Fresh Memories of Old School Days

Golden Years of Peelamedu GRG

GRG Matriculation Higher Secondary School was founded in the year 1969. Eminent industrialist G.R.Govindarajulu of the PSG family had founded the school in order to serve the growing educational needs of the society. The school was built on Avinashi road in Peelamedu and this suburb can rightfully be known as the educational capital of Tamilnadu. It was a CBSE school for about a dozen years or so. Subsequently it became a matriculation school around the year 1980.
The white coloured paint, green coloured windows, white uniform throughout the week made a big difference at a time when khaki was the order of the day. Students who completed their plus two in 1985 are about 50 years today and their age matches the age of the institution. They are collectively known as GRG 85 amongst themselves and meet up regularly. The fifty years of this hallowed institution has really impelled them to share a few nuggets in a collective manner about their days at school between the years 1971 and 1985.
A Teachers’s Hostel had occupied the roadface those days and the school had been blessed by the great spiritual master Swami Chidbhavanda. Chandrakanthi Govindarajulu was the first Correspondent of the school. The school campus housed the students pursuing their education at the PSGR Krishnammal Institutions. A number of coconut trees and a few cages with birds were found in the campus. A new building for the students came up while the batch of 1985 were in their first standard. They moved over to their new classrooms from their second standard.
Students still remember Vatsala Miss, Sinclair Miss and the aayas Alamelu, Mary who took care of the students in the kindergarden. Betty Miss was also the old hand. Wendy Miss, D’ Cruze Miss, Leela Miss, Amy Miss, Manickaraj Miss, Thangam Miss, Beta Miss are still in the memory of the students. Hindi was taught by Bhanumathi Miss and she used to talk about her experiences during the Indo Pak war of 1971. It was a time when she had spent time in the north. The Headmistress Mrs.Anantharaz was a good leader and she took care of the school for children really well. All the teachers and particularly the Anglo Indian teachers used to render the song ‘Lead Kindly light’ on every Friday in a wonderful manner. Puppet shows were also held for the kids. Michael Ponnuswamy was the Principal and he took care of the higher secondary school.
School used to begin with an assembly session every morning. A group of students used to sing songs after the prayers. Songs like ‘Krishna Krishna….Dwarakanatha pahi….’ were rendered. Every week had a ‘Thought for the Week’ and the Sanskrit Pandit T.A.Bhaskar Iyer used to speak on the Friday of every week. His speech used to be a bit longer but would contain a lot of meaning. He used to quote from a number of ancient Indian scriptures. The news of the day would be prepared by one of the students and would be read out to the students. It was a way to assimilate information pertaining to current affairs and sports. The higher secondary school assembly was held separately in this manner. Sometimes interesting speakers used to speak about PSGR. Krishnammal on Krishnammal Day. They used to regale the students with stories about her and Diwan Bahadur PSG. Rangaswamy Naidu.
The school sports day, annual etc., were fabulous events. A lot of preparation used to go inside in order to make the days a big hit. Students used to be good in short put, long jump, hurdles, relay running, javelin throw, frog jumping etc., The annual days used to be embedded with cultural events. Leading citizens and experts used to come in as Chief Guests.
The morning assembly was a regular event and the childrens school had it in the quadrangle itself. Birthdays of kids were celebrated during the assembly and the elderly Mrs.Samuel used to greet each one of them. The office was managed by a few ladies and one ‘sir’ at the helm used to sport a namam. Purushottaman was a peon who used to be found busy all the time. One ‘Abba’ who was known as Narayanaswamy used to man the gate. Driver Appuswamy used to ferry the kids in the school bus everyday. The school store used to sell stationery and a few other items.
Library hours were a must and the students used to maintain pin drop silence while reading the books. Art hour was with master Damodaran. The CBSE days had sessions like CCA or SUPW (Socially useful productive work) as part of the curriculum. Unfortunately this disappeared later when the school shifted boards. The sports hours were relished much. Throw ball, volley ball, cricket and football were the order of the day. Students used to sweat it out. The concept called ‘Samaya Goalee’ was popular. Anyone who protected the goal was called one and they never had a designated goal keeper.
