Daril B. Atkins's blog

February 2012

 

No, I did not get lost. True, it’s been some time since I posted a blog entry. No excuses either! After ages it seems, I expect to be in Mumbai between the 12th to the 15th of February 2012. During this brief period, I hope to visit Vinayala where Fr. Bulchand is resident. On the 14th of February, I plan to visit St. Stanislaus high School. Do not ask me why? I guess because it played such a big part in my childhood. Perhaps because so many of my memories are rooted there. Maybe I hope to meet old timers  like myself who shared the same space and experiences. How do I go about getting in touch with SSESA members who know me from back then?
I would love to talk to senior students who are looking for careers. So also, I would love to meet young students who are seriously financially disadvantaged. And I have just one day. Any ideas?
 

How I recall...

Since the last one or two years some of my companions from our days in the boarding, reached out to me. The first was Frank (is it the same one called affectionately 'Butler'?). Then there was Joe D'Souza, John Carvallo, and now Philon. I guess we are all in our 60s.

Joe D'Souza as I remember was affectionately called 'Chintu' and if memory serves me right, he was a good friend. John Carvallo was the studious one. He took his studies very seriously. And he was also a damn good hockey player. Then there was Philon who I recall was very stylish with a huge  puff and handsome too.

Well at the current moment John Carvallo is visiting Dubai for his grandson's First Holy Communion. We are to meet tomorrow for the first time after about 45 years. Meanwhile I've just sent Philon in the USA a hello.

I was saddened by the news about Bro Toth who passed away. He saved my life when I was about 8 years old when he took me piggy back to a doctor in the middle of the night because I had the pneumonia. The infirmary was my favorite spot when I joined the boarding in 1950 or so. This continued for some years until I became toughened. Joe's technique of giving an injection was like throwing a dart. While his tech of administering an opening dose of Epsom salts was to hold your nose while you gulped the horrible tasting fluid. But the food in the infirmary was just heavenly compared to the refectory food.

 

How time flies.

When I say how time flies,  I mean that literally. Yet it is as if just yesterday was the day that my mother left me holding that cake as she bid me goodbye in 1950. As if the cake would compensate for her absence. It did not and I promptly became a very sick boy more by fretting. But it did not take me long to become a tough boarder and a very seasoned one. If you don't believe me, ask some really old timers like Father Barjao, or Father Freddie Pimenta.

By the time I hit the teens, they hoped I would finally leave. Not I of the old hard core. If rebellious had to be personified, it found me. I rebelled against everything. Never wore a uniform, never attended class. So they failed me. I cared little for their opinion of me, and they could have thrown me out, but didn't. Why? I guess it was God's hand that stayed their wrath. My mother (RIP) came and appealed to Father Barjao to give me one last chance, just as she appealed to me. I did, and finally passed the SSC. The boarding had become part of me and at the end of it all, it was like someone asking me to leave home.

As I admitted in a previous blog, it broke my heart but then I had to leave that part of my childhood behind forever. Now at the funny old age of 64 it seems a long time ago, yet the memories hang on stubbornly. History, yes I am part of that oral history of boarding life in St Stanislaus and bear witness to  more than a decade. There are some things I will tell and some that I will not.

Reunion 2009

I've never been to a reunion. Just imagine after over 40 years meeting classmates who one may not even recognize. And so much water has passed under the bridge, people have changed. But we will have one thing in common and that is the fact that we were all once upon a time students of St. Stanislaus High School, some of us boarders, some day scholars. We will have shared may memories, like classes, teachers, events, and the school itself. This school was once more than my family and on my last day there, I did feel a deep sense of loss.

Then again in over 40 years, the school has changed too and has kept up with the times.Though like many of us who have aged yet have kept up with the changing times, so too the school probably has the same character but has moved forward. We have the Jesuits to thank. All this achievement is great but it is the force behind that must be recognized. So lest we forget, lets give due credit to the Jesuits for the great work they have done and are doing. As we grew up and married and had kids of our own, we began to recall all the yarns of the good old days. My kids would laugh at my antics and ask many questions which I answered as honestly as I could.

So at this reunion if I do make it, lets hope we see many of the Jesuits who were there during that era. Those I would like to see are Fr. Casale, Fr. Barjao, Brother Toth, Brother Fonseca, Fr. Fabregad, Fr. Freddie Pimenta, Fr. Rebello, Fr. Bulchand, Brother Pinerio among others.

Christmas

December for us in the boarding was a month to look forward to, and in my case (including a few of our gang) volunteering to assist Master Gregory and his son with the crib was at the top of our agenda. After it was all set up and ready to be admired we felt a sense of pride in our role. And more than that, Master Gregory rewarded us. What I loved were the statues which I guess were made in Spain. All this was to inspire me later in my choices about what my future would be like. Like all the statues that St. Peters Church had in its possession they inspired awe.

Of course my other agenda included the short Christmas break with our families. My mother's favorite was using old clean socks which she filled with all sorts of things that she could afford, but it never failed to excite my sister and myself. Then there was the making of sweets like cul culs, puffs, and my mothers hard toffee which required really strong teeth (she called the toffee, jawbreakers). In addition to that was the midnight mass and the inevitable visits to family and friends. Don't forget the Christmas Tree organised by our parish in Ahmedabad.

As time passed and passed it gradually dawned on me (a bit late though) that in all the excitement, we forgot the birthday boy. Sure like most of us, it was a merry X'mas rather than a happy Christmas. Merriment played a big part during this season and am guilty as charged. I also realized that as India and its Christians imitated the British colonizers in their culture and customs we tend to forget whose birthday we are celebrating and what Christmas is really all about. Now I know and its not too late either. So let me wish all the christian alumni, a very joyful Christmas and may this Christmas bring new hope in your lives.

The Squirrel

Its been so long ago that I left the boarding that some names just do not retain in my memory. No, No, its not the age thing, its just that its ages ago OK. so there is this young boarder with a love for animals and happens that when a real tiny messy lump of flesh opened its eyes it saw him and cried Daddy. So he had this squirrel peeping out of his pocket and crawling over him at whim. It really freaked me out. He acted like a daddy, feeding it and even made a small nest for it to snuggle in. Then one day the squirrel died. Man he was totally crestfallen. We had a burial in a small box and buried it near the big banyan tree near bhaiyawadi. But lo and behold the next day when he went to pay homage, he found that the grave had been dug up  and the coffin was absent.  Meanwhile I was elsewhere and ventured into the refectory and was surprised to see a small  group around a dining table. As I went near and peered over other I saw my first taxidermist. He was skinning the squirrel which had been so ceremoniously buried. I was aghast. But you know the rules. Hold your tongue. I of course sympathized with the owner who was grieving. At the same time I have always wondered about the taxidermist. What is a boarding but a group of young (some very young) boys, living together not by choice, without father or mother, many living by their wits. But many lessons are early learnt.

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