together for informal interactions. In the evening there was a friendly volleyball match between alumni and school teams.

Kazhak bonding

What sets Sainik School apart are the quasi-military routine, a team of very dedicated teachers and administrative staff; and the extra-curricular activities. The invaluable formative years spent together in the campus have created a strong bonding among the students and the alumni. There are now Old Boys Association chapters in almost all cities of India, and many cities abroad. The Kazhak spirit is something we all can bank on any time. Recently, when I had an occasion to travel to Japan on an official assignment, the first thing I did was, like many others who travel to a new place, to put out an e-mail in the alumni e-group asking if there is anyone there. And there was; Prageeth, many years junior to me, working as software engineer in Osaka. And thanks to him, I was encouraged to extend my stay to take a holiday and tour places like Hiroshima, Kobe and Kyoto.

After tea, my father and I moved to the residential quarters side of the campus. I went to B-2 quarters, where I spent the first 23 years of my life, from 1965 to 1988. This is one place I never miss when I come to Sainik School. As usual, it's always very emotional. The pathways, roads, culverts, drains, trees, houses and other buildings, doors and windows – everything seems to have a story to tell. I spent some half an hour near B-2. We spent some 15 minutes in the house. I paused occasionally as a long train of thoughts passed through my mind.

Those two days seemed like some 20 years; gave me a feeling as if I had been to an entirely different world; an enriching and reinvigorating trip.

(Photographs will follow soon)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Back to Sainik School - Day 1

Had an emotional trip to my alma mater -- Sainik School, Kazhakootam, Thiruvananthapuram -- this evening. My last visit to the school was in 2007. As part of the school's golden jubilee this year, all former teachers are being felicitated tomorrow at a function called Guruvandanam, organised jointly by the School and the Old Boys Association.

On the eve of the function, today evening there was a lec-dem of Manipuri dance forms by a SpicMacay (Society for Promotion of Indian Classical Music And Culture Amongst Youth) team led by renowned dancer Darshana Jhaveri. Couldn't believe that she is 71 years old! She explained patiently and elaborately the history, traditions and customs associated with various dance forms, as members of her group demonstrated. It was as much entertaining as informative.

At the end of the function, when I sang the national anthem along with the school students and others in the auditorium, it made me very nostalgic, reminding me of the same routine in the very same auditorium, during the eight years in school.

After the function, we all went to Kazhak Club of the alumni association for dinner. It is located near St Xavier's College where I did my graduation. The route we took was the very same one I used to cycle my way to college for three years. Nothing much has changed during the past 26-29 years. In fact, there has been very little change anywhere except that small stretches of roads have become broader, and a few big shopping complexes have come up. The only place where there has been a major change is Kazhakootam junction, 1 km from where is the Techno Park.

During the day, I met a number of my teachers. It was an emotional moment. For all of us students, Sainik School has a unique place in our hearts, the place where we spent our formative years from Class 5 to 12. It was a more than a school. The quasi-military routine and the extracurricular activities played a crucial role in moulding us. Teachers did more than teaching, and we students learnt much more than what was taught.

Looking forward to tomorrow, the day of Guruvandanam.