St. Joseph's Boys' High School, Bangalore

OBA CHAT!!

The school badge lapel pin


Reading the heading one gets the impression that this is a 'Chat' session page, that's the impression I got myself! I ended up chatting to myself. Yes, as one goes down the long corridor of the mind running thoughts, one does tend to let go. I was tempted to just let it go, but it kept on gnawing at me, after all I am a Josephite, and we don't flinch ( I don't want to say there were exceptions, but many ducked , I did, and many an uneasy moment was always to be experienced at the crease when Massimo the big Italian Ox bowled!! Understand that he still bowls, and I don't mean 9 pins!!! Must be in the 'spaghetti' at the Italian Guest House that was on Convent-Residency Road, 'Popeye had spinach'!! Italians had large families, if they didn't, they had large men!!Hey, Chris Rai, back me on this!!)

Sometime last year 2001, I was passing through the good ole school - just 'school' to most, even if you did go to the 'Harvard School of Business Economics', "School" always meant "St. Joseph's", and that was in Bangalore, India. Some of us have been lucky to go through this power house of basic life-time education, and the results have been established in the local, national and international scenes. Don't worry, I will put links to the earlier pages on 'the school' so that you will get the drift.

Now, for those of you who have gone through the grind, looking from the college side of the field, planting one's feet right in the middle of the cricket pitch, you would remember and visualize the enormous two wings of arches , joined and peaked together in the middle by the high roof of the Chapel, (inmates, would remember, big-dorm, middle-dorm, and study halls, later these became class rooms as the number of sections increased and the proportion of students exploded also. It was like as though someone pierced my stomach with a knitting needle when I first saw the shattered wing (nearer the Bank), ... Black Bird, by the Beatles came to my mind. I took some photos so that the memories of the pillars that we did wipe our sweat and inky hands to were being downed. Nothing could be done, the giant had to come down and slowly she did, fighting every brick of the way. The size of the girders were around a foot plus thick and length forty feet, twisted, in an expression to say that  'I won't go down easily, Come on the Blues never to Lose!!', but in the end victory was not the result, only the fight to remain back. This was the time when I did discover the sketches drawn on the walls in the remains of the 'Scouts Den'. someplace that when I was in school never did venture to go into, one did link wolves and the occult of darkness and secrecy with the 'Pack, and 'Be Prepared',  people like Fr. Biscaro and Mr. Bhatt did not encourage much. These charcoal and crayon sketches must have been done in the first decade of the 1900's the latest, and I am sure must have been the priest who did the other paintings in the school. I did manage to get a few photos of these sketches and they really impressed me as an artist, and it was indeed sad that these were never really shown to people or made aware of before the demolition, and I am sure was never recorded for prosperity.

Later the new block of the school was built over the ruins of the old wing, and after that the demolition of the East Wing which housed the dorms and study hall facing the swimming pool and the primary sections was demolished. Now only as of writing, only  the Chapel is left standing in the middle, with nothing to the east and a new block to the west. The Refectory and Chemistry lab ( this has been turned into the 'Site Office'!!) are still standing only as buildings. In this environment, I am sure if you stand where I stood you could hear the thuds of the sledge hammers banging on the solid walls, and it effected your pulse beat and you will not be able to stand it very much. As an old boy, does bring a little choking at the neck, not from the dust, but from the memories and emotions of the best years of ones life. Some photos are linked below.

In this environment also would have sat David Chatterjee (Dr.), to most just "CHAT!!", siting in the stillness of the underground Chemistry Laboratory, where he first sat as a student under the sharp and twinkling eyes of Mr. Alec Alverez. I am sure that the pressure of the demolition would have got to him and to think that his kingdom was being broken around him, would have felt it and without anyone in that lonely laboratory took the decision to resign (retire say others) and call it a day. Mind you I did meet David (I call him David, as I grew up with him as a classmate, when he used to stay on Myrtle Lane where presently Xavier Hall Chapel exists, and many a day we did have to dodge his mothers' umbrella, poor George Webster didn't!!)  in November of 2001 where he was waiting and excited after getting his much  worked for Ph.D. in Chemistry. He told me 'Ronnie, we have some of the most expensive and best equipment around, and I am waiting for the school to start the "Plus 2" section." (that is the XI & XII std, in the old days ISC and Senior Cambridge.), which shows his dedication to the school was 'total', and only a Josephite will understand what dedication to the 'school' was, and especially those who came up under the old guard of the Pereira's, Alverez's, Yates, DeSouzas, Diaz's !!

