Guest post by AJAY GEORGE PALAKUZHY (2003 ISC)
If I were to ask Loyolites what would be one of their happiest moments in school life I think the top picks would be the following :
- 11th standard School Day play
- Excursion (Goa/Bangalore)
They are all in my top 10 list too.
But the Cardboard Cricket days were the happiest days in my school life. It summed up all the camaraderie, innocence, and love of a lifetime.
What on the earth is Cardboard Cricket ?
This story goes back to my 3rd standard I think. We used to have two final exams in a day. The second one used to get over by around 2 pm and we had a complete one hour of free time until the school bus started for home. This was the time for Cardboard Cricket.
Bat: Writing board used for exams.
Ball: An intricate composition of a pebble at the core with meticulously wrapped paper rolls held together by multiple rubber bands.
Pitch: The gap between two trees on the elevated area behind the goal post (near junior school) .
A motley gang of around 10 used to rush to the spot after exams, the two captains would decide the teams, and off we were to that magic land.
Nothing else really mattered for us during that one hour.
For me that is the picture-perfect moment I want to treasure throughout my life.
Even though the majority of the guys used to play football during that time, around 10 of us preferred this game.
I think we used to play until we were in the 5th or 6th standard, when we upgraded to real cricket bats and tennis ball.
What is your favourite memory or incident from school days?
Post your comment at Ajay’s blog.
Ajay George Palakuzhy is a Technology Analyst in Bengaluru. An earlier version of the post appeared at Ajay’s blog.
Copyright Ajay George Palakuzhy, 2013.
In the 1980s, a popular claim was that Loyola School was different from other schools. Whenever a Loyolite was quizzed by friends or relatives as to why his school did not secure ranks in the public exam, he would typically reply: schools like Holy Angels’ Convent prepare students for the public examination; Loyola’s emphasis is on extra-curricular activities, and not merely acquisition of textbook knowledge.
How true was this claim?
Those who claimed so (including me) had limited information about other schools in Trivandrum, to make an honest and thorough comparison. If we were tested on this–say, if asked to list out the extra-curricular activities in any three city schools–all of us would have failed. But ignorance did not prevent us from asserting that Loyola was different because of its extra-curricular thrust.
I believe that we students were parroting the words of our teachers and parents. Their own belief was probably rooted in knowledge of other schools (via neighbours, colleagues or relatives). But it is also probable that they took cue from the Jesuits who ran Loyola and cultivated an image of a “different” school.
The Jesuits were not being dishonest. Loyola did have several platforms for literary and artistic activities inside and outside the classroom. There were a weekly period called “Literary Association”, a youth festival, the wallpaper LENS, debates or quizzes each term, and so on. The school also encouraged students to participate in inter-school competitions. In addition, there were squads for cleaning classrooms, social service and similar non-literary or non-artistic work.The Jesuits and the teachers put in a lot of effort to organise these activities in the school. None will question their sincerity or doubt their dedication.
But was Loyola different?
Those who studied in other schools can tell us whether such activities were common in their schools or, as we believed, unique to Loyola. My guess is that various schools had different extra-curricular activities. If English elocution was a prestigious event in Loyola, it might have been kathaprasangam in school x and mohiniyattom in school y. Accordingly, Loyola fared reasonably well in the state ICSE schools’ meet (where the events were similar to what Loyola hosted), but rarely made a mark in the state SSLC schools’ youth festival. If Loyola was different, it was in the kind of activities that the school hosted.
Loyola of the 1980s was different from other schools also in terms of facilities. Loyola had better infrastructure than other schools. Well-equipped classrooms (good desks and benches), different courts for various sports and games, sporting equipment, sound systems, closed auditiorium–few schools in Trivandrum could boast all of these. The infrastructure helped in hosting a range of extra-curricular activities and strengthened the popular claim.
We had the hardware, but was Loyola different in terms of the software?
