Friday, January 1, 2010


After thirty six years, last fortnight I drove down memory lane to BAM - my first trip to this town after 1973.

Twenty years after my dad retired, twenty years of fighting a court case, twenty years after living on 50% of the pension that he ought to have got, my octogenarian dad had been informed that his service book had disappeared. No apologies, no regrets, no remorse just a matter-of-fact information conveyed with a casualness that only Indian bureaucracy is capable of, “Atey borso heyee gola kono kariba file-potro hoji gala.” After one year of following up the duplicate service book had been reconstructed and now my dad had been summoned to sign it in twenty places.

Just as we reached Khalikote college the tyres laid across the road were being lit up amidst shouts of zindabaads and murdabaads. The principal’s office had been ransacked, the administrative offices had been closed down and the main gate was crowded as one of the hunger strikers had fainted. The principal hid somewhere to avoid the wrath of the rampaging students. The babus followed suit. We could do nothing else but wait for the passions to cool down. What to do, in India patience is not an optional luxury it is a basic necessity.

That’s when I pushed open the half-closed gates of St. Vincent’s Convent School and peeped in.

The first problem when you revisit the past is always the issue of scale. In 1960's I was probably three foot three and everything about the school in my minds eye was huge. The class-rooms, the open spaces, the trees, the nursery class everything now looked much smaller.

I was soaking in the view when this garrulous lady began asking me as to what I was looking for.

“Nothing, just looking around” I said.

“Then you must be an old student” she

“ Yes”, I said. “Old. Very old indeed. Do you know Sister Rosalie? ”

“No. She had gone before I joined.”

“You must meet the principal madam,” she insisted and proceeded to guide me her office leaving me with no choice. Instinctively I asked, “Sushanti, are you Dharma’s daughter?”

Her face lit up. “How do you know?”, she asked.

"Just a guess" I said.

Sister Sudha, the principal is a kind lady. She enlightened me about the “new” management – the Mangalore based Little Flower of Bethany that took over in 1979. How it is more professional. How education runs in their genes. How they have expanded. How they have become bigger and better. How students get over 90%.

“Is there any teacher of my generation?” I asked her.

She thought for a while and said, “Anima who used to teach Oriya retired a few years back”.

“Why did the nursery class change its character?” I asked. “And what happened to the piano.” She knew nothing of the piano. The nursery hall is now used for Yoga she said. “It is very essential for overall health and mental agility of the students” There is a computer lab too, she added and I noted a pride in her voice.

I went around the school and noted the disappearance of the See-Saw, Jungle-jim, Statue of St. Vincent. The entire playground has been cemented. A new double storey wing has come up.

I went towards Dr. Firoz Ali’s residence. A three storey building now stands there. There is nothing imperial about it other than the name “Imperial College.”

Giri road too had changed beyond recognition. We spent some time in Hill Patna also where dad met his colleague.

It was really nice going back in time and reliving the moments of our golden era. Berhampur still retains many of the elements of the sixties and early seventies.

Some day I hope to return for a longer trip. After all memories are priceless and as the ad-line goes- for every thing else there is MasterCard.
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