Folks this was our prayer or our प्रार्थना in Ram Mohan School!
This week appears to be one full of nostalgia. At the beginning of the week, my school friend Pradeep Gavankar was in India; we met in Thane over lunch with friends. Later my brother Shrikant (1959 batch) came and stayed with me. Both live in the US, and both were in Ram Mohan school in Girgaum, Bombay. Naturally, we remembered and chatted about friends and the school. I am into a long nostalgic trip, and I thought the only way to try and come out of the trip is to write a few things in the form of a blog. So here goes.
I joined Ram Mohan in the 7th grade and passed my SSC exam in 1965. It was sheer fun all through. First and foremost, I was not a “scholar” and was considered one of the naughtier students. Most teachers were ok with the naughtiness. When I overdid it, it was gifted a slap on the hand or standing outside the classroom! After joining the school my first friend was Abhay Kelkar, he was very similar to me in most things. We had a great time all through those years. In a few days after joining the school, I had a reunion with Pradeep Gavankar who traveled with me on the same bus. There were rarely any school buses in those days; I would catch a bus at 6.15 in the morning.
Our judgment about teachers was restricted to understanding if they were interested in us; yes they were all interested. We were too young to understand as they were all excellent humans and humane to the core. But we rarely found any teachers who showed their human traits while dealing with us. The whole world was so bright, so shiny for us that we never realized that teachers could have had their problems in life. For us, nobody had any issues in this world.
Among the teachers, we had Kuwadekar sir, who had a great smile and would wear coats made of Sharkskin fabric. Then we had Ashok Karhade sir; he was very young and pleasant. He died at a young age, a few years later. We had Vaidya teacher, she was always smartly dressed, and she had different wristwatches of various shapes. That was a real novelty in those days. I forgot to mention. We used to call male teachers as “Sir” and lady teachers as “Teacher”!
I have seen the world, and I am now nearing 70. I can proudly say that we were lucky to have some outstanding teachers in the school! Mayekar sir for English, Joshi sir for Sanskrit and Kundaikar sir for Maths are some of the names that come to the fore. Pandit sir for Hindi was equally good. In those days, we did not understand much, but now I know the dedication these teachers showed.
I have some different memories of the Ram Mohan. Apte sir was my father’s classmate in S P College in Pune. When we went for a trip to Matheran while in SSC, he told me the story of how he remained thin due to some ragging during his college days. Wadke teacher never taught me as I came in Ram Mohan in the 7th grade. But I somehow had a special affinity for her as she was involved in sports activities on the grounds on Marine Drive. Her daughter Mangal was my classmate, but I remained in sporadic communication with her. More than ten years back she came and stayed with me in Pune, for a couple of days.
Another exciting memory that I have is an incident. On the last day of a month, one of the teachers could not take a class due to ill health. We made a lot of दंगा (noise). Kukalkar teacher was passing by, and she came to the class. She punished us by making us wait for the full timing of the school. On the last day of the month (it is called महिना अख़ेर in Marathi) we used to have half day school. After about 30 minutes I told all that I will manage to get us free. I went to the teacher and said, “ Teacher, we don’t have tiffin as the school timing was half day! We are hungry. Please let us go.” Kukalkar teacher was a very kind person. As I broke the rule by leaving the class, she punished me with two slaps on my hand. Then she said with false anger, “Ok! You all now go home!”
Looking back, the teachers had a lot of work besides teaching. There was administrative work about the students. Managing teacher training courses, checking notebooks for homework. Setting and correcting papers for four examinations held during the year. They used to help and guide students in elocution competitions, dramatics, annual gathering, sports. Ram Mohan did not have own ground, so we were taken to Wilson high school ground, a mile away from school! There we would perform marching practice. Marching practice was the responsibility of the PT teachers. That reminds me of Malekar sir! Outwardly he looked very tough, but if students had some personal issue, he would guide them with love. I met him once after passing out, and he was very soft with me! He reminded how I used to be naughty during PT period too!
From the friends, I remember Prakash Naik distinctly. He used to play cricket for school. Later on, he played for Bombay University along with Sunil Gavaskar. He was very agile on his feet and a great prankster. He used to make paper arrows in class and had a good aim. Once a while, he would fit a pin the front! This made the arrow a lethal weapon. Another thing is that he would always be having bandages somewhere on the body. I remember one incident specifically. He had a fight with someone. Prakash was chased for two stories and was cornered in one of the classrooms. This happened during snack break. We thought that finally Prakash was caught by someone. You will not believe what happened next. Prakash simply ran towards a window, slipped out of it, he grabbed the rain pipe and slid back to the ground floor! All of us were aghast!
I remember that I used to remain away from essay writing competitions, elocution competitions. But later in my life, I had created a lot of documents. I conducted meetings and had to speak and explain various subjects regularly. When I picked up these skills, I am not sure. I find that blogging and essay writing are quite similar. But I remember one thing; even the school I was a good storyteller!
I can go on and on and on. I will share a great surprise I had in school. One of the teachers thought I was good enough to sing सुसंगती सदा…
Maybe that was the only way to keep me away from mischief!