I think I may have him on tape also, must check with my sister in Australia if there was an interview, I think David did say a few words, then with his charming smile through his mustache and pulling out a cigarette, ambled to talk about the old days, and mind you my brother David (not too sure if my late mother was impressed with him and named my brother after him, because nobody in my family was a 'David' before!!) as well as my son Andrew went through him. David only told them that he knew the brother and father and that was all. He never took out any of the mischief we played on him on them, although he was excitable, he never meant what he said, and that was his undoing as we played more pranks. I did meet Aloysious Friedle at the memorial service who did recount that David did chase him around the school till he had to be rescued for teasing him. David was brilliant, eccentric was more like it. His love for Chemistry was always his first love, blowing up his roof at home as part of an experiment confirmed it (one was reminded of William, Ginger.. , where instead of William being blackened with soot, it was David!!). His father being a doctor wanted him to follow, and so he did get into St. John's Medical College fulfilling his duty , and did his Pre-Professional Course, but made sure that he had a fight with his Anatomy Professor to get out of the college when his father passed away.

I am not sure of Chat's love for music, perhaps he did, but unfortunately none of us were aware or invited him to be part of any of our rock groups when he grew up, but I do know he did have a love for the English Language, and loved acting and expressing the language even when he was scolding his boys. I wonder if he did pick up this from Papa Yates or Lugan? because Chemistry he did from Alvy (Alec Alverez in front of his Lab). David, like Alvy, his mentor, always encouraged his students, and my brother David in his mail to me  mentions that it was his master Chat, who encouraged him to take up Veterinary Sciences, and that is what he did. I think there must be many a student who was motivated to do better, to make decisions in their futures with the help of Chat. Even those who found Chemistry a pain, and tried other methods of passing his class were literally made to digest the subject, and as it turned out they fared very well in their futures. Like his mentor and masters of the '50's -60's, .

Thinking of Alec, it was really a sight to see the great man at David's Memorial service, sitting quietly looking at the coffin of his prodigy, somebody he just handed his keys over to and never a day had to worry about his laboratory in amateur hands (32 years in charge!!). I just went up to him and shook his hands, nothing needed to be said, it was all in the way he looked at you, because David was like 'family' to him, and someone who was very much like himself. I understand that there is now a lady teacher for Chemistry!!! I think that David came to school the day he died to sign his Provident Fund forms?, and it is very ironical that he should die in a spot that faces the Chemistry Lab from the roadside. It is a good thing that the Lab is being brought down, as David was very attached to it and it is a possibility that his spirit linger there for a while. He died crossing the road to go to Gautham Hotel for a cup of tea and I guess to replenish his cigarettes, but he never made it across the road. An autorikshaw hit him and he had a head injury which according to Dr. Tommy Chandy of Hosmat who attended on David (they were both students of St. John's), was brain dead on the spot. There were over a thousand plus  old students and parents who came for David's Memorial service on the 1st August 2002 at the school hall, but only a handful proceeded to his burial in Whitefield, as he had shifted his residence to Whitefield after his tenure with St. Joseph's. (I met Tony D'cruz at the funeral who stays at Whitefield, and who gave me quite a few insights into David and his last days, and his feelings after leaving St. Joseph's.). I tried to get a lift and when I got negative replies about people who were not going, I decided to bike it down to Whitefield. The greatest tribute paid to him was from Fr. Hedwig Dacosta a fellow Josephite and his principal during his tenure.  I was a bit confused seeing some boys, a good number of them in Cotton's School blazers, and I was wondering if he was taking tuition for them, but then my son mentioned that those were his old students from the "Plus 2" of Cottons come to pay their respects, as there is no Course in our school. No comments.

I had sent a mail to the President of the Old Boys with a suggestion to be confirmed at the AGM that the Chemistry Laboratory when rebuilt, be named "The ALVEREZ-CHATTERJEE Chemistry Laboratory", in honour of both the teachers. Let us hope that some wisdom come on those that have the clout to stand up and be counted for their master's sake and speak up and get this confirmed, I am sure that if I do so myself, I am too little to be seen or heard..(see section below "Update: Flash! OBA Day..")

