25 Years Ago: 1984-85

Third annual instalment, in the 25 Years Ago series.

Typically, when a Loyolite is in his primary or upper primary classes, he views seniors with admiration. The good speakers and sportsmen in high school are heroes, and even their routine performances appear extraordinary. 25 years later, when I set aside my 4th standard glasses, and pick up the amateur historian’s lens, I see those years differently.

What happened in 1984-85? Two Loyola athletes picked up medals in the state schools’ meet, Loyolites figured in state school teams (three in rural basketball, one in rural hockey, two in cricket), Loyola were district champions in shuttle badminton, and we won the St Thomas Basketball Trophy. This is typical of the kind of sporting excellence one saw in Loyola in the 1980s and 1990s — each batch would have two or three individual sporting talents (in the 1985 batch, Aju R, John Cruz Stellus, and Pradeep Suthan) who would excel in their chosen sports. These youngsters could fuel a match or two for Loyola, but they were insufficient to power the school to championship trophies consistently. Team games like basketball, hockey and and cricket require more than the odd star.

NCC seems to have had a good run that year. At the annual training camp, “the Loyola troop got the trophy for aeromodelling and shooting, and the overall championship”, says the Principal’s annual report on School Day. Loyolites also won the quiz competition, and picked up the best cadet, and second best cadet awards. I wonder whether such a clean sweep has been repeated since.

The highlight of the sports day was gymnastics by Loyolites. The school magazine captions a photo “We introduce gymnastics”, and the Principal’s Report talks of gymnastics coaching. Was it triggered by a display by armymen, or the televising of 1984 Olympics?

I thought the first computer reached the school in 1985-86, when LOBA donated one white-box PC. But the magazine of 1984-85 talks of a computer club in the school. Wish somebody would throw light on the pre-computer computer club (which teacher guided it? how many members?). The school magazine carried an article “The Computer” by Deepu John (1986; then in 9th standard). An excerpt would be of interest to today’s geeks too:

Once I got hold of a computer. I had heard so much about it. I knew it was a wizard and I knew it could answer any question I asked it. So, immediately with great hopes, I punched in the sentence, “what is your name?” Then I pressed some other button. To my surprise and disgust, I got a reply “ERROR”. I had never expected this. I had expected something like “My name is FABIO FX Z100 XP”. I was disappointed. It was only later that I found out my mistake. A computer cannot understand human language.

Those of us who were in Loyola in the mid-1980s would remember a Jesuit volunteer teacher. Yes, James Conway! He joined in 1984-85, and was a popular (and prominent) figure on the campus. Young, athletic and cheerful, James Conway used to join the Loyola basketballers for games in the evenings. The magazine places on record that he was from Canada; my impression was that he was from Ireland.

I was a bit surprised to find an unsigned article titled ‘Qualities of a Christian Leader’, right after the Principal’s Report. Coming as it did in Loyola’s school magazine, I would’ve expected it to be titled ‘Qualities of a Leader’. As far as I recall, Loyola rarely injected or projected Christianity (or any other religion) into public spaces, in an in-your-face way. The monthly Mass, the weekly Scripture classes, etc were never thrust upon non-Christians. The school song, as well as a few other songs taught in music classes had a Christian tinge, but one noticed that only decades later. The school magazine used to have only the photo of first communicants. The only Christian ritual which seemed to attract student attention was the blessing of the buses at the start of every academic year — even though blessing of vehicles is not a Christianity-specific ritual, the priests went about it in the way they were most familiar with. Religion, in general, took a backseat in those years. No wonder the prayer service assemblies were unexciting.

If you have only two minutes at hand, and you wish to dip into the 1984-85 school magazine, read “My Dangerous Trip to School” by Girish S (1987; then in 8th standard). Anybody who has walked to school from Pongumoodu will sink into nostalgia; others can relive the fun and fear of being chased by dogs.

For a few decades in the US, everybody seemed to readily know the answer to the question, “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” (or “where were you when you heard the news of the assassination?”) I suspect that the corresponding marker of popular history in India for a later generation, would be Indira Gandhi’s assassination. The academic year 1984-85 had quite a few other emotional flashes too: PT Usha losing Olympic medal by 1/100th of a second, and the Bhopal disaster. The former was perhaps too parochial, and the latter too distant to make it to the school magazine. But not so the assassination of the prime minister. Two articles, both uncritical, kicked off the Malayalam section. The student article, I suspect, revealed the politics of the average Loyola parent (viewing the Emergency as necessary, and Indira Gandhi being punished unjustly at the end of it); the teacher article, in poetic prose, was silent on the Emergency but loud on Mrs Gandhi’s efforts to usher in stability, protect India’s unity, and defend secularism.

It reminded me how our perceptions change over the decades, be it about politics or sport events of our schooldays.