Look at the approach, for instance. If the popular claim is to be believed, the activities should have been co-curricular, if not part of the curriculum in this school. But at Loyola, every activity was called “extra-curricular”, i.e. beyond the curriculum, as if the curriculum did not demand any such activity.
In the few cases that art formed part of the curriculum, it was taught unimaginatively. There was a weekly music class (till around class 7). There was a weekly painting class (in the lower classes of the junior school, if I remember correctly). And there was a weekly moral science class (till standard 10). For a school that believed it was different, there was hardly anything different in the way Loyola treated such subjects or activity.
We got many platforms to sing, but Loyola did not teach us how to sing, or what music was. I doubt whether any Loyolite learnt music at Loyola, despite ritually chanting songs every week for seven years. All of us could have been exposed to different genres of music, right? (In these days of CDs, mp3 downloads and an audio-visual room, is it too much to expect Loyola to have music appreciation classes?)
Yes, we could paint in the annual youth festival, but were we taught how to paint? I am not expecting Loyola to make every child a Picasso, but at least: (a) tell us why this Picasso chap is great; and (b) show us a few tricks and techniques to draw. Pick up a basic book on drawing and you will realise the opportunities missed.
Some of you will argue that the situation was the same in other schools. Maybe. But that is exactly what I am asking: was Loyola really different?
Last year on 30 December, I began the “25 Years Ago” series based on school magazines, by writing about 1982-83. Let’s move a year forward and see what Loyola was like in 1983-84.
In June 1983, the school’s new building (the Silver Jubilee Block) was inaugurated by Bishop Acharuparambil. According to the accounts presented in the souvenir released on the occasion, the building was constructed at a cost of Rs 15,53,116.55, and further works worth Rs 1,50,000 were expected at that time. The money for the building came from loans (more than Rs 9 lakh), from the school (Rs 3.15 lakh), building fund fees (around Rs 1.95 lakh), donations (about Rs 1.29 lakh), the souvenir itself (Rs 1,09,959.17), and interest. To publish these accounts immediately after the Principal’s Preface, and before Page 1 of the souvenir, suggests an ethic of transparency that was extraordinary. Interestingly, the same publication also carried the fuzzy presentation of results of a Jesuit evaluation of the school.
The most historic happening of 1983-84, when I look back, is the change of guard at Loyola. Readers will quickly and rightly guess that Fr CP Varkey left that year. True, after fourteen years at Loyola, Fr Varkey left in September 1983, and Fr Varghese Anikuzhy became Principal. But in retrospect, an equally important change of guard had happened four months before Fr Varkey’s departure. For when school reopened in May 1983, two priests returned after several years to Loyola: Fr John Manipadam (as Rector), and Fr Mathew Pulickal (as teacher of English and History in high school). Together and separately, they were to influence a generation of Loyolites, and build Loyola’s alumni network.
The School Magazine dated 1984 had quite a few pages on Fr Varkey — including the Malayalam poem written by Loyola’s bard Mr PK Sebastian (which was presented as a “mangalapatram” from the staff during Fr Varkey’s farewell function), and an article on Fr Varkey by the other Sebastian in the staff room — Mr BO Sebastian. But here, I will present extracts of only two of the many brief notes by students:
The boys of my class told me how Fr Varkey used to thrash the boys (V to X). I was frightened. But during that time he experienced a change….From then on he started using a new phrase “Golden Heart!” Once when some money and books were stolen, he became very angry. In the Assembly he gave us a verbal beating. In the end he overcame his anger, urged us to kindly return the money to the owner. After a few days the owner got back his money and the boy had apologised to Fr Varkey.
– C Prem IX B
Though one could not call him perfect, one had to admit that his good qualities far outweighed all the others. We boarders were a group to which he had always been attached.”
– Cherian Abraham IX B
In his annual report on School Day, the Principal Fr Anikuzhy said, “From 1st Sept 1983 we arranged for a special bus-trip from the school at 4.45 pm to encourage games to build up teams.” (sic) That year Loyola won the Junior Championship in the District Sports Meet, the athletes also shone in the YMCA Meet, and our cricketers and mini basketballers were runners-up in the District. The “second trip” was an innovation that extended opportunities to day scholars to develop their sporting abilities.
