Monday, 30 June 2014

OLPS High School - The good old days






The principal of the boy’s school was an Irish priest Rev Father McGrath, hailing from Dublin, and the teachers were mainly Goan with a few from Mangalore, Maharastra, South and North. And major part of the students hailed from Goa. So football was the main sport. Cricket was reduced to a secondary sport. OLPS produced good footballers, some of whom went on to play for the state and popular clubs......

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I studied in a convent school, Our Lady of Perpetual High School (OLPS for short) in Chembur, a suburb of Mumbai. My two siblings junior to me also studied here. And my only sister studied in the adjacent St Anthony’s Girls High School. Those were really fun and carefree days. Later my son and daughter too passed out from OLPS and St Anthony’s. Two generations passed out from these reputed schools. So these schools have a special place in my life. I firmly believe, I am what I am today because of my education here under the able teachers. And credit should go to my mother who was keen and insistent that we all siblings study in these schools. The environment around the school was quiet and peaceful, very much suitable for the schools located there.


The principal of the boy’s school was an Irish priest Rev Father McGrath, hailing from Dublin, and the teachers were mainly Goan with a few from Mangalore, Maharastra, South and North. And major part of the catholic students hailed from Goa. So football was the main sport. Cricket was reduced to a secondary sport. OLPS produced good footballers, some of whom went on to play for the state and popular clubs. Just next to OLPS is St Anthony’s School for girls, is managed by nuns.

St Anthony's Girls High School
A common compound wall separated the two schools and the playground attached to the respective schools. Boys will be boys. Some of the mischievous boys would tease the girls on the other side or throw stones on the trees across to fell and steal the ripe tamarinds. Apart from this, there was a continuous feud between the boys and girls of the two schools. The girls called the boys school – ‘cardboard’ and the boys retaliated by calling the girls school – ‘tabela’; though this was all said in fun. 



I still remember the two bulky books, the boys would hate to carry to school, the red English grammar book, Wren & Martin, some boys would jokingly call it China's Mao's red book; and the Blue Dondo, the French text book, considered to be the ‘blue French bible.’ Now they are not to be seen.


OLPS playground
I also remember the French sir, one of the few male teachers. He was an old Parsi gentleman called Dorabjee, wearing white starched coat and pants, who would use two spectacles, one of distance and one for reading. He was so good he had literally memorized Dondo and was even familiar with the page numbers and the contents in those pages of a nearly 400 pages book.

I studied French for 3 years. But now my French is limited to – Bonjure, La Gason, La fee, Quez ke liya, etc. it was here we brushed up the languages – English, Hindi and Marathi, along with other subjects. I get sentimental whenever I think of my teachers or happen to see the photograph of the school building. My foundation was laid here by my teachers. Generation after generation, children have passed out from here to occupy top positions and make a name for themselves. Full credit goes to the school and the teachers for the good foundation in life.

OLPS Church
I remember them with fondness. In school, you are close knit and cared for, you are scolded and encouraged to study and participate in sports. The annual class picnic, the sports day and the annual day were great events all the students looked forward to. In college nobody bothers whether you study or not, you are just one of the students there. You are literally on your own. The school bonding among friends and class mates remain when you grow up and it is always a pleasure to meet your class mates anywhere, in India or abroad. It immediately strikes a special chord and you tend to get nostalgic. I also remember the church we used to occasionally go to pray.

I will be accused of leaking a secret! The naughty boys had funny nick names for their favourite teachers - the fast walking and talking slim Hindi teacher with glasses was called 'railgadi', after the Hindi poem on the same subject. Mr Dorabji, the French sir was called 'Dondo' after the famous thick blue French text book. Mrs Periera was known as 'Honda', as her husband would drop in a Honda bike, very rare those days. Mrs Athaide was known as the 'Sleeping Beauty' for her relaxed approach. Mr Chaturvedi was fondly called 'Bhaiya'. Another young pretty teacher, I am not sure, named Jude teaching 5th or 6th standard in the late sixties was called 'Dolly'. And the best of all, Father Fonseca who took charge after Rev Father McGrath in 1969-70 was popularly known as 'Baap', meaning father or big bully!