The school had a number of clubs like art club, music club etc., Students to be a part of these clubs. The school had houses and one of the houses and were named after stars Ex., Chithra House. Unfortunately exam fear and competition drove many away from acquiring skills. The classes had groups which were named as ‘Charity’, ‘Honesty’ etc., and students were divided accordingly. This was done by the teachers. Marks were given to the class based of behavior. The sum total was taken up at the end of each month and stars used to be awarded. Names of the winning classes used to be displayed prominently. the batch of 85 never came in that list. However it produced several doctors. engineers, entrepreneurs and professionals. It was the second matriculation batch.
The Principal Mabel Charles was an extremely talented teacher. She was very good in English poetry and she used to sing well. Her approach had done a lot for the development of the students. Angela Rajkumar Miss, Subbulakshmi Miss, Rajalakshmi Miss, Krishna Miss, Mohanambal Miss, Avvayambal Miss, Premila Miss (geography), Premila Miss (physics), Shyamala Miss, Loveline Miss, Sheela Miss, Geetha Raghavan Miss, Rajeswari Miss, Indrani Miss, Lydia Miss, Jaya Miss, Rita Miss, Nagamani Miss, Elma Miss, Susheela Miss, Mallika Miss, Venkateshwari Miss, Nirmala Miss, Balamani Miss and Giriammal Miss were among the many good teachers. The good Anglo Indian teachers used to treat us like their own kids. Krishna Miss and Bhasker Iyer were real visionaries. They equipped the students with the best.
Chalk fights for fun used to be the order of the day. Students used to hit each other with amazing precision. Movie picnics to Shanthi and Manis theatre was also common. The jubilee of the GRG institutions was celebrated in a grand manner. A nice movie was taken and spoke volumes about the initiatives of the GRG couple. The movie had been titled ‘The Story of a Pioneer’. Padma Subramaniam, the exponent of Bharatanatyam visited the school and gave a memorable speech to the students. The School Pupil Leaders (SPL) were elected by a majority of the students.
Handwriting notebooks used to be distributed during the lunch hour. A couple of students used to serialize Ramayana and Mahabharata in the hand writing note books. Karate was also taught in the school. Elocution, poetry, essay writing contests produced winners. A number of students took the Gandhi Peace Centre Exam and the exam which made them learn much about the United Nations.
Students used to but the ‘Kani’ ice cream and savour the same. The school Ganesha temple was quite popular among the students. A big well used to be located near the assembly hall. The hall was used for all special occasions. Map drawing contests, drawing contests, matches, inter school contests, hobby exhibitions etc., were held regularly.
Students from all walks of life studied together. Many came from the neighbourhood. Most of the students came by the town bus. Ticket charges were in paise ! Two huge boulders used to be standing like sentinels in front of the school. A huge storm water drain had existed adjacent to the compound wall. Peelamedu was a water starved area. Parents and friends of the students living in the hostel were often seen chatting up with their ones near the inner compound wall.
The visit of the Inspector of Matriculation School used to be an important event. There had been less than 100 matriculation schools in Tamilnadu those days. The Correspondent Chandrakanthi Govindarajulu used to often visit the school and she used to be in attendance during the visits of high officials.
Examination numbers for the matriculation board exams used to be in four digits and the plus two exams in six digits ! The monthly tests and other exams were held with students from different classes writing under one roof.
Students went on excursions once in a way. These out of town trips brought in a lot of friendship and fellowship among everyone. Day visits to places were also conducted. The students were taken for a parade to the PSGR Krishnammal School campus for the jubilee celebrations and it had been a grand affair.
The family of the service minded G.R.Govindarajulu used to visit the school once in a way. The kids from the GRG family studied in the same school. Now the school is being managed well and it is under the administration of Suguna Devarajan of the GRG family.
Schools like GRG were part of the CSR activity of successful companies. It was created at a time when educational institutions were treated as not for profit centres. The school continues to serve the society from its old campus at Peelamedu.
—Rajesh Govindarajulu

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