I didn’t know that Loyola had student postmen. But the the school magazine says that the Postal Squad debuted in 1983-84. “With the introduction of this Squad many problems regarding the mail have now been solved,” said the squad member’s report. This squad perhaps served the hostelers. I request the beneficiaries of that era to enlighten us on what problems you faced — mails missing? mails opened before delivery?
As in the previous year, there were various squads which went about their work routinely. But three bits struck me:
The LENS Squad “put up weekly bulletins and special issues on important occasions like the Youth Festival and the School Day”. Note the impressive regularity of LENS once-upon-a-time.
The Squad for Sneha Sena and Soldiers of God reported that there were 96 subscribers for Sneha Sena, and 164 subscribers for the English edition of Christian booklets. English was the preferred language of reading, even though not of speaking, as the Squad for English-Speaking would attest!
The Quiz and Debate Squad reported that “the students were found to be demanding new Quiz Programmes but they were not interested in debates.” Today, we should read that slightly differently — quizzing was rising in popularity in Loyola even before Siddhartha Basu began Quiztime in 1985.
I’ll end with an excerpt from one of my favourite articles in that school mag. Abhilash Mohan’s “Mahabali 33, 83” probably owes it intriguing title to a savvy teacher who decided the topic of the school youth festival’s Malayalam essay/story competition. And this VIII B student rose to the occasion. The article begins directly but poetically “1933-le ponnin chingam. Paadangal thelinju. Pathaayangal niranju.” Two paragraphs later, we zoom fifty years to “1983-le thiruvonappulari. Maveli airbus-il vannirangi.” And a few sentences later,
Nattucha. Nadakkaan vayya. Auto-yum taxi-yum city service-um onnum kaanaanilla.
‘Mooppinnay, enthaa eri veyilu kollunnathu. Valla nerchayumundoe?’, oru cheruppakkaaran chothichu.
Maveli: Oru Auto kittiyaal kollaam.
Cheruppakaaran: Thaan eviduthukaaranaa? Innu bandh alle?
In simple sentences, the 13-year-old Abhilash not only wove in the lingo of the times, but also captured a timeless aspect of the political culture of modern Kerala.
In junior school in the early 1980s, we were assigned to either of the two clubs, Sparrows and Magpies. But on Sports Day and for inter-house games, we were free to align (mentally) with one of the four Houses of the senior boys.
When I was a very young Loyolite, I chose SS House. There were three weighty reasons: the attractive red flag of Sputnik Spacemen; the logo with a prominent Superman-like ‘S’; and that the House Captain commuted along with us in Bus Number 3.
Ten days ago, I met the man behind the red flag and the super logo.
Giles Francis, son of an army officer, was schooled for the most part in northern India. In 1963, he returned to Trivandrum and joined Mar Ivanios College to study Economics. While there, Giles did not merely draw demand-supply curves as I was to do thirty years later; he enrolled in a correspondence course in art. By the time he graduated in economics, Giles had also become a qualified commercial artist.
In the early 1970s, he drew greeting cards (bought by USIS staff in Trivandrum), designed textiles for firms in Madurai and Coimbatore, and in his spare time, privately tutored schoolboys in Hindi. Among his students were Loyolites.
One day (in 1973 or 1974), a Loyola student of his took the artistic Hindi teacher to Fr C.P. Varkey. The four Houses in school — Green, Yellow, Blue and Red — had recently been rechristened Apollo Pioneers, Gemini Giants, Jupiter Jetsetters, and Sputnik Spacemen. Giles was asked to design the logos of the four Houses and make a flag for each House.
Giles Francis in front of the building where he painted the House flags in the 1970s – Photo: Ashok R Chandran
In going about the task, was he influenced by the Houses in his own school, the Jesuit institution St Xavier’s, Hazaribagh? “No. The Houses there were Britto, Gonzaga, Loyola and Xavier”, Jesuit saints light years away from the space age names he encountered in Sreekariyam.
“I was interested in calligraphy. For Apollo Pioneers, I used a monogram with the letters A and P joining together,” Giles revealed. “Sputnik Spacemen…the House colour was red. For the logo to be prominent on red background, I chose white. The ‘S’ with an orbit just struck me.”
I told Giles that I found the Gemini Giants logo quite complicated. I mean, AP had the spacecraft and SS had the orbit, but GG was bewildering. He asked, “Isn’t that the Gemini twins?” Even as I wondered whether it was he or me who had a memory lapse, I quickly drew a crude version of the logo. He took one look at it and said “Yes. That’s the astrology symbol for Gemini.” In less than a minute, by pointing to the stylised symbol for Gemini, Giles had snatched my admiration from the SS camp and placed it in GG.
As a kid I could barely say Jetsetters and the dark blue House vest is as unappealing now as it was then. Thankfully, I was in Jupiter Jetsetters only for one year. Yet, that’s where my loyalty lies. Because I led JJ House in my final year of school. And when you are house captain, you don’t fail to notice that on Sports Day, you carry a light blue flag but wear a dark blue vest. Giles unravelled the puzzle. “On a flag, from a distance, dark blue can look like black. That’s why light blue was chosen,” he explained.
Giles should know because he was the one who went to Chalai and selected the cloth for each flag. “The cloth is crape, not satin,” he said. That’s another Loyola myth broken. How little we know about the objects we worshipped in school! Giles tells me the benefit of silk,”Satin is heavy. A flag has to flutter. Crape is best.”
Giles used fabric paint to paint the logos on the flags of Houses. He then made badges for the House Captains, the School Leader, the Assistant School Leader, and the General Captain.
Giles’ artwork for Loyola was not limited to the logos of Houses. Fr Kuruvila Cherian was a man of ideas. He had worked with Giles on the design of logos, and as Vice-Principal he commissioned a series of paintings on Jesus Christ (Jesus as a toddler, a young boy, and so on), one to be hung in each classroom.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Giles drew a school map on a wooden panel, designed a school magazine cover, and served as a judge at La Fest. His other connection with Loyola is that Giles is a cousin of the former Rector Fr Dominic George.
When Giles’ father retired from the army, he had settled in Trivandrum and set up a foreign languages institute. But it did not take off. Today, on request, Giles takes language classes in German, Russian, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, and spoken English. His students include Japanese computer professionals visiting India, and Indian doctors wishing to learn Chinese.
After retiring from Keltron (where he worked in the advertising and public relations department), Giles has also been running a homestay for tourists. It was at Graceful Homestay, with a glass of pineapple juice in one hand and an afternoon breeze in the face, that I heard the story of Loyola’s logos. “You are the first to ask me about it,” said Giles.
As I took leave, it was his turn to quiz me, “Do you know who designed the emblem of Loyola School?” I began hesitatingly “Er…you did that one too?” “No,” he replied, “Laurie Baker designed it.”
Acknowledgement: The tipster wishes to remain anonymous. Fr Edassery and Madhu uncle helped me take the photo of the new JJ flag.
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Newspapers like the New York Times and The Hindu offer a history section where they cull out news reports from the archives and present slices of the past. For Loyola, the LENS and Wall Diary squads are best equipped to carry such a section. But till then, let me offer you a series — 25 Years Ago — based on the school magazines of yesteryears.
- For a school that has made a mark on the national quizzing scene in recent years, the most significant development of 1982-83 was probably the setting up of a quiz and debate squad — “the brainchild of Mr B.O. Sebastian” and guided by Mrs. Santha Nair. Mitu Gulati (1983) wrote “The Squad started its work with house-wise quiz programmes for different standards. In the second term, a debate for Std IX and X was conducted on the topic ’20th Century Man: Better Off than his Predecessors’.”