And some of the teachers whom I remember - Mrs D'Costa teaching fourth standard and her her son Godwin happened to be my classmate. Mrs Almeida teaching in sixth standard and residing in a building near St Anthonys school. Mr Victor, the PT sir. Mrs Saldhana teaching us Science. Mrs Fernandes, the tall lady with glasses teaching English; and her husband happened to be my Professor teaching English in college. Mr Kunder, the Hindi sir, Mr Acharya, the maths sir, Mr Wad, Mrs Gupte, Mrs Deshpande, all teaching Marathi. And Mr Verghese teaching science. Apart from them, Mr Saldhana, husband of our Science teacher from the school office and the fair, tall, smiling Robert who started as a peon in the school and continued for many years.


I also remember somewhere in 1969-70, my small reputation of playing cricket for a local team in Chembur as an opening bat and pace bowler reached the ears of some boys in school. I was asked to captain and select the school cricket team to play a match against the ex-students who had passed out a couple of years earlier. The match was played on a matting wicket in the dusty school ground. I don't remember the scores or the result, but many were impressed with my pace bowling and yorkers. And the boys in the stand would shout, Ajit Pai (after the lanky pace bowler Ajit Pai of the then Bombay Ranji team who bowled in tandem with Ismail) while running in to bowl at the ex-student batsmen.  And the name stuck for sometime till I was in school. I went on to play for a couple of years in college, and then got more interested in Journalism and advertising copy.


If I remember correctly in 1970, for the first time, the boys had a joint farewell party with the girls of St Anthonys girls school; as was the custom those days, students of the tenth standard would organise and host a farewell party for the eleventh standard students. And it was also a farewell to Mr Dorabji, the French sir who retired from teaching after a long tenure with OLPS. It was a very sentimental moment for all. Also remember the loud, big, smoking school bus owner Silver Pinto, staying opposite the school, was an active member during the annual sports day and other activities of the school.


Childhood and school days are real fun and care free days you miss when you grow up when you get busy with the responsibility and practicalities of everyday life. But it brings happiness when you look back at those carefree and playful days. I am proud that I was a student of Our Lady Perpetual Succour High School, like many others who have passed out and are doing well for themselves. 


However as time changes, things change. A lot of changes have happened in the school and surrounding areas. But I hope the spirit remains the same.








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New Year celebration? 


Do you know about the new year celebration? The first recorded New Year's celebration dates back 4,000 years to Babylon, when the first moon after the spring equinox marked a new year. In 46 BC, Julius Caesar created a calendar with Jan 1 as the first day of the year, partly to honour Janus, the month's namesake. Since then 1 January is celebrated as the new year day.
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Taj Mahal, Agra, India
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Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Jhakas! No Shudh Hindi Please

Languages are meant to communicate easily and reach out to other people. Let us allow it to evolve. Hindi films have been one major contributing factor to spreading Hindi far and wide across India.
                                                
After getting a huge mandate, BJP should have got down to its real business of providing good governance and clean administration. But it is in the news for wrong reasons. It has touched a very sensitive issue in haste – Hindi. The recent government circulars asking officials to please use Hindi on social media shook India’s foundation. Government had to face severe criticism from various quarters. Politicians jumped into the fray. CPM’s Brinda Karat vehemently opposed the Hindi imposition, preferring the Queen’s language. Odisha’s speaker disallowed a question-hour Hindi inquisition. But the biggest blow came from the South, where Tamil parties and politicians battle each other, found themselves on the same side with a common cause on this linguistic plank. DMK superemo M Karunanidi stated, the government’s move would make non-Hindi speakers secondary citizens in their own land. Seizing the opportunity, CM Jayalalitha shot off a stern letter highlighting the misgivings to the PM and informed him they are comfortable with the Queen’s language. Many of BJP’ own allies heaped bitter criticism on it on unnecessarily raking up the sensitive issue. PMK’s S Ramadoss went one step further and demanded all 22 languages in the Constitution’s Eighth Schedule be declared official while MDMK’s Vaiko warned the government, not to provoke a sleeping lion by brandishing the Hindi stick.

Hindi like many of the Indian languages is a beautiful language. Many of us have nothing against Hindi or for that matter the 22 official languages; each one of them is rich with tradition and history. Most Indians are good in communicating in 2-4 languages, and Hindi is one of them. And the Hindi spoken from place to place varies, like for example south, Hyderabadi Hindi is with sprinkling of Urdu, interior Maharastra, Hindi with a lot of Marathi words and the unique Bambaiya, etc. So is the Queen’s language, the Indianised English.

