The St Francis de Sales school at Nagpur has been Alma Mater to many an A.I boy. Many of these boys must be regular visitors to your website I’m sure. This year the old school completes 140 yrs of its existence and I was asked to compose a piece on the decade that i was a student there. I am attaching the same which kindly feel free to edit and put up on your website, time and space permitting.
Thank you Lynette. With regards,
St.Francis de Sales IN THE DECADE OF THE 80’s
BY: Noel Dias, Nagpur, India
Most of my classmates left S.F.S after their S.S.C I stayed on for another 2 years and completed my H.S.S.C. This in turn perhaps qualifies me better to compose an essay on S.F.S in the decade of the 80’s.
The 80’s had an angry young man tear across cinema screens all over India—Amitabh Bacchan. Tall & lanky he had a deep baritone voice & his personality captivated his audiences. In S.F.S there was the late Mr. F.X.Anthony who had a similar personality, an equally deep voice & a height to match. He had us spellbound during his math’s class. What he taught us we never forgot. There was another teacher who also taught us math’s, however she was just the opposite in structure. Slim, dainty and ladylike she was Mrs. Sally Perreira. Though thin and frail no one dared play the fool in her class. She never used a cane or raised her voice; a stare from her was enough to control a bunch of hooligans. Like the legendary Mr. Jack Collaco she passed away while still in service, they both remained teachers to the very end.
Biology was taught by Mr. Shirley & in class he never sat down. He taught the subject while pacing up and down, his hands folded behind his back. He never taught from a textbook, with his in-depth knowledge of biology he could write a couple of textbooks. Physics was taught by Mr. Daniel James, the Bruce Lee of S.F.S. He used his knuckles, palms, fists and anything else available to thump the subject into our heads. His method worked wonderfully and none of us failed in his class. Physics was also taught by the perfect gentleman Mr. Hassan, who always had a broad smile—-till he lost his temper. Seldom did he lose his temper but if he did, woebetide the boy who faced his wrath. Fire and brimstone rained from Mr. Hassans fists. The next day it was all forgotten and he’d be back smiling at us.
Chemistry was taught by Mr Rathi and Mr Jaleel. Mr Jaleel was soft spoken but a terror to anyone who tried any stunts in his class. Marathi was taught by Mr Deshmukh, Mr Bhagdeo & Miss S.Waghmare. Miss Waghmare never whacked us; she had her own improvised torture methods to keep us rascals in control. She would wring our earlobes till we jumped up and down in agony or worse still she’d pull our sideburns till we yelled for mercy. The worst of Chinese torture was pale in comparison. To escape this we behaved ourselves in her class.
The government of India has spent a lot of money on inquiry commissions to find out if Netaji Subash is still alive. This could have been avoided if the logic of our Hindi teacher Miss Ved Kumari Leekha was used. She always reiterated that had Netaji been alive he would have joyfully returned to his beloved motherland since nothing could have kept Netaji away from independent India. Simple & logical was her thinking! We had another Hindi Master Mr. Kalbhor & he would perch himself on his desk while teaching us the subject. He often called us Gadhe Bacche and his punishment consisted of a couple of hard slaps followed by the agonizing Murga. Not all our teachers were the hard hitting type, Mrs Uma Kapoor & Mrs Bharti Deshraj had the grace, poise and elegance that could have easily earned them a place in Bollywoods hall of fame, however they chose S.F.S over Bollywood.
History was taught by a man of few words, the compassionate Mr. Joseph. The only time he got worked up was when he taught us the folly of erstwhile rulers because of whom India ended up a colony of Britain, had these rulers been advised by the likes of Mr. Joseph we never would have been colonized. While Mr. Joseph taught us history, geography was taught by a lady who lived through one of the most devastating event in the history of the 20th century, Ms Patsy Menzes. Teacher Patsy as a young girl survived the bombing of Rangoon by the Japanese forces in 1941 during W.W.II. Later she & her family members fled Rangoon, trekking all the way to India on foot to escape the Japanese ground invasion. After growing up she joined S.F.S as a teacher in the 60’s. She often traveled overseas and returned to describe places she had visited. We listened with rapt attention; after all it was during the pre T.V era, a time when the world hadn’t shrunk as it has done these days.