21 Comments

  • The day Indira Gandhi was assassinated is still fresh in my mind. I was a first-standard student then. Soon after the lunch break, we had a Science class by Mrs. Merl Murray. Mrs. Murray did not sugarcoat anything when she told us in a serious tone that the Prime Minister is battling for her life after she had been shot and that we should pray for her. Looking back, I find it amazing that she was so upfront about it, considering that most of us were yet to turn six.

    Before the regular school time for the day ended, Sreeji Gopan’s (X-1992) father drove to school in his car and transported all the West Fort kids back to their homes. Though I wondered why this rescue was necessary, I just went with the flow. It was only later that I came to know that the local Congresswalas had gone on a rampage in the city after calling for a hartal. The only building in Trivandrum with ‘Punjab’ written on it happened to be the Punjab and Sindh Bank at Pulimood junction, and the Congresswalas did a lot of damage there. Anyway, the drive back home gave me an opportunity to see parts of the city that I had not seen before. I used to take Bus No. 1 (‘One-Bus’) to school, and during hartals, it was prudent to avoid that route.

  • What vivid recollection! Regulars here would’ve read Deepak’s comment on Thampi sir. Deepak, please jot down your Loyola memories, and publish as book or blog.

  • Ashok, the magazine cover shows the picture of a building. Which building is that?

    Also, when u mention Loyola not projecting Christianity publicly, well the Library has always had a portrait of Jesus hung on the wall with other portraits of Nehru. And it seems ages old.

  • Noel, the sketch on the cover is of the “New Block of Loyola School”, inaugurated in 1983. In the 1980s, it used to be called the Silver Jubilee block.

    Thank you for drawing our attention to the scene in the library. If the library has Nehru (and Gandhi?), in addition to Jesus, I would see it as Loyola trying not to project Christianity. But then, your comment also reminded me of pictures in classrooms — Jesus was pretty common, while non-Christian or non-religious scenes weren’t. Can’t be more in-your-face than that, right? Forgot those.

    Also, my comment was just my personal recollection — of a non-partisan, cosmopolitan, atmosphere/feel of those times. I would love to hear what others felt or experienced while studying in Loyola. Did it strike the Loyolite that he was studying in a ‘Christian’ school?

  • i agree . it never struck me in those years that i was studying in a christian school.in fact ,when i look back ,i think i got my tolerant attitude to religion from lLoyola. Of course i remember James Conway and his “hunky dory”speeches.Fr. John Manippadam was another activen figure in those days. i would love to be in touch with him again.compared to St. thomas school Loyola was much less religious although i do remember a comment by one of the teaching staff about idol worship which rather upset me a little at that time.Other than that incident,nothing ever in loyola made me feel that i was less of a student,ever,because i was not a christian. I am happy and proud i spent my formative years in that school.

  • Gymnastics??? Wow! I was in junior school then and was fortunate not to be a part of that drama… But in Loyola such luck runs out by the time you are in senior school.

    I remember that in the late 80s we were subject to extreme torture by instructors from LNCPE who arrived to “train” us in “basic limb movements” marketed as an exclusive display of Lazeme (or whatever that jingling contraption is called) skills on Sports Day. I can still vividly see VC Jacob sir and CT Varkey sir, both standing in the pavilion, taking turns at shouting into the microphone to enforce at least a semblance of coordination, which remained an illusion even on D-Day. ;P

    • Krishna Kumar, thank you for sharing your Loyola experience regarding religion. Do you recall any specific features or incidents at St Thomas, which made you feel Loyola was “much less religious”?

      Sandeep, to me the “Mass PT” drills were fun. The athletic gents and ladies from LNCPE were a far cry from the local hero; so for us, it was more like, “Oh! So, PT instructors are like this!” Varkey sir, on his part, picked up “Demonstration for you, command for me” from them. So, on the whole the LNCPE brigade increased Loyola’s exposure to PT. The drill was quite fun, methought.

      Rajamma madam is there in the staff photo. In 1984-85, Fr Kuruvilla Cherian returned from the US after completing his Masters in School Administration. In the same year, Fr MM Thomas replaced Manorama madam as teacher-in-charge of junior school.

  • Hmm..I do remember 1984! On the day Smt.Indira Gandhi was shot, there was so much of confusion..and we as kids in UKG could feel the confusion in the school as well. But I remember that I was happy for the unexpected/extended games session..that was abruptly cut short when me & my bro were packed off on a scooter (A parent had come searching for his child and since he had already left by bus, we were given a lift.) Despite the confusion, it was ensured that all of us reached our homes…Really old story!

    Apart from that, I also remember how difficult it was in the ensuing days to accept Rajiv Gandhi as the PM. Me as a child simply refused to believe that this was the new PM. For me the primary function of the PM was to walk down stairs from the aircraft, wearing goggles, waving hands at the public. Without wearing a saree and without covering the head with ghunghat,how could anyone be a PM?!

  • Prasantham humour intact. 🙂 To help guys like you adjust, after endless saarangi vaadan, Doordarshan coverage of Rajiv Gandhi became even more extensive. I remember a cartoon of that era — Proud mother to husband returning from work: “He spoke his first word today. Rajiv.”

  • Just to add some detail to your story …

    In fact, we won the inter school cricket team championship with ease in 1985. We had a bunch of good cricketers then. Biju Mohan for one. Moncy was another. S Jayashankar. Rajesh Nambiar. Rajeev Sreedharan. Rajiv Narayan. Antony Chacko and Biji B R of the 9th std. In fact in 1985 we had four students from the 8th standard … selected to the team so that they could get some exposure. I have some snaps of those days. I can send them to you.

    And in 1983-84, we were the runners-up. Our seniors had to back out since the tournament dates were very close to their boards. So we played the tournament with 9th and 8th std boys. And we came a creditable second place. A good team performance.

    Our seniors had Mahesh Surendran, G Vivekanand, Rajeev Madhavan among others in their ranks … Mahesh was a wonderful all rounder with swing and pace and control … and a good bat too … just that he was so good at so many things that he perhaps did not pursue cricket like some of us did.

    Aside : soon after the assassination, Fr. Manipadam made us write our version of the brutal killing (part of Eng Composition). Most of us misspelt assassination. Perhaps, for the last time.

  • i thought the first comp reached loyola around ’88 or later. our batch (icse ’90) was the first to get choice of comp. sci over eco. in fact we didn’t have that choice in ’88 so we had to take eco in our 8th and then shift to comp. sci in the 9th and 10th. we used to have special classes in the summer hols with extra lab time (mostly spent on pc games on the monochrome). your batch had some real comp sci studs…i r’ber mathew, sam and sony who used to be in the comp lab all the time.

    abt the day mrs. gandhi was assassinated. very vivid memories indeed. a group of us decided to walk back home (some of us, all the way to karamana which was right across town) and to cut time we took the prashant nagar “short-cut” instead of the usual sreekariyam route. as luck would have it, my dad came to pick us up on the usual route and we completely missed him. fortunately we got a ride from another parent whose car was already packed when he saw our school uniform and stopped (i believe this was manoj surendran’s father). long story short, we got home safely after walking maybe around 6 k.m. instead of the planned 15-16 odd k.m.

  • Hi
    The first computer was brought to Loyola by Fr Cherian,he had been to the US.
    And I understood from some Jesuits Br Conway is from Ireland.Conway is the name of a county in Wales maybe elsewhere should Google it.If I am lucky in tracing him I will let you guy know.Better still drop a line to Fr John He is ”Know All”
    Cheers
    J

  • Hi there, I was at Loyola 1981-85, from Stds. 4th-7th. I stumbled upon this blog while searching for an old friend.. Nice work cataloging those nostalgic years.

    1984-85 was my last year at Loyola. My twin brother (Sriram) & myself (Srikrishna) were in 7th Std, and I remember practising with the school cricket team during “second trip”.. with guys from the older batches such as Pradeep Suthan, Moncy, George P. Thomas etc. The highlight for me was being allowed to play in a house match, and being given the last over to bowl.

    James Conway was a great guy, though misunderstood by some boys. His family is originally from Ireland, and part of his family owned farms in Ireland – But his dad immigrated to Canada – That explains his dual Irish & Canadian roots. As a matter of fact, I’m living in Canada now, about 100km from Conway’s then family address. Conway taught English (A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens) to VII-A, and most boys failed miserably in the first test. He asked questions like, “On what grounds was XYZ acquitted at his trial?” Many boys didn’t understand that the phrase “what grounds” was an idiom meaning “cause or reason” – The answers were shocking to Conway, such as “On the grounds of Old Bailey” (the courthouse in the story), HaHa. After that test Conway realized he needed to go slower.

    Conway was sincere and tried to gain the interest of all boys, I recall: On one occasion he spent many minutes asking boys to teach him words like Vazhuthacaud and Vizhinyam (the “zh” sound), saying, “What beautiful sounds you have in Malayalam”.. and especially asking those boys weak in English to help him with Malaylam. On rainy afternoons when we had occasionally free time in the period, I recall Conway telling us ghost stories that allegedly happened in his remote farmhouse in Ireland – True or not, the stories got our attention.

    I also remember Mrs. Gandhi’s assassination day. A bunch of us piled into a friend’s car and made our way thru chaotic city traffic. Near Medical College our progress halted when confronted with a small-scale riot.. a KSRTC bus was burning in plain view. Our car had no adult males, so we were allowed to pass through the junction. Otherwise, the aspiring-professional-goonDaas were emptying passengers from all cars and trashing the vehicles.. (How their actions were justified by the PM’s assassination, that they did not clarify!)

