The Class of 64 of Government Model Boys Higher Secondary School meet at the school today to inaugurate the renovated Manual Training Building

There is a spring in their step and a boyish enthusiasm as they walk into the sprawling campus of Government Model Boys Higher Secondary School. The classmates walk briskly around the school to the rear of the main building, take a detour and stop in front of a whitewashed, tiled building. As they open the door to the building, the stories come pouring out as if the door has opened the gateway to memories when all of them were teenagers in the early sixties.

“This is where we used to have classes in wood work. It used to be called the Manual Shed. We used to make rulers. The equipment here was all imported from the United Kingdom,” says K. Chandramohan, one of the classmates of the Class of 64.

On the eve of a get-together of 70 of their classmates, the friends are in a nostalgic mood about their student days in the prestigious school that was begun in 1903.

“We finished our class 10 in 1964. After that all of us were busy building careers and homes but we kept in touch. It breaks our heart to see the state of this heritage campus, which has produced some of the greatest names in Kerala in different walks of life,” says Shanti Kumar Damodaran Pillay.

Two years ago, when the friends visited the campus, they were appalled to see the dilapidated buildings and certain additions that were made without taking into consideration the architecture of the existing structures. “The Manual Training Building, which we used to call the Manual Shed, for instance, had a temporary structure covered with a blue tarpaulin. Cars were parked there. It was such an ugly sight. The teachers were struggling to teach the students as rain was pouring in through the roof. The fact is that even with such poor infrastructure or none at all, the students have been winning prizes for their work. All of us were keen on doing something for our alma mater. As a beginning, we decided to renovate the Manual Shed without deviating from the original style or demolishing the structure,” remembers Chandramohan, an architect.

Fortunately, the classmates were able to put forth their plans to a Principal who was able to understand the importance of the effort to conserve the campus. Thanks to Shaji, the present Principal of the school, they were able to get working on the building.

The result is a pristine whitewashed building that is lit up by rays of sunshine falling through the slatted windows around it. The red tiled roof still rests on rafters that have been holding up the roof for the last 100 years or so. It was all assembled together but for one or two rafters that had to be replaced. Polished yellow oxide gives the floor the patina of age. Built at a cost of Rs. 9 lakh, the building is a proud reminder of how team work can yield results.

“Look at these vices that have been here since we were kids,” says Leon Mohandas, pointing out the name of the English company that made it. “We used to clamp the pieces of wood with this to work on it,” remembers Shanti Kumar.

In the meantime, Chandramohan goes to an old writing desk with an attached chair, tries to open it in vain and says, not without some regret, “All of us used to sit on desks like this. Now I doubt if there is even one left. We could open the lid to keep our books inside. On the sides of the desk and the chair, you can see the symbol of the club carved into it,” he adds.

In fact those writing desks are the emblem of the alumni association of the ’64 batch of the school.

Buoyed by their success in renovating the Manual Shed, the classmates plan to submit a masterplan for the school to conserve the heritage buildings on the campus and prevent any ugly alterations or additions. The main building of the school, a magnificent example of European architecture, was built in 1910. “We were horrified to know that one of the buildings that is more than 100 years old was earmarked for demolition. We would like to prevent such steps and conserve this space for posterity,” adds Santhi Kumar.

Back to school

* Today, the Class of 1964 meets at 10 a.m. at the Assembly Hall of the school. The renovated Manual Shed will be inaugurated by three teachers who taught them in the same school. S. Peer Mohammed, P. Damodaran Nair and K. Sreedharan Pillai will open the building for a new generation for students.

* Some of the classmates who made a name for themselves are Vinod Thomas, independent invigilator of Asian development Bank, spiritual leader M, cultural activist Soorya Krishnamoorthy and former ambassador M.K. Bhadrakumar. All of them will be present on the campus to revive their ties with the school.

* The Archaeological Survey of India is renovating the building that was built for C.F. Clarke, the first Principal of the school who used to stay on the premises. By the sixties, the building was locked. “We used to call it the ‘Bhoot Bungalow,” says Shanti Kumar, as his classmates burst into laughter.