Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXVII No. 24, April 1-15, 2018

An iconic school in West Mambalam

by N. Venkateswaran

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A landmark institution in West Mambalam is the Ahobila Mutt Oriental Higher Secondary School that started functioning in 1953 at Kothandaramar Koil Street. This was a dream project of N. Srinivasachari who had been a teacher par excellence and had retired as Headmaster of Ramakrishna Mission High School (North Branch).

N.Srininivaschariar was the adopted son of Sri Vasudevachariar, popularly known as Maharishi Vasudevachariar, founder of the Ramakrishna Mission High School (Main), the one opposite Panagal Park, T’Nagar (started in 1932) and various other educational institutions in the T’Nagar area. Srinivasachariar joined the Ramakrishna Mission High School soon after it started and later taught English with great proficiency. When the North Branch of the High School started functioning at Bazullah Road, T’Nagar, he took over as Headmaster of the School.

During his stint as English teacher at the Main School and, subsequently as Headmaster of North Branch, he was responsible in moulding the careers of several students who later went in to occupy high positions in life. The list is long but I mention just a few. Former Indian Army Chief Sundarji, B.S. Raghavan I.A.S, (former Chief Secretary, Tripura, and Director, Political and Security Policy Planning, Union Home Ministry, and Secretary, National Integration Council), Narayan Vaghul, former Chairman of ICICI Bank, R. Rajamani I.A.S, who served as Jt. Secretary in the Secretariat of three Prime Ministers, Krishnamoorthy Santhanam, former Chief of DRDL, and M.R. Sivaraman I.A.S. former Chairman, Board of Revenue, Government of India.

Srinivasachari was adept at spotting talent in his students not only in the academic field but also in other spheres of activity, and provided them opportunities and guidance to perform well. He laid great emphasis on character-building through moral education. He was a strict disciplinarian, not by using the cane and harsh language but by calling the student and talking to him, pointing out his defects and the need for good behaviour, making him understand that he (Srinivasachari) was not there to punish the student but to correct him for his own good.

Srinivasachari, after retirement, founded the Sri Ahobila Mutt Oriental High School to impart Vedic education and at the same time to provide children an opportunity to study more modern subjects. The School was started in June 1953, blessed by His Holiness, the Jeer of Ahobila Mutt, and is unique disseminating religious education. Students of the school learning Vedas report to the school at 6.00 a.m. to study Vedas, Upanishads, the Prabhandas of the Alwars, Stotras of the Acharyas and then continue with the regular school curriculum. The Vedic education continues after the regular school hours. These students are provided with breakfast, lunch and dinner at the School itself.

Initially, the school functioned in a thatched shed belonging to the Sri Kothandaramar Koil. Permanent structures came up later, thanks to the munificence of the public and well wishers.The School has been making great strides, producing excellent results with many of the students scoring high marks (first rank in several subjects) in the State board examinations year after year, but the performance of the students in the Oriental schools are not reckoned for awards. Their performances remain unpublished.

The School has also been a centre of communal harmony where Muslim students admitted to the school have opted to learn Sanskrit and have scored high marks in the subject. Many Muslim students have won gold medals in Gita recitation competitions open to all schools.

The school adopts a Gurukulam method of imparting education to the students and there is close interaction between the teachers and students. Another unique feature about the school is its dