My School Days in Kellett High School
As the name of the school suggests, it is a ChristianMissionarySchool. During that time Mr. Baines was the Principal of the school. I think he was a missionary because I remember that he was wearing a missionary’s white collar. He was presumably an Anglo Indian and had a real or affected Englishman’s accent.. Every morning there was a prayer assembly and a teacher named Mani used to lead the boys in Tamil Christian songs. Even now I remember some lines from those songs. He had a bass voice and the boys used to call him Gantashala after a famous Telugu playback singer. As I had opted for the Engineering stream, we had classes in Engineering Drawing, Carpentry, Electricity and the other general subjects like science and mathematics apart from Tamil and English periods. My memory takes me back to a Turning Works shop in front of our house in Madurai where I used to hang during my free time watching the workers using the lathes and drilling machines. I learnt the rudiments of my specialized subjects in my school and I used to remember the vices and files and hacksaws in the Engineering classes, the carpenter’s plane and things like dovetail joints in our carpentry class. There was a teacher in our school who was thickset and paunchy who was nicknamed The Bear. I remember one instance one day when he as usual was leaving school on his bicycle and one of the miscreants set off a cracker which when hit on the ground with some force explodes with a small explosion. The teacher was unnerver, got down from his bicycle, checked the tyres for any puncture and then saw the grins and smirks on the boys passing nearby. He found the urchin who played the mischief on him and gave a good hiding.
I remember two instances when teachers passed away during the tenure of their career. One was an Iyengar who taught history. Once when we all came to school in the morning, the school authorities had declared holiday for the day because Mr. Iyengar died of heart attack while at home while he was in the toilet, of all the places to die. He was a good orthodox Brahmin and his family must have felt the loss very heavily. The other instance was of Mr. Martin who taught us English. He was in the Teachers Rest room and while coming out of the rest room, he stumbled , fell flat on his face, breaking his spectacles and breathing his last at the same time.. His bereaved family must have given him a proper Christian burial.
You would have observed by now that I am talking of everything except my studies and performance in the examinations. The simple reason is that I was not a very remarkable student and the only subject I liked was English and Poetry. Nor did I excel in sports and extra curricular activities. You would by now formed a hazy picture of me as a school boy; just wandering in and out of classes and getting promoted by a fluke or the kindness of the school management. Really it was not that bad but I was always a mediocre student. I had not yet started my smoking habit which happened only a few years later.
I had never given a thought about our school buildings at any time before this moment, but on retrospect I believe my school inMadurai was quite large with good class rooms and a big playground. The Kellett
High School had good buildings but a very modest playground. That is perhaps the reason that I played games like football and Kabaddi while I was in middle school but left sports and games alone from my High School days.I remember that I always studiously avoided going anywhere near the Principal’s or Headmaster’s office rooms. And when while moving around whenever I happened to pass any teacher I cast my eyes down and given a picture of concentration so that no teacher will glance at me. The only class where I interacted with the teacher was the English periods. I liked English and I could understand every word that passed my teacher’slips. Whenever the teacher asked any questions to the students in general I had answered mostly and correctly.
The evenings were usually spent playing with the boys of our street . I was a very timid fellow those days and I haven’t changed very much even now. I had been the targets of rowdy boys and the atrocities of rival groups of boys. I don’t remember when I picked up the habit of going to the Marina Beach, but once the habit started, I mostly preferred to go there every evening by walk, about two miles totally. Mostly I went alone and later for a few years with my cousin. I just preferred to sit on a parapet at the entrance to the beach and just wat the stream of people going to the waterline and returning. There used to be sundal and peanut vendors on the beach.
Sometime during those days, the Madras Government started installing statues in memory of many people bordering the pedestrian platform on the beach Road. Therefore, if you started walking from Chepauk to the Light House, you will encounter umpteen number of these statues, which included Thiruvalluvar, Poet Bharathi, Kannagi, and a lot of others. Apart from these there were special statues. One was the theme statue of Labourers cast in metal trying to move a very big stone boulder also cast in metal. And Mahatma Gandhi’s statue was installed on the beach at the end of
Cathedral Road. When the former Chief Ministers Anna Durai and M.G. Ramachandran popularly called M.G.R. died, Special Squares were commissioned to perpetuate their memory. Both these memorials had great arches formed like giant ivory tusks in one case and a proper arch, if I remember correctly, in the other.Both these arches were facing the Madras University Campus.
Well, it is my lunch time and I will stop for now. I think I will tell more about my impressions of Chennai by and by.