- 105 students were involved in service squads, whose number rose from twelve to nineteen in 1982-83. (It is not clear as to which ones were introduced that year). There were service squads for maintenance, auditorium, wall diary, buses, safety, picture display, weather chart, indoor games, inter-school competitions, morning study, and LENS. Sankar Krishnan (1983) wrote about LENS, “Loyola English Newspaper Service aims at reaching all the item of news in the school to the students through their weekly publications. Some special issues regarding the School Day, St. Ignatius Day, the Loyola Basketball Tournament and indoor games have also come out. We carried out a few interviews and also conducated an indepth survey of Cheruvickal School to find out exactly to what extent it profits from Loyola’s helping hand.”
- The School had children from four religions — Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and Sikhism. Prayer services or special assemblies were held before major festivals, and programmes included singing of devotional songs by the school choir, reading of extracts from sacred books or of well-known writers, and an explanation of the festival’s theme by the Principal.
- “Every Saturday our blue bus rolls by / Every Saturday we Loyolites in blue get on” to go to school for NCC parade, wrote Rajiv Narayanan (1985), then in Std VIII. Rajiv’s poem reveals that aeromodeling was taken seriously, and so was shooting. “When they whistle after theory class / We Loyolites jump up from the grass” suggests that the class was held outdoors. I counted about 70 cadets in a photograph. And yes, the Troop Commander was Mr C.T. Varkey.
- It was the year of the Asian Games in Delhi and the sports fever was quite high in Sreekariyam. In school sports, there was a Loyolite in the state hockey team, one in the state athletic team and two in the state cricket team, not to speak of several in the district teams, including eight in the Trivandrum district basketball team. Loyola were the district champions in basketball.
- But Loyola was runner-up in the school’s own basketball tournament, losing to St Thomas 63-85 in the final. Varghese Varghese (1983) in his analysis of the ninth Loyola basketball tournament wrote
[t]he St. Thomas team are older in age and experience, and are taller too. We Loyolites, as an average are of medium height and in basketball, height has a great advantage. lacking this we should patch this up with accurate shooting, for which we have not yet got the knack. Quick and short passes with drive-ins can often change the tide of the game and the St. Thomas players dominated in all these fields. But in outside shots, we Loyolites are far superior…. Coaching is another factor which decides the fate of the game. This coaching given by Mr P C Thomas though very useful was really very brief and short. The lack of dedication and interest taken by the players is responsible for this. We have yet to master the art of man to man defence.
- Students of Std VII went on a half-day study tour to the neighbouring Central Tuber Crops Research Institute.
- The School Day was held in November, as in the previous year. This was probably a hangover from the past, when the academic year (till 1979) was from January to December. “About 350 students, i.e. 1/3 of the whole school” appeared on the stage. Earlier, “about 85%” of the students had taken part in the school’s own youth festival, according to the Principal’s annual report.
- Loyola organised an inter-school youth festival for neighbouring schools. “About 150 students from five neighbouring U.P. and L.P. schools participated,” said the Principal.
- On the social work front, the school was active. The Principal’s report says, “Students donated Rs 1,000 to Sisters of the Poor, Rs 3,000 for the rehabilitation of the blind and Rs 10,000 to the Cheshire Homes. They donated text books and uniforms worth Rs 6,000 to poor children studying in neighbouring schools.” A later publication put the figure at Rs 5,000. The school offered full or half fee concessions to 61 students.
- The construction of the silver jubilee block (building) was in progress. It probably began in 1982-83. If so, some of you may see this as the biggest contribution of 1982-83 to Loyola history.
- Principal Fr Varkey conducted a day-long seminar for parents, on child psychology. Dr Manoranjan Rao, a scientist at VSSC wrote “Topics like Motivation, Responsibility, Jealousy, Sex education etc. were also dealt with. Also certain case studies were analyzed by the participants who were divided into ‘groups’ for this purpose. The ‘group discussions’ were carefully ‘guided’ by the Principal…” Fr Varkey’s ‘human relations approach’ seminars were popular in not just Trivandrum, but far away Bombay too, revealed one letter from a parent in the metro.