Most Indians apart from their mother-tongue are fluent in 2-3 languages, at least in speaking. This is in fact an asset. Regardless of what the politicians think, Hindi is not spoken all over India, especially South, North East, East, west, etc. However the popular Hindi films are a binding force all over India and a catalyst for Hindi, though it adopts different styles of spoken Hindi in many different films. In Maharastra or for that matter Mumbai where I reside, Hindi is at best, a second language after Marathi and some areas other languages like Gujarati, Tamil, Urdu, Punjabi and Sindhi, etc take precedence. Since both the languages, Marathi and Hindi use the Devanagiri script, locals can read simple Hindi. Hence there is not much opposition here. Mumbai has it own Hindi – Bambaiya, a street smart and colourful Hindi version. But this is not the case in other states who despise Shudh Hindi. The recent Home ministry orders instructing government departments to stick to Hindi on social media platforms was uncalled for and unfortunate.

Why should someone who does not use Hindi as a primary language be compelled to express in it? People suspect it is an attempt to gradually impose Hindi as the sole language across India thereby benefitting the Hindi speaking North Indians. This impression will harm the social fabric of the nation and is not going to be accepted by a vast majority of Indians. NDA allies too are not happy, so are many Indians who believe in national integrity and freedom to express and communicate in the language of their choice.


Languages are meant to communicate easily and reach out to other people. Let us allow it to evolve. Hindi films have been one major contributing factor to spreading Hindi far and wide across India. Compared to ten years back, today while travelling even in remote corners of the vast country, one can communicate to a certain extent, as Hindi is understood by many locals. Let us allow it to grow on it own and be accepted by choice. And as far as I remember, there is no law or bill passed which makes Hindi the national language.


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(From the great epic - Ramayana) The story about Bharata
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Friday, 20 June 2014

Bedfellows without love or romance!


Very soon we are likely to see a marriage of convenience, with no love or romance, but an arrangement just to set right the mess created by the US and UK in Iraq. Where ever US has intervened, they have left the place and people in uncertain frame of mind encouraging civil unrest.

It was the sexed up intelligence reports that claimed weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, based on which the US and UK sent troops to Iraq. The eventual state of affairs in Iraq today is there for all to see. No weapons of mass destruction were ever found but a regime was toppled and a society in tatters, a recipe for civil unrest. All this because they did not like the dictator Saddam and his independent policies some of which were against them. Later at least in UK, some intelligence guys were hauled up for sexing up’ their intelligence reports. But nothing of this happened in US.

The political crisis in Iraq may make strange bedfellows of he US and Iran, but don’t expect any love between them. It is an old adage coming into play – my enemy’s enemy is my friend, raising the unthinkable prospect of co-operation between the US and Iran to support the beleaguered Nouri al Maliki against the fanatical jihadists of the Islamic state in Iraq and al-sham (ISIS). Over the past few days, Washington and Tehran have been eyeing each other. Iran has already made the first move by indicating they are not averse to supporting US in this fight against the ISIS. Don’t they make strange bedfellows?


This will also be the first foreign policy test for Modi and BJP. The ministry of external affairs confirmed that 40 Indian construction workers, most of them from Punjab, had been abducted, presenting the barely month-old NDA government its biggest foreign policy test. Apart from this, about 46 Kerala nurses are stranded in northern Iraq. To add to their woes, most of them had paid hefty amounts for their visa and travel papers. It would be difficult for them to return empty-handed now. This unrest in Iraq may put additional burden on Indian oil imports too.


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Bharata, My Brother
(From the great epic - Ramayana) The story about Bharata
Written by: Anil Kumar Naik
Foreword by: Shri Asaranna Swami of Durga Parmeshwari Temple, Kateel, SK, Karnataka.
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Thursday, 12 June 2014

Glimpses from India: A Couple of Days in Konkan


Temple at Marcela, Goa
Konkan on the West coast of Maharastra with sea on one side, lined with greenery, fields, coconut palm trees and sandy beaches on the other is a tourist’s paradise. Monsoon brings to life -  the  freshness, greenery and magic of nature in Konkan.