I ALSO hope that they preserve the War Memorial and the solid cast-iron Gates (these gates have parts from ammunition boxes used during the World Wars!! Anyone noticed?).

I don't know what happened to the photographs that were in the Refectory, as that place is closed down. I am willing to digitize the photographs (for free) as I can borrow a camera as I don't own one and save the photographs, anyone listening to what I am trying to say, someone please speak up to the top. Let us not lose these valuable documented memories.

Now, you know what the OBA CHAT!! is all about. Chat is Chat!!

Cheers
Ronnie
August 2002.


Update: Flash! OBA Day, 1st September 2002, Sunday.

After reconsidering about going for the OBA Day Function, keeping in mind that I had a late night (No, I did not go for the Blue & White Ball held on Saturday night 31st August 2002, at Catholic Club, I had a family Engagement Ceremony to attend!!) I decided to go for the Mass at 7.15 am, it still foxes me all these years about the odd time of "seven fifteen". The Mass was well attended, and one was surprised to see a few of the "Old Boys" with their "Medals". One distinguished guest was I think Tony Gernon, the President / Hon. Secretary of the The St. Joseph's OBA (UK Branch), who carried the "Foreign Legion" flag, and marched with the Scouts to the War Memorial adding a lot of solomenity to the process. The two army buglers were also empressed with this gentleman with a sloping beret, braced with a couple of shiny medals from the wars, perhaps before they were born, and like a Roman Legion general, flag with 'spike' on top!! (Looked like the spike was pinched from the helmet of an old Prussian officer!!) After the School Band rendered Auld Langsang (sp)? in the begining and 'Abide with me' at the end, mind you they are still using the old wire folding frame music stands. The gathering broke up and went to sing the School Song and unfurn the flag, the honour was given to the UK President. Other choice would have been Jimmy Ankelsaraia who was also present.



Next was the 'traditional' breakfast, I finally decided that I would attend, and quickly ran to the OBA Office and got myself a ticket for the much avaited 'sausages and eggs'. Poor Ivan Yates would have been really disappointed as the breakfast was in a shamania infront of the new West Wing, and the tables were smaller so that there was no chance of the organised seating we follow, 'leave a seat, take the next' so that we always have an extra plate to start the breakfast with. There was a tremendoous delay with the serving of the eggs, and so one had sausages and coffee and then later when the eggs came, another round of coffee was wrangled!! Items like wooden plaques (with pieces of 'The School' stuck on them along with your name, I had made the suggestion long ago to encase the tiles and sell them as mememtos, my 'idea' seems to be taken and modified but they will deny it, a very good modified production), t-shirts, 'special covers'.

Next came the "photocatching"ceremony. Gone are the days when GK Vale came with his 'assistant' - umbrella, dothi, black cloth, tripod, wooden and brass camera in tow. Now it's one guy with a rather large looking format camera (2x2) who kept on clicking, not chancing his luck with just one shot. Also he had a rather large 'light meter' for the bright and warm morning. My guess he has been seeing too much of cricket and umpires!!. For once, they used their imagination, infact they were forced to do so because of the demolition, and had the photograph infront of the Chapel building. It will be the last photogaraph taken of this building as they are going to bring it down soon. With a little more imagination, the background could have been a blend of both the New West Wing and the Old Chapel perhaps by taking the photograph from the entrance side, or moving the shamiania towards the field, why not the group stand in the middle of the field so that the whole school becomes the background!! Terance deNazereth commented that 'it took them more than 50 years to realize they had it wrong all these years, and that the group standing for the photograph should not have their eyes squinting in the sun!!'

AGM Meeting was called to in the Concert Hall, perhaps for the last time as that too is slated to fall. A rather sober crowd attended and not many contras were raised. The plaques were distributed, Jimmi Ankelsaria was given the 'Life Achievement' award. The usual proceedings were given which you no doubt will get in the next Annual Report directly, or maybe in the OBA Webpage.