- Old boys outside Trivandrum wrote letters to the school. Rajiv Vijayan (1980) wrote from IIT Madras “Dear Fr Varkey, I reached IIT on 12th July. Our classes began on 19th July. I am staying in Mandakini Hostel….Here I have met four ex-Loyolites–Lagichan, Joseph Mathew, Roy Mathew and Vani Prasad.”
- The School Magazine of the previous year did not have students on the editorial board. In 1982-83, five student editors appeared: Paul Augustine, Sajit N., Anand M., Sankar Krishnan and Sanjay Kumar (all 1983). Though the editorial board did not mention his name, the statutory declaration said that Fr C.P. Varkey was the Editor.
- I have not confirmed this, but it looks like the medal for the school topper in the SSLC exam was named after Renji Mathew in 1982-83. The previous year’s school magazine mentions it as “Loyola Medal”.
* * *
What are your recollections of 1982-83?
How different is Loyola today (or the Loyola you studied in)?
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I invited Jiby John Kattakayam (1998), a master at retelling stories, to share two original, unpublished Loyola anecdotes for my blog. – Ashok
A Long, Long Lunch Break
There was an age in Loyola when juniors greatly respected seniors: ran small errands for them during the youth festival, the sports day, the school day and the LA Fest; held seats for them in buses; hung around seniors and listened admiringly to their adolescent stories; and tried to imitate them in every field possible. I don’t know if all this continues.
In our 12th we came across a handful of juniors in one class who were seen as an aberration of a great tradition that continued right from the awe-inspiring batches of the ’80s. These boys went for an inter-state athletic meet at a school in Trivandrum, where they had no reason to go, got into some frivolous disagreement and created some damage on the premises. In the evening, a few friends of ours from that school told us of the incident and all we could do was hang our heads in shame.
The next morning, we went up to Fr. Edassery, the vice-principal, (who too had heard of the incident) and vented our anger. He asked us, “What should I do?” We told him, “Give us a long lunch break and please don’t come up, whatever happens.” He readily agreed. At sharp 12:20 PM we pulled up the offending students from their class and took them into Std 12. I won’t go into details on the methods used or what happened next but they left our classroom humbled, teary-eyed and apologetic. In the evening, Sara Madam who heard of what we did, came over and congratulated us. That must have been the only lunch break that got extended in Loyola School history at the request of a class.
Loyolites Hate to Lose
We were a batch that stood incredibly united. But we forgot that unity for a few days in the academic calendar — during the youth festival and the sports day.
It was our final year. AP had gone down fighting SS in the youth festival, and AP and GG were fighting neck-to-neck for sports day supremacy. The final event of the sports day arrived with whoever winning the 4 x 100 metre relay would take home the first place for sports day and the Overall Best House Championship given at the year end. C.T. Varkey, our PT Sir had conducted years and years of successful sports days and this one too looked set to end in that fashion. He gave the get-set-go whistle/gun/shout (I forget which!) and everyone took off…except Vince of GG House. Apparently another Sir, who just joined that year had shouted out, “False Start” and Vincekuttan expected the other sprinters to return to their blocks. They never bothered and we had to egg Vince to start off, albeit late. In the end GG rallied back finely, but ended up losing to AP tantalizingly. The trouble started then.
We of GG cried foul and asked for a restart. AP knowing that they stood no chance if a re-run was ordered, stood their ground. Our class split into three–one backing GG, the other AP, and the third begging for sanity…the danger of coming to blows was real. In the meantime, a parallel fight broke out among the teachers with CT giving grief to the new Sir who had messed up inadvertently. AP finally yielded to a re-race and though they lost both the race and the sports day trophy, they won everyone’s hearts with their sportsmanship and sacrifice.
All of us went home bitter, wondering if our batch would ever come together after the acrimony of the day. The next morning, as I came walking in through the Loyola College gate, I saw my band of brothers huddled together, joking and laughing, as though yesterday had never happened.