Just returned from a short and quick trip to Konkan – Sawantwadi, Vengrula, Shiroda and then onwards to Goa – Marcela, a place renowned for temples. Then onwards to Panjim and Keri. The rains are yet to arrive. The climate is hot and humid. However it was an enjoyable trip, a well deserved change from the hustle and bustle of city life.


Sawantwadi is known for the Central Jail, beautiful lakes and wooden handicrafts. A little further is the town’s market area where you can find fresh vegetables, fish, fruits and flowers which are brought here from nearby areas. And close by, line of old shops and a shopping arcade are busy catering to customers, locals and outsiders. Shirodkar’s pickles are worth tasting; and am sure you be compelled to carry a few packed bottles. And I did carry a few mango pickle bottles.

Nearby is a small joint with a big heart – Balkrishna Cold drink House , serving cold drinks and a wide range of icecreams with tasty flavours to cool in the hot summer. It was established in 1965 and the icecream flavours were introduced by Smt Vijaylaxmi Narayan Nevagi. Presently it is managed by her son, Shashikant Nevagi. The popular items on the menu are Cocktail, 

Faluda and Mastani besides the different popular flavours of icecream. They also have branches in Kudal and Kankavli in Konkan. If you are in Sawantwadi, do not miss it at Jaiprakash Chowk. Your Konkan trip would be incomplete if you haven’t tasted the icecream here. The towns folk and students from nearby school and college come here to cool with the icecreams.

About 24km from Sawantwadi is Shiroda, a quiet town with trees, greenery, beach, temples and old houses with Mangalore tile roofs. Some are over 200 to 300 years old. Here in the Kamat ancestral home, the annual utsav in memory of a saintly man known as Bappu Mama is held every year around May end or early June as per the auspicious date in the Hindu calendar. 


DeepStamb
Near the market area is an old temple overlooking the town
Mauli temple
– Mauli temple, standing majestically with a deepstambh, where the regular devotees and tourists come to pray. This old temple exhibit the old Indian temple architecture practiced in those olden days. It shows the skill of the masons and craftsmen of that era.

A little further away in Aravalli is the popular Vethoba temple revered by many and few meters further down 

Vethoba temple
the road is Satheri temple where a regular flow of devotees come to seek blessing. Here it is said, if you visit Vethoba temple, you must also follow it with a visit to Satheri temple. You are then truly blessed.

 Satheri temple 
After a quick breakfast of traditional Misal pav and hot tea near the temple precincts, we left for Goa. Here the first destination was Marcela, a place dotted with temples which gives one a spiritual atmosphere. 

Shanta Durga temple
Visited the Shanta Durga temple to seek her blessings. After tea and a chat with the temple priest, proceeded to Panjim, 

Panjim
Goa’s capital, buzzing with activity and with plenty of local and foreign tourists, enjoying their holidays on the many beaches, resorts, shacks and holiday homes.

Proceeded to Mandre and onwards to Keri for our dinner appointment with a family relative whom we had promised to visit.

Rawalnath temple, Keri
Nearby is the old temple with traditional architecture reminding one and all of its glorious past. Had a sumptuous Goan meal and halted for the night. A well deserved rest to relax the tired body.

Next morning, after a traditional breakfast, bid goodbye to our relative and Goa, travelled to Mumbai and back to the every-day routine. The Konkan and Goa trip in a way recharged us, though it was hot and humid, refreshed us. The rains are expected soon. Come rains and it brings about a magical change in the nature bringing out its best in Konkan and Goa. Monsoon travel is much more fun.


* To be here or to communicate: aneelanike@gmail.com

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Bharata, My Brother
(From the great epic - Ramayana) The story about Bharata
Written by: Anil Kumar Naik
Foreword by: Shri Asaranna Swami of Durga Parmeshwari Temple, Kateel, SK, Karnataka.
Available now. Place your order.
Just mail to: akn929@yahoo.com
Price: Rs 200 + 50(P&F) (India)
         $ 20 (Overseas)   
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Friday, 6 June 2014

The Ghost Mansions of Chettinad





Old majestic mansions stand as mute spectators to the happenings over the decades. Well-designed structures with beautifully laid out interiors are locked. Some are lucky to have a caretaker, who lives around the house.  Each home stretches for miles, sometimes filling up the entire street. Walking around one can see facades with deities on their walls while an occasional statue of queen Victoria stands among st the shrubs........