All that Sir Almas required was a piece of chalk and a blackboard & in minutes he would have a masterpiece up there, he taught us drawing & if we distracted him with our antics he’d turn around and say ‘Ganga ram—- look here. While he was engrossed drawing on the board some boys would play the drum on their desks, to them he’d turn around and say You band master—–look here. Our physical education instructor was Mr Sakherphekar & he was built on similar lines as that of Dara Singh, he encouraged us to build our bodies & this had us confused because other teachers encouraged us to build our minds. On the Kanhan Bridge etched deep in a stone on its side wall (towards the railway crossing end) are the words ‘Donald Menasse 1937’ clearly visible. It was done by the late Mr Menasse when he was a young boy. Mr Menasse was the school supervisor and a powerhouse of energy. Never once was he seen sitting down or resting. He was forever moving around the corridors, always in top gear. Because of his dynamic personality all who knew him called him Major Menasse.
The academic year began in June & the first event was the inter house football competition, followed by the English and Hindi elocution and then the inter house quiz. Before the Diwali vacations we had our terminal exams. After the Diwali vacations there was an event we hated – drill practice in the fore noon sun in preparation for the annual sports day. Soon after the sports day in December we had an event the whole of Nagpur waited for — the S.F.S schools annual concert. It was a showcase of our talent and the genius of our teachers both going together hand in hand and what we put up was nothing short of a spellbinding display. After that the school would close for Christmas and reopen in January. From then on it was preparation for judgment day, the final exams.
In the 80’s S.F.S had two principals the first was the late Rev Oswald deSouza, a postgraduate in psychology. He forever emphasized the importance of physical exercise in a child’s life. After school in the evening he’d be on the playground coaching the schools football team. Whenever the school team played a match he’d be on the sidelines cheering the team on & after every the match, the team was treated to a Dosa, irrespective if they had won or lost. Fr deSouza handed over charge to the Rev Maurice Fernandes & he introduced the electrical maintenance and fisheries sections in the junior college, renovated the park, installed an intercom system and had the basketball court cemented. Both these priests were assisted by the Shashi Kapoor of S.F.S, the handsome and forever young looking Rev Ivan Lobo. Without his cassock he could easily pass off as a college student. Some years later he took over as principal from Fr Maurice.
S.F.S in the 80’s produced students that have done the institution proud internationally. Vijay Francis is a leading physiotherapist in Chicago, Vineet Malhotra and Parag Kumar work for financial institutions in Hong Kong and Tokyo respectively, Debrata Roy is a scientist with the TIFR, Supantha Bannerjee is a learned professor of English. Ranjit Pande, Debashis Bhattacharya, Sanjay Naidu & Sanjay Pramanik are eminent doctors. Vinay Mohota, Faiz Vali, Girish Dewani, Naushad and Rukshad Bhagwagar are prominent businessmen, Debesh Lahiri, Prateek Mahant and Manish Naidu went on to become commissioned officers in our armed forces. Sandeep Chauksey did his B.Sc and B.Ed while Lincoln Majumdar earned a B.E in electrical engineering, they both returned to teach in their Alma Mater. This list of achievers is not complete with just these few names & there are many more.
In my opinion the name that tops the list is that of Kushroo Poacha. Kushroo founded the Indian blood donor’s website, one that classifies the blood group of donors and stores the data thereby saving valuable time. This website has saved many lives especially in times of calamities such as the Gujarat earthquake, when a lot of blood is required at short notice. Its usefulness in times of catastrophic disasters is immense. Lastly there is an incident from the 80’s that I would like to add since it is linked to my family. In 1987 a young teacher joined the pre primary section. Because of her childish looks & short stature she was frequently teased Under 16, Under 16, Under 16, by high school boys who were a few years younger, but double her size. The teasing continued till it became unbearable. One fine day when she could take it no more she lashed out with the umbrella she carried and whacked all in the group with all her might. The thrashing was long and intense & to the onlookers present it resembled Samson bashing the Philistines with the jawbone of an ass. This was something those boys least expected, and they retreated bruised, battered & badly shaken. From that moment on never again did any one dare tease her.
Nine years later I had the good fortune of marrying this lady. Teacher Sheeba is her name & the umbrella like the sword of Tipu Sultan is preserved for posterity. It’s been an eventful 140 years of quality service for S.F.S and as the old school embarks on another voyage that will see it cross many more milestones, in my nautical lexis I wish the institution a Bon Voyage, smooth seas and favorable winds. The old school has given so much to so many & I can hardly think of my life without S.F.S, after all I was there for 12 years. Roll on S.F.S you make me feel like a child again.
Dare to be wise