A recent news item in the Times of India stated that corporal punishment had been banned in schools in Thailand. My mind raced back over a quarter century, to an age in which the cane was a fixture in every house and an extension of every teacher’s hand. Parents and teachers believed that a switch in time saved crime and that the best way to straighten out a child was by bending him over.
I was in the seventh standard. Mr Jacob, our chemistry teacher, would start every class with a quick revision of the previous lesson in the form of questions. Those who failed to answer would be kept standing, while I, the class leader, would be sent to fetch a stick from the adjacent garden.
On this particular day, the revision topic was valency and half a dozen unfortunate ones were left to face the stick. I ran a quick eye over the victims as I set off for the garden. There was fat Sunil, who would let out an ear-piercing howl and prance around the class clutching his hand as the cane struck his outstretched palm. Gallant Rajan, the only one who could unflinchingly look the teacher in the eye as the cane swished through the air and made contact with his rock-steady hand. Then there was agile Anand the cricketer, who would incur the teacher’s wrath by withdrawing his palm at the very last millisecond, shouldering arms Gavaskar-style, and end up getting an extra lash on the thighs. Silent Sabu’s reaction was always poignant–a single tear-drop flowing down his chubby cheek; whether it was an expression of grief or a stoic protest against the injustice of it all, we never could tell.
So, there I was in the garden, testing the slender branches of several bushes. Today’s victims included several of my baiters. So I was not inclined to pluck one of those less pain-inflicting branches that I favoured when the victims included my cronies. Off I marched to the classroom swishing an incredibly flexible stick.
As I handed over the stick, the master’s voice boomed: “So, what is the valency of zinc?” I turned back to see whom the question was addressed to, before realising with a clammy feeling in my stomach that it was indeed directed to me. Now, while I could recite reams of poetry even in my sleep, I never had a head for chemistry. I didn’t have the faintest clue about the answer. I realised that the stick I had wielded just moments ago was going to wound me first.
“Two,” I blurted out, more in anticipation of the number of lashes in store for me, rather than with any idea of the wretched valency of zinc. “Correct” beamed the master, as I thanked my stars.
Though I never touched a chemistry book after leaving school, I still remember the valency of zinc and its fellow elements, not to mention scores of formulae and equations. As one old schoolmaster put it wistfully, applied child psychology was more effective when the applicator was a small cane.
Madhu C. Mathen is Deputy General Manager at Air India and lives in Melbourne. This article was originally published in the Times of India newspaper on 18 September 2001 and later on the 1978 batch’s website. It has been republished here with the author’s permission.
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
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?
Ramnath S. (1970) – Managing Director, Kerala Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation
Sangeeth Sivan – film maker
Santosh Sivan (1976) – film maker
Jose Degaul Pius (ISC 1976) – finance professional (overseas)
Santosh Rollands – President of Jesuit Alumni Association of India
Classes of 1980-89
Bipin Prabhakar – Professor, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University (Bloomington)
Parameswaran Nair (1980) – Associate Professor of Medicine, McMaster University
Rajiv Vijayan (1980) – Vice President (Technology), Qualcomm
S. Krishnan, IAS (1982) – Secretary, Department of Fertilizers, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, Government of India
Sreenath Sreenivasan (1987) – Dean of Student Affairs and Professor of Professional Practice, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
Classes of 1990-99
Anand Raghavan (1993) – President, Asha for Education
Anil Shaji (1993) – Assistant Professor of Physics, IISER Thiruvananthapuram
Anup Kuruvilla John, IPS (1997) – former Police commissioner, Kozhikode
Vyasan Radhakrishnan, IAS ( Nagaland Cadre)
Chandrasekhar M. Nair (1995) – Assistant Professor of Information Engineering, Chinese University of Hong Kong
Jishnu Dasgupta (1996) – bass guitarist and backing vocalist, Swarathma
Harikesh S. Nair (1994) – Associate Professor of Marketing, Stanford Graduate School of Business
Vivek Karunakaran (1998) – fashion designer; owner of the ”viia” label
Were the criteria for inclusion subjective? Were there some names that should not have been there? Yes.
But did it warrant the erasure of the entire section on the Loyola page? No. There are a few notable alumni who Wikipedia acknowledges unquestioningly, like Santosh Sivan, Pulickel Ajayan, and Sreenath Sreenivasan. There is no good reason to edit them out of the Loyola School page.
What’s the way forward?
Let us adopt the following criterion — if a Loyolite has a Wikipedia entry which is at least 3 years old, he makes it to the list on the school’s page. This criterion is objectively verifiable, uses Wikipedia itself to measure notability, and delivers information to the reader.
(“3 years” is subjective, but is proposed for a reason. Wikipedia content is monitored, and a three-year old biographical entry is in itself proof that the person is “notable”. By the way, Prathap Suthan and Sangeeth Sivan too make the grade, by this criterion.)
Do you agree with Wikipedia’s action? Is the proposed criterion satisfactory? Speak out!
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Psst…have you seen loyolawiki? It’s a new wiki-style encyclopaedia on just Loyola School. Students, teachers, alumni can chip in with the lyrics of a song sung in Loyola, an article on campus cricket, whatever.
Update: As of 5 Nov 2012, the notable alumni section is back in Wikipedia. (A few days after the blogpost here, I used Wikipedia’s feature to ‘talk’ to Lettherebelight. Instead of responding to the proposed criteria, he/she deleted my ‘talk’ message, and changed his own username. I then raised this in the ‘talk’ page on the school, but nobody responded. After 10-12 days, I re-created a notable alumni section, and inserted three names.)
First off the block was Jishnu Dasgupta (1996 ISC), of the Bangalore-based band Swarathma. Their second album Topiwalleh was released in early May. Catch the title track. Or hear them live on their multi-city tour.
George Peter (1989) then came with “One: The Unity Song”. The music video is on YouTube and was hyped for featuring an ensemble of singers, film stars and other celebrities.
The new sensation, however, is Siddharth Kumar (2005), who brought us “Paloma”, modelled on Kolaveri. Must hear! His band, the Chennai-based Jack, Johnnie and the Ol’ Monk have come out with an album titled Crystal Moon. That’s Siddharth on the left, playing the keyboard.
Sreenath Sreenivasan (1987) now wants us to pay to keep him quiet.
This is a fund-raiser for scholarships at Columbia University.
“A few years ago, Dean Sree was known for sending school-wide emails known as ‘Sree-mail,'” Columbia student LaToya Tooles told me. “He sent a lot of it and students begged him to stop. Now Sree does a lot of tweeting, and while we don’t mind the tweeting, we thought we would adapt a few fundraising models and capitalize on his rather loud web voice.”