When the time of 'other matters' came, as usual and as I expected, my request through e-mail was not taken up, so I went up myself and made two requests:
(1) That the new Chemistry Laboratory when ever built, be named "The Alverez-Chatterjee Laboratory", quite a few seemed to favour the idea. Fr. Micheal John, did mention that someone has given 25 lacs for the Lab already in the name of "Mr. Alverez", and if another '25 lacs' can be gathered, then we can have another in the name of "Dr. David Chatterjee"!! I am still confused as to why there should be 2 Chemistry labs!! But I am sure that the great man that Alec is would not mind sharing his name for the lab, and in fact, would bring joy to him that his own student in Chemistry, came back to the School to teach in his place!! I think I will have a talk to Alvy on this!! (Out of curiosity, I asked some 'influential old boys' if my request was ok, but was surprised to learn that it was not, and the way they said it was aggressive, whew!!! I believe that if a proposal is made, it must be backed up 'financially' and so I would require '25 lacs' to get a Laboratory named after Dr. David Chatterjee!! Any of David's students feel like sponsoring '25 lacs' for their late master? Strange, I had written to the President on this request, and he did not bother to reply to my mail. Perhaps, if he did explain the 'workings' of proposals, I wouldn't have brought the topic up. It only proves one thing, that you "have to be somebody" or else you will never get an answer. Sad for Josephites, or it just could be me).

Follow-up: On 5th September 2002, my wife Maisy and I went to see some of our 'Retired' Teachers, being "Teacher's Day". As Maisy is a Teacher, she gets plenty of flowers which we felt we should share with the Teachers who may not receive them being 'retired', hence 'forgotten' [We covered Mrs. Ann D'Souza (once our Primary Teacher, and the wife of the late Luke D'souza) and Mr. Alec Alverez]. I did broach the subject with the 'great man' Mr. Alec, if he felt offended that I had asked to have a 'joint name' for the Chemistry Lab. He was very happy that I did ask, and stated that he would have been pleased to have his student's name along with his. Also he had very high regard and praise for David Chatterjee who followed his methods, and came and consulted him from time to time, infact, did so even the week before he died. Mr. Alverez was surprised that someone had given Rs. 25 lacs for the Chemistry Laboratory to be erected in his name, so the 'donor', please consider the 'great man's' thoughts of having his 'student' as a joint name when putting up the Lab., even though it has been given in Mr. Alverez's name alone. It won't hurt to ask Mr. Alverez his opinion on the subject. What he did say that only students 'pre-'74' would remember him, and 'post-'74' would remember David.

(2) The next request I made was that I would "digitize" all the photographs that were in the Refectory and transfer them onto a CD for the OBA 'free of cost'. These images could be added to the Movie on CD of the school that was shown to us at the meeting. The clipings are good, and will really keep one's memories at Rs.100 each CD it is worth it. I did not seem to get a response from the Committee, and I am sure I won't. I shall write to the 'New' Committee regarding this. Mr. Alverez on the 'digitizing': He was very interested in the saving of the old 'Paintings' that adorned the Refectory. He remembers the beautiful paintings of the 'Oliver inquisition', and some of the 'British Royal Family' that has since disappeared. If these can be located, and photographed digitally not so much for the 'contents', but because of the 'artist', which apparently was an old priest of the 'Foreign Mission', and possibly one who did the 'Scout Den'. I have seen some paintings in the 'New Fathers' Residence' which faces 'Rest House Road', and parallel to the Refrectory, old boarder boys will faintly remember where the 'kitchen' was located (Photographs of the kitchen remains can be found in the UK Journal, someone please ask Cary Thomas.). Most of the 'old' committee members are in the 'new' committee, including the President, Secretary and Jt. Treasurer of last year.
After that the meeting broke up for lunch. Since no one could take up issues like 'Bill', so it ended up early (did not see Maurice Rebello, he usually asks some questions). I made it a point to meet the 'President' of the 'UK' Branch, and asked him to pass on my regards to Cary Thomas, who I am grateful for sending me a copy of the UK Journal faithfully.

