I harbour very fond memories of my school St. Mary’s and set off on a visit in July, 2016 after 50 years, with heightened anticipation but a trifle unsure of the response I would get. I even had a visit to Royapuram planned in case the reception at school was luke warm. As
it turned out the watchman at the gate, a portly but genial individual, gave me a beaming smile when I told him I was an ex student and led me to the Principal Father Sundar’s room. A winning smile from a watchman can be such an ice breaker.
I waited a moment outside the Principal’s room before the watchman brushed aside everyone else and ushered me in to meet the Principal. Father Sundar was polite at first but showed more than a touch of warmth as we spoke. He called in the Assistant Headmaster Eugene Reddy, a tall and amiable teacher who had none of the stern countenance that we normally associate with headmasters or assistant headmasters, as we discussed the need for the alumni stepping up to assist the school which manages only off the school fees it collects and receives no support from the government.
I was given a conducted tour of the school by two bright young students. The classrooms had been shuffled around since our days; the earlier Std. 5A and 5B now house the senior classes though the classrooms look much the same as they did decades ago. Most of the class rooms were jam packed with students whether in the primary classes of the senior classes. As I walked around I barged into some of the classes to greet the students and to take photos. Eugene Reddy got me to speak to the students of a class he was teaching just then.
I was struck by the politeness and a refreshing simplicity and exuberance that I saw everywhere I went. I noticed this across the school from the junior classes to the senior classes. The students greeted me cheerfully and some little boys who were sitting outside on the corridors (God forbid they had spilled over) proudly showed me their class books. It was a heartwarming experience to see the politeness and simplicity of the student. This seems to be part of the training that the school is pervasively imparting. It can only be through teacher behaviour and also a behaviour model prescribed by the Salesian brotherhood. Father Sundar told me with a touch of pride that the medium of education continues to be English. He said the school takes care to recruit teachers who were proficient in English.
The class rooms of the original school block looked just the same as in our days in school back in the sixties. The stone staircase that led to the first floor and Father Whyte’s room
and the second floor have been mute spectators to over a century of schooling at St. Mary’s. The class rooms on the first floor even had the same wooden partitions we had in our days. The library had moved from the little room manned by Bernard Matthews on the ground floor, to a spacious hall on the third floor. The Chemistry, Physics and Biology Labs were also spacious though sparse and could do with additional facilities.
The school has approximately 1770 students crammed into rather small floor space. St. Mary’s unfortunately never had a play ground so essential to a school. In our days the nearby Law College grounds served as a venue for cricket, hockey and athletics practice. I understand these grounds are no longer available due to additional construction. To cross the road and get to whatever play fields are left may also be a daunting task given the high level of traffic and construction work going on. There are very few Anglo Indians now in St. Mary’s. Father Sundar tells me that there are just 30 to 40 in the school strength of 1770.
In a brief interaction it is obviously not possible to gauge the standard of education. One would have to check the school records and web site information to see the level of scholastic achievements and sporting prowess. I was nevertheless impressed with the general atmosphere in the school and very happy that I had chosen to visit the school after such a long time. The urge to contribute in some way lingered within me as I left the school.