Chennai

From the verandahs of a 79-year-old school

As the Children’s Garden School in Mylapore is set to turn 80 in a few months, its former students are re-living its past

In 1936, Dr. V.N. Sharma and his wife Ellen Sharma relocated from Germany to India, with a noble motive in mind. The couple established a government-aided school in the heart of Mylapore in 1937. The Children’s Garden School started its journey with a class of seven students. Today, it has over 4,000 students.

It was Ellen’s mother, Alvin, who inspired them to start a school. Passionate about children and education, Alvin was running a school of her own in Germany. She was deeply influenced by Tagore and Dr. Radhakrishnan.

Keen on starting a school, Dr. Sharma landed in Germany where he met Ellen. He was impressed with the mother-daughter’s commitment to providing child-centered education. Soon, after the birth of the couple’s children, Alvin persuaded them to move to India.

With the school set to turn 80 on September 7, 2017, the alumni are now connecting with each other on the Facebook page, created for all the former students of the school.

Many have unearthed their old, grainy images from the past and through these, they are giving each other a tour of their school days.

Four multi-generational alumni took us through the corridors and classrooms of this 79-year-old school.

Sulekha Patankar

I was bitten by the travel bug at a young age. I have travelled all over the world. And I owe this to my favourite teacher Sharadha. She taught me geography. Through her teaching methods, she instilled in me a love for geography.

I also fondly remember my dance master Shantalakshmi. She was a lively person who could make a stiff person like me dance. She motivated me to join the Girl Guides.

One of my best memories of the school was the tiny class of five non-Tamil students that I was a part of; it was not an English-medium school then. Our classes were conducted on the veranda of the school, on the chipped mosaic flooring. At times, gardens and huts made from pillars and thatch also doubled as classrooms. We used the small, slant-top desks of the type that Mahatma Gandhi used.

A long slide with 30 steps, monkey ladders and sand pits were our haunts.

Memories of India’s Independence Day celebration at our school are still fresh. I bought flags that I still treasure. I also recollect the atmosphere at the school when Gandhiji was assassinated; a pall of gloom had descended on the school.

Children’s Garden School marks the happiest phase of my life.

Haripriya

In the 1980s, I joined Children’s Garden School as a Grade 8 student, when my family shifted from Andhra Pradesh to Tamil Nadu. On the first day of school, we were full of apprehensions. A week passed and we soon realised that the school was like a temple. We were not allowed to wear slippers to the classroom. We welcomed this practice.

Children’s Garden School gave considerable importance to arts and culture, inspiring students to push the limits. Nalini Ramani, our music teacher, gave us the first opportunity to sing on stage. She recommended our names for a concert. Everybody went gaga over our performance, and that’s when we realised that we are good on stage. I was also a state-level cricket player, thanks to my sports teacher Suguna. She was extremely strict, which worked to our advantage. She was responsible in putting us in various sports activities.

It was a free atmosphere. If we did not prepare for our tests or complete our homework, our teachers would not reprimand us immediately. They would try to find out the reason we had failed to complete our homework.

We were fortunate to have performed at out alma mater for its 75th anniversary celebrations. We performed there not as professional singers, but as former students of the school.

(Haripriya is one of the Priya Sisters, eminent Carnatic singers)

Radha Shyamsundar

I am a proud alumna of Children’s Garden Higher Secondary School in Mylapore. I had the privilege of studying at this school from Grade Two to higher secondary. I am a scientist by profession and my passion for science can be traced back to my school days. My school fostered my interests by providing the right tools and environment. I wouldn’t be what I am today without my school and my teachers. I owe my professional success to all my teachers, especially Mrs. Shyamala, Mrs. Karpagavalli, Mrs. Jayalakshmi and Mrs. C. R. Vijayalakshmi. They are among the biggest influencers in my life.

Hari Ramani

I fondly remember the experience of going to the school's crèche as a child, along with my brother and mother Nalini Ramani, who was a student in the 60s and later became a music and dance teacher at the school.

Three memories about the school are etched in my mind — the Jungle Jim and the slide on the sands that was the favourite spot for all children; the morning prayers with songs and hymns including multi-faith prayers; and most importantly, the morning greeting smile by Shakuntala Sharma, the correspondent (fondly called Shakku Akka). The students, teachers and even the parents have never failed to get her wishes, every morning, till date.

(Hari Ramani, who lives in Bengaluru, runs the school's Facebook page which has more than 2,300 alumni members)

Famous alumni

* AVM Saravanan of AVM Productions

* R Seshasayee, chairman, Infosys

* Mohini, actress

* Srividya, actress

* Adhilakshmi, lawyer

* Punya Srinivas, veena player for A.R. Rahman and Illayaraja

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 12:07:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/From-the-verandahs-of-a-79-year-old-school/article17102930.ece

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