My School Days (1945 to 1957)
By J Vaidhinathan
Retired Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Govt. of India
Foreword by Venkat
It is a blessing to be in the presence of Mr. Vaidhinathan (affectionately called JV mama) who is full of talents including gardening, writing, and a special signature one – the ability to electrify any social gathering and bring smiles around! ‘Energy’ as a word would shy away looking at the amazing bubbling cauldron of enthusiasm in him, which he continues to exude even today in his 80s. He mentions that he was ‘always playful during school days’ but this remains true even to this day!
Enjoy his amazing recount of his days as a school child and picturesque details of India in 40s and 50s.
My School Days (1945 to 1957)
Appappa! What wonderful school days, despite the daily difficulties!
In Tiruvarur, Tamil Nadu, I had studied in a private elementary school from grade 1 to 3 at a school in Durgalaya Road on Kumbakonam Raman & Raman bus route. I am unable to recall the name of the school, run by two brahmin brothers. One of them was Shri Panju Ayyar. I remember myself as always playing during school days. Classes used to be on the sand ground with planks to sit on. In Class I, a teacher once said to the class, “Stand!”. Everybody stood, except me. Pointing at me, she said, ”Get up!” But I shyly said, “ I don’t want to go for a urine break”. She insisted on me getting up. Lo & behold! I poured water from my drawers!!
For my 4th grade, I was moved to my Aunt’s house in Ganapathi Agraharam for two years. A beautiful village in the midst of green fields, on the banks of Kaveri river on the Kumbakonam – Thiruvaiyaru bus route. A small canal (Vaikkaal) used to flow at the end of this big house in the village. It was indeed so spacious, I being the only male member, with my aunt and my paternal grandmother. I came to know the difference between curd & butter-milk from here, as I had not seen curd at all earlier!
My neighbor Paiyalu sir was a teacher. He used to tell us stories at night. Studies used to be very light. Since this school was up to 5th grade only, I was moved back to Tiruvarur and joined the Board High School. This is where Dr. Kalaignar Karunanidhi, The ex Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu had also studied. The Headmaster by name Rajaraman with panjakacham was a very strict personality. He used to organize lectures in the evening for all students. Once I skipped this lecture and the next day, all the students who skipped were reprimanded in the class.
We were tension-free during exams generally, as there was no undue pressure-ridden competition even in SSLC (12th Grade in those days) exams. The best would get marks of 65+ percentage, unlike the now, ranging above 90+ percentage!
My mother used to wake me up for study early morning around 4:30 AM, on hearing the boat-mail train whistle, coming from Mayavaram, going up to Karaikudi. There was no clock, not to speak of a watch, during examination times. I used to read very loud, annoying my neighbors, for unknown reasons or to exhibit myself studying hard. My marks never exceeded 50% at any time, even in SSLC. I used to study under a kerosene chimney lamp, at times burning my front hair by falling asleep. I would wake up quickly from the emanating smell though!
The sports were mostly Chadu Gudu (Kabadi), Kho Kho, goli, kittipul, pondy, pambaram (top) and badminton. We had never heard of cricket or hockey in those days, though volleyball was there. During exam times, students would throng to the biggest Thyagaraja temple, mainly to study in shade with cool breeze, without any disturbance, instead of one’s cramped homes, with many tenants, having just a room & kitchen and big verandas partitioned with jute padudhas.
Being very short in stature up to 11th standard, I used to go to Valluvakkudi, a small village near Sirkazhi, by two trains changing at Mayavaram in half-ticket of eight Anna’s one way. From Sirkazhi station, I used to walk all alone for about 3 miles, on the road, with shaded tamarind trees, and by the side of canals, having varieties of Mango trees, hanging with bunches of mangoes, a sight I can never forget. In Valluvakkudi, my mother’s elder widow sister (she became widow even before her puberty, due to child marriage), full of affection for us, even more than my mother.
As I reminisce over my childhood, let me also write on how things progressed after schooling completed. Immediately after writing the SSLC exam. I joined type & shorthand and was summoned by my Aunt, for some RBI job, which I could not get due to my underage. With SSLC & type Shorthand skills, I moved later in life into the Central Government, having served in the State govt, Bhel, and the TVS group. My thirst to secure a degree was fulfilled after strenuous efforts. Through the Correspondence Course in Delhi University I passed the Bachelor’s degree in 1970. In 2001, after retirement, I successfully completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism from Bharathiya Vidya Bhavan.
By J Vaidhinathan