I am sure many of the readers may have never heard of the affluent Chettiyars from Chettinad. Today there are not many Chettiyars in Chettinad, but their homes, 30,000 of them spread over nearly 74 villages stand as a cultural and architectural reminder of a gone by era. While most of them are locked, with only a caretaker to enjoy the splendor, a few palace-like mansions, like Saratha Vilas, have been meticulously restored and opened to tourists from India and abroad.

Kothamangalam is an obscure Tamilnadu village. Here sits a century-old palace with a giant terracotta horse carved by village potters, stands next to the bed as if guarding the guests. A heaving push on the ornate door, carved in teak, leads to the expansive hall. Within the 35,000 square feet of space the mansion occupies, pillars from Burmese teak, mirror and chandeliers from Belgian glass, tiles from Japan and Holland and marble floors from Italy.


Kothamangalam is one of the 75 villages of Chettinad, a region in Tamilnadu which was once home to the affluent Chettiyar community, primarily the Nagarathar, who are elite bankers and merchants. Sometime in the nineteenth century, most members of the community, which had maritime trade relations with South East Asia, migrated overseas to Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.

The ancestral property of one of the prominent Chettiyar, Subramanian Chettiyar, who migrated to Malaysia many years ago; Saratha Vilas has been restored and converted into a boutique hotel by French architects Bernard Dragon and Michel Adment who, on their second trip to India in 2003, travelled around Tamilnadu and Pondicherry, and were lured by the majestic mansions of Chettinad and decided to stay here.

Today, Chettinad is in the process of being classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, government of Tamilnadu asked the architects to present Chettinad for inclusion into the World Heritage Tentative List for India.

Chettinad has been included in the Watch List of Most Endangered Sites of the World Monuments Fund, by a New York organization and a campaign to Revive Chettinad Heritage was launched in 2012, in partnership with UNESCO and supported by the Tamilnadu government.

Each home stretches for miles, sometimes filling up the entire street. Walking around one can see facades with deities on their walls while an occasional statue of queen Victoria stands amongst the shrubs. Most of these homes have been rented for Bollywood film shoots, like Virasat and Kollywood films like Aishwarya Rai starred Kandukondein were shot here.

A walk around the village reveals Chettinad as a colourful mosaic of arts, crafts, jewellery, culture, architecture and food. A drive through the villages takes around two hours, which connects you to old temples, markets, handicraft centres, local tile manufacturing units, lush green fields and brimming reservoirs.

Besides, the community and clan temples, each village has a local Ayyanan temple, the guardian that watch over these huge empty homes. The shrines are surrounded by symbolic offerings of terracotta horses and elephants, carved by the local porters. They remind you of a bustling civilization that once existed here.

Karaikudi is the main town in Chettinad and is connected by rail and road. It’s about 100 km from Madurai, 90 km from Tiruchirapally and 400 km from Chennai. All the three cities are connected by trains. You can also fly into Chennai and take a train or bus to Karaikudi. Once here, the sights will take you to a gone by era and a civilization that once thrived here.










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Food for thought!

Recently while conversing with a couple of senior citizens, I was a bit perturbed to hear their story behind their smiles. Amongst all of them, one thing was common. Their children were well-educated and are settled or working abroad.

They confided – ‘Our life is one of happiness and more of sadness. We live here and the children provide for us the material comforts. But that is not life. We miss our children- sons and daughters, the grand children, the hustle and bustle, the playful noise at home, the fights, the arguments, discussions, eating and going out together. Now it is silence or the sound of TV; and it is just reduced to their visits once in two to three years when they come on a short holiday. We get energized and feel the true happiness.

Otherwise it is me and my wife giving company to each other. Waking up in the morning, going through our regular routine, talking to each other and silently remembering the good old days when we worked hard and the children were growing up.’

And one of them made a passing remark – ‘Tell me, is money everything?’

I understand their feelings, their anguish, their sadness and all that they were talking about. Surely, life is much more than this. Remember, just as you needed your parents when young, they need you when they grow old.


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Picture Post:

Gaganachukki Falls, Mandya, Karnataka in India
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Anil Naik
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Email: akn929@yahoo.com




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