The walk from our home in Vittalwadi to Nrupatunga High School in Bagh Lingampalli was always interesting. It would lead my younger brother and me through Venkateshwara Colony, past the Blood Bank, a dirt track past a colony to a cemetery before we would come upon a mansion which we believed was haunted since a solemn old man, lazing in his easy chair, would only be gazing at the graves and not acknowledge the presence of schoolboys dressed in white shirts and khaki trousers, pass Basant Talkies whose gates would be shut since the morning show was three hours away and a perpetually busy stationery store that doubled up as a general store across the road from the school gate.
I am unsure when I will walk that route again – I remember when I graduated to the Junior College, we would walk past YMCA towards Barkatpura and – but sometimes as I steal a drive with my daughter past the school, I can see the stern but inspirational figure of the man with a mission, our Headmaster Mr S Udapachar. Dressed in white kurta and white dhoti, his hair neatly parted, he would smile with pride and satisfaction.
I can hear the soft-spoken and bespectacled Mr John ask the class to rise as our classmate M Balakrishna sang Vande Mataram in prayer. I can see Mr Gopal Rao Kampli praise Ranga for being a math wizard – and telling us that he would emulate one of India’s greatest mathematical geniuses, S Ramanujan.
I can hear Mrs Sonu Mohandas, another wonderful teacher of Mathematics, scold PV Raghu and ask him to button his shirt. Wait, isn’t that Srikant Sulibhavi clearing his throat to break into a Kishore Kumar song at the interval? Or is that V Nagarjun Reddy finding some berries to pelt on unsuspecting schoolmates and gift them purple spots on their white shirts? I can see us cast admiring glances at KS Satanand’s gleaming blue BSA SLR bicycle parked in the stand by the basketball court.
When I snap out of the reverie but reflect on the foundations laid by the school, I realise that with their mature approach to education, Mr Udapachar, his successor Mr Venkoba Rao and all our teachers instilled in us the important thought that a school is not its buildings and furtniture but its staff, teaching and non-teaching. We continue to take pride in the institution – easily among the premier schools in Hyderabad – and are grateful for its guidance in our formative years.
The school also gave us great friends for life. Some years ago, Satanand – Anand to all of us – moved too far away from all of us but he lives on through his wonderful family. But classmates like S Ranganathan and VVK Mohan are in regular touch. The paths of some others like Srikant Sulibhavi, PV Raghu, V Nagarjun Reddy and M Balakrishna cross mine occasionally while I wonder how our table tennis star Deepak Ghosh, VSVV Laxminaraimha Rao, U Rajaram, Gururaj Kulkarni, V Sridhar, R Sridhar, PJ Thomas and Harisarvottam are faring.
One of my strongest memories of the school is the fact that after years of being called Rajaram in my earlier school, I had to get used to the idea of responding to the call of Raman because a certain U Rajaram was already in the section I had been assigned to in VIII Standard. The name Raman stuck for a long time until I moved to Delhi in 1992 when I preferred to be called Raj since most pronounced my name as Ra-ja-rum-an rather than Ra-ja-raa-man.
Barely a fortnight after I joined school, I flunked the mathematics paper in the Quarterly Examinations and I knew that however hard I tried, I would not be among the top students in school but I was glad that the school fostered our all-round growth, encouraging us to get better in academics rather than frown upon us for being likely to bring the school average down!
To be honest, we were encouraged by Mr Udapachar, Mr S Venkoba Rao and all our teachers to go beyond academics – and I have certificates from the United Schools Organisation of India, with signatures of Mr Udapachar in 1974 and Mr Venkoba Rao in 1975 to show that I appeared in the annual General Knowledge Test.
Since my SSC performance was good enough only to secure a second division, the one certificate from school that I cherish the most is the Sports Certificate that I got when ‘leaving’ in June 1976. Signed by Headmaster Mr Venkoba Rao and our Physical Education Teacher Mr K Anjiah, it certified that I took keen interest in cricket and table tennis.
Sadly, it does not tell the story of how hard some of us had to work to persuade Mr Udapachar first and then, when he was indisposed, Mr Venkoba Rao to let us take part in the Basalat Jah Trophy inter-school cricket tournament in 1975-76. It then became tough to form a competitive squad since most of the students were focused on scholastics.
The Aizza High School in Malakpet became a very special cricket ground in my life. It was the venue of my only inter-school cricket match. As our luck would have it, we drew All Saints High School in our opening round Basalt Jah Trophy game. Abdul Azeem, later to scintillate as opener for Hyderabad in Ranji Trophy, demolished our dreams with a magnificent century, leaving us to lick our wounds.
Then again, Nrupatunga High School made us realise that sport is only a glorious part of life and taught us to pick ourselves up, learn from defeat and prepare better for the next challenge. I have always believed that the school taught us to be good students throughout our lives and that is the greatest lesson that can ever be imparted in school. We may have stopped wearing the white shirts and khaki trousers nearly four decades ago but such lessons stay with us forever.
G Rajaraman was a student of Nrupatunga High School from 1973 to 1976 and Nrupatunga Junior College from 1976 to 1978. He is now a student of sport and life.