There was a 'Proposal' made during the meeting regarding the 'War Memorial', and how to add new names to it. Strange that someone suggested that the present slabs be removed and placed in the chapel, and new names added to the 'Memorial' as the present names belonged to the '1914'(1419!) period. Little do people realize that a 'Memorial' is sacred, and that it should not be altered. If new names are desired to be added, they could be put on slabs/tablets placed around in the garden (like they have done in the MEG parade grounds without altering the original '2nd Queen's Own Sappers & Miners' oblisk), making it a 'Garden of Remembrance' for the old boys, leaving the original monument intact.
Another choice that I feel they could make is to make a change in the foundation base two rows of stones, perhaps making them sloping against the base instead of steps, and engraving the names of 'new' old boys lost in Service on these slopes.
The background to my ideas is that we have been doing restoration of graves and memorials at the 200 year old Agram Cemetery under the guidance of Admiral OS Dawson and soon we will be planning two Memorials ( I have submitted designs for them) for all the Regiments (Army, Navy, Airforce, and Police) that have lost men/women from Karnataka during the wars and terrorist activities. As part of that Team, I am not just talking out of my hat, I will make a representation to Col. Tommy John on this matter, as he is also a great friend of the Admiral.
If I am not mistaken, the present School War Memorial pertains to only to the 'Great War' and not the 2nd World War?. Some of the names on the tablets are those of Boys and Staff who were in the school at that time, and not so much as those who had passed out, which gives greater meaning to why the Memorial is special and should not be altered. Memorials are usually kept outdoors for all to see and honour, so the question of keeping the tablets on the walls of the Chapel may be lost, also the slabs of the tablets are rather heavy for embedding into the Chapel wall.
I spoke to Col. Tommy John about this (4 Sept 2002), and he does agree that Memorial Tablets or stones can be placed at the base or around the garden and further names can be inscribed without disturbing the original Monument design or dedication. Like me, the Colonel also thinks that some suggestions from 'Senior' & 'Services' old boys around the world could be sent in and seriously be discussed by the Principal and the new OBA Committee, (who I hope is open to outside suggestions and broader vision) before taking a final decision.
Mr. Alverez's views on the Memorial: He remembered that there was an article in the 'Jubilee' Report that gave the history of the Memorial. He was not happy with the idea of dismantling the Memorial and putting new names. He said that people today want to get rid of anything old, and tend to forget the past, ( I am not sure if he jokingly put it) and he said that soon they will also want to 'forget' him also, as they have done all the old staff.!! Anyone thought of consulting him anymore? Does Mr. Alverez matter to the 'old boys' anymore? Or is it that only on 'OBA Day' do they do a lot of 'pre-beer' flag waving and cheer lustfully bringing to memories all the 'old teachers', and then hibernate till the next OBA Day, when some of them will be missing, and some will be attending, repeating the same charade over and over again. Some will remember because 'Mr. Alverez' just did not teach us Chemistry and Additional Maths, he taught us a 'way of life', and how to share. Let us make him feel that he is still the 'great man' we all believe made some of us what we are today. A 'pure' Josephite! Please bring him back into the picture by consulting him in the planning of the 'future' of St. Joseph's School. He may have a perpective view which we out in the world may be missing!
It strikes me that the names of past Staff who are no more with us do not have their names listed anywhere in the school. Only past Principals and OBA Secretary & President lists can be seen. Why not have their names inscribed in one of the passages, (as they cannot be put in the 'Garden of Remembrance' as Col. Tommy says that this place is 'only' for the 'War' Memorial where boys had laid down their lives in a 'war', or else we will have every old boy or anyone connected with the school wanting their names to be placed in this garden!!). I understand that any 'Proposal' has to have a 'financial' backing, I wonder if there is a difference between a 'suggestion' and a 'proposal', what I write above is an 'idea' and so is a 'suggestion'!!. If one cannot come up with 'ideas', then there seems to be a hint of an 'ego' issue, not 'eco' that is clouding the skies!!


The End of a tradition, the hope for a future to be continued in the same spirit... a collection of photo memories.
Sorry Old Boys:
Apparently it seems that I have lost a precious 'geocities site' on which "The Legends" of St. Joseph's were published. I will try and reload the same into a different site and give links. Presently any link with "http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/8860" will not work. Some of the pictures on http://www.geocities.com/ronnie.johnson will also not come up unless you use "http://www.geocities.com/bangalorecity2001/filename", as "Athens/Acropolis/8860" is replaced by "bangalorecity2001". The inconvience is regretted, I still dont know why Geocities removed the site!
RONNIE

Thought for the Day:" Blessed are you poor, For yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, For you shall be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, For you shall laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, And when they exclude you, And revile you, and cast out your name as evil, For the Son of Man's sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, Fon in the manner their fathers did to the prophets. But woe to you who are rich, For you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full, For you shall hunger. Woe to you who laugh now, For you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, For so did they fathers to the false prophets." Holy Bible: Luke 6:20-26