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Back in the boys’ school, through the stages of life

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Memories of a boy, of life on the campus all of 50 years ago, that made men out of him and his mates

As I take a fork-full of masala dosa at the Tajmahal Hotel at Abids, and tuck it into my mouth daintily, memories of the morning chapel service in the nearby Methodist Boys Higher Secondary School, where I studied, flash before me, and I almost stand to sing “In all things be men”, which was our school motto.

Fifty years have passed and still I behave like a schoolboy whenever I am near my school. I smiled to myself, much to the amusement of other customers.

One of the most reputed schools during those days, our school boasted of (and still boasts of) a huge football ground (bigger than the Gymkhana Ground), two basketball courts, a kabaddi court, and huge peepal trees dotting the periphery of the ground. When bored with the school routine, we used to shin up these trees to escape into the hotel’s lodging foyer, down the steps, pool our money and feast on the crisp masala dosas.

Lunchtime was chaos. We used to hurriedly finish our lunch. Lot of eagles would hover above. We used to tie a thread to a piece of paper, put a piece of roti crumbled on it and throw it up in the air. Whoosh, the eagle would snoop down and pick up the roti, leaving the paper and thread dangling like a parachute. After this, we used play kabaddi and football till the second bell rang out.

Our vice-principal, Mr. Gladstone, would stride down the steps with a bamboo cane as big as himself. Hurriedly we would gather our bags, rush into the maths class, streaking with sweat and grime, and avoid Mrs. George teacher’s exasperated eyes. When not playing, we would sit on the steps of our school and play pranks, especially on our English teacher, Mr. Padma Rao. He was a tall guy, rustic, and used to also take NCC classes. We used to find some perverted delight in ribbing him. All we had to do was call out his name, of course in a group, like “Rao, Rao, Padma Rao”. He would abruptly stop and give us a stern look, which would be ignored. But someone or the other would give the game away with a titter. The floodgates open, and the chase starts. We run up the high school Mathews Mansion steps and take a plunge, two at a time, down the middle school’s Parker Memorial steps with our English master breathing down our necks, till some feeble, out-of-breath fellow is caught. The red NCC boot will land smack on his behind.

The big bell

As evening approached all eyes would be on the huge brass bell. Ganta Ramulu, as he was known, would cover his ears with one hand and strike the gong. Three thousand-plus boys would stream out of the classrooms, as if possessed by the devil himself, raising red dust. It would put a sandstorm in the Arabian desert to shame.

Out of school, we would hunt for any money left. There was this stout, roly-poly man with bright colourful lungi and skullcap. He used to come on a bicycle all the way from Barkas. We could play pranks with our teachers, even cheat on them, because they loved us and indulged us in our mischief. But we could not cheat this fellow. Though there will be so many grimy hands rising, he knew which boy had paid and who hadn’t. Hats off to him.

Today, in spite of the concrete structure where once a hostel stood, we your old students remember you, Methodist Boys School.

I will still stand as in the morning assembly, shed a silent tear, and with a voice choked with emotion sing, “We love our school dear MBHS, to thee we pledge our loyalty. In all things be men our motto be, wherever we be, air land or sea.”

Yes, my beloved school, and my dedicated teachers, you taught us, guided us and instilled in us to be men in all circumstances.

ajohnselah@yahoo.com

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 7:39:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/back-in-the-boys-school-through-the-stages-of-life/article19699462.ece

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