A topper in class with ‘A’s, an ace runner in the 100-metre and 200-metre races, reserved but determined. Jayalalithaa was all of these as a student of Bishop Cotton Girls School (BCGS), Bengaluru.
The reminiscences flowed freely at a memorial meeting for the departed leader held at her alma mater on Wednesday, with one speaker who competed with her in the classroom and race track narrating the anecdotes.
“If anyone could match Jayalalithaa, it was her,” said Dorothy Sampath, referring to Alice Jesudian, who, like the late Chief Minister, was an ace student and sprinter. Jayalalithaa studied in BCGS from class 2 to 4 and returned for a brief period in class 8.
She was a topper and a good runner, often running the last leg of the relay race for her school house, Barton. “Barton House would cheer loudly for Jaya, and we, from Foley House, for Alice,” said Ms. Sampath.
“Jayalalithaa could be mischievous but she had her head firmly on her shoulders. She got straight ‘A’s. We would ask her, ‘Jayalalithaa, what grade did you get? And she would shyly say ‘A’,” Ms. Sampath recalled.
She was reserved but determined, keen to do well. There was also a playful side to Jayalalithaa, said Girija Shankar, who studied with her in class 8. “We had a Burmese teacher who couldn’t remember all the Indian names, so instead she would look at us and thunder, ‘You girls!’ Once, when her back was turned, Jaya puffed her cheeks and mimicked her and we all burst out laughing. The whole class had to stay back and write lines because of her mischief,” she said.
Ms. Shankar lauded Jayalalithaa’s rise in a male-dominated field at a time when “feminism wasn’t all the rage it is now.” The current principal, Lavanya Mithran, and former principals Stella Samuel and Elizabeth Joseph, also went down memory lane.