    I remember our music teacher Anthony fondly. Not sure if it was 1984 or 1-2 years earlier, but “Thenum Vayambum” was a wildly popular song. For the Youth Festival try-outs about half-dozen boys from our class sang this same song.. Anthony Sir was laughing and threatened disqualification if any more boys sang “Thenum Vayambum”. “Mainaakam” was another popular song. In 1984 I recall the guy who won the competition from 7th Std sang “Ezhu Svarangalum Tazhugi Varum Oru Gaanam”.. beautiful song by Yesudas that evokes for me memories of those days and of Kerala in general (since I’m not from Kerala but Andhra)

    In 2001 I went back to TVM for a visit with my wife.. Loyola was deserted (Sunday, probably) but Fr. Anikuzhi was alone in his office and actually recognized me from 16years ago, asking specific questions about my brother & I – Great memory. He showed me albums with photos of my batchmates in later yeras. I also toured the old playground and cricket fields.

    Nostalgic mid-80s at Loyola.. Thanks for the chance to share memories.

    – D. Srikrishna

  • Srikrishna, thanks a ton for unloading your memories here, plus the info on Conway. I’m amazed how guys like Deepak M (1996) and you are able to recall past scenes in detail.

  • I am glad, on a personal note, that you have featured the 1985 School Magazine in the photo above. I happened to be the Student Editor of the same issue (Fr Pulickal was in charge of the magazine and I’d spent hours proof-reading and selecting the articles. However, I wasn’t happy with the quality of the print).

    On Mrs Gandhi’s assassination

    One fine lazy afternoon (or near-Noon?) at Loyola School, Trivandrum

    1. We were in Class X (1984) and I was in X B (ICSE)
    2. Mr PK Sebastian was taking the Malayalam class in X B.
    3. India were playing Pakistan in a One-day match (? at Delhi)
    4. I was sitting on the penultimate bench.
    5. Alex Vacha was sitting under the desk in the last row, pocket radio in hand, listening to the commentary oblivious to the class in progress and PKS was taking class obviously oblivious to Vacha’s under-the-table exploits.
    6. Both class and commentary run simultaneously while Dilip Vengsarkar, batting magnificently, touches 94 (still batting towards a sure 100…).
    7. All of a sudden there’s aloud ‘THUMP’…..(the sound – we realised later, was that of Vacha jumping up from his subterranean perch and knocking his near-tonsured head on the undersurface of the desk that he was hiding beneath)…..He (Vacha) emerges from his lair, pocket radio still glued to his ear…surprising all of us. Astonishment writ large on the face of a bewildered PKS (as if asking….what was this rapscallion doing while I was taking class here?).
    8. Vacha…overwhelmed by the enormity of the historic (or notorious) moment and momentarily forgetting that he was ‘caught in the act’ (kindly note – pocket radio still glued to the ear with commentary running in the background) excitedly announces (to the Malayalam class of X B and shell-shocked PKS in particular and to the world in general)……..CRICKET MATCH ABANDONED – Mrs GANDHI SHOT!!!!”.
    9. News spreads like wildfire…commotion in the campus and in the city…school bell rings to cut short classes…..students go home early.
    10. DD starts playing soulful (or rather ‘soul-less’) music as was their wont those days..
    11. AIR keeps giving out bulletins of Mrs IG being shot and how she was ‘critically wounded’ and in hospital.
    12. By 6 or 7 pm Fr Manipadam catches BBC announcement of IG’s death and relays the same to staff and students
    13. AIR finally gets a weary Giani Zail Singh to announce Mrs IG’s death around half-past 8 (a good two hours’ after BBC lets the cat out of the bag).

    We learn the next day that IG was shot by her own security staff belonging to a particular community.

    Images-that-refuse-to-go-away:

    No.1 – Vacha (with pocket radio) jumping out of his hole into the midst of sombre PKS Malayalam class gesticulating wildly..
    No. 2 – Wide-eyed PKS perplexed at the sudden turn of events (Vacha surreptitiously listening to cricket commentary during class / Match abandoned / PM shot)
    No. 3 – Mr CNK Nair (by the way – he used to live in his house in front of Medical college – on the street near the old DME till last year….now lives with son Movie actor Santhosh in Calicut…….Did anyone invite him? He’s not in the best of health) announcing
    in class the next day – “Oru thoppikkarane ente kaiyyil kittiyaal njaan avane………(A la Jayan).”

  • I remember Sriram & Srikrishna. Sriram was pretty good at cricket (and of couse, the twins were masters at studies as well). He used to be in the “B” division while we were in the “A” division and I still remember he used to open his class’ bowling with a left arm quickie called Rajiv Negi (wonder where he is).

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