Roshini, my friend from school, wanted me to write something about my St Jude school days. St Jude was one of the best schools in the Kollam district in my younger days.
These are the things I remember. I remember catching the school bus every morning. The school bus with blue and white logos to match our blue and white school uniforms. There wasn’t any public buses from the Kureepally junction to the school in those days, as they only ran in the Kundara-Kottiyam route back then. So if you missed the school bus, you’ll have to catch a public bus to the Kureepally junction and walk to the school from there. This was about 1.2 kilometres. The school bus would drop us off near the church. Most of us would go in and pray before making our way to the school along the narrow path. I had this impression of this big church in my mind, but years later when I went in, it was no longer as big as I remembered it. I suppose when you are a child everything looked huge.
At the school, what I first remember is Achayan’s corner snack shop. It was one of those must visit places in those days. I couldn’t survive without the little packets of lime pickle. Like everybody had sweet tooths, I had a savoury one as a child. I remember the packets were about 5 paisa each.
We left Malaysia by the end of 1969. The school term there was from January to December. I completed my fifth standard by this time. At St Jude, I joined the sixth standard in January 1970, if I remember correctly. So I had to learn all my subjects in a short space of time and pass the end of the year exam, having missed most of the classes. The most difficult subject for me was the languages, Malayalam and Hindi. My sister and I needed tuition classes every evening to catch up. Our Hindi teacher, Vaidyar sir, didn’t make it any easier for me. Him and his punishments were legendary and the children still talk about it. The Malayalam teacher was more friendly. Was she called Soshamma teacher? I think she liked me, so it was easier to get her on my side. Our favourite teacher was the English teacher. I’ve forgotten his name. A young man who used to put agarbathis in his pink shirt to make it smell nice. He used to read us Alexander Dumas’s, ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’. I don’t think it was in our curriculum, but we used to look forward to hearing the stories.
I caught infective hepatitis, probably from the pickle packets, and was off sick from school for a month. I did not want to go back to school, once I got better. It was the thought of facing the Hindi teacher and catching up with all the missed lessons, which made me feign illness and prolong my sick leave. My dad realised this and he was having none of it. The school bus had gone. So he made me take the public bus. I cried all the way to school. Once I got there, I was fine. My dad sent his brother after me to make sure I was alright. I remember him coming to class to find us all sitting there listening to our English teacher telling us his stories. I do not remember missing any lessons after that.
Then we had the Fathers, Sisters and Brothers taking lessons. One of the Sisters, I remember fondly, but I seem to have forgotten their names.
Once I boasted to my classmates that I could do a head stand and they wanted me to show them how I did it. Stupid me, didn’t think that doing a head stand wearing a skirt was not a good idea. So I ended up showing a little bit more than I expected. I still remember the look on everyone’s face. I was only 9 at the time and though a bit embarrassed, acted as if nothing had happened. Nobody has ever mentioned it and so they all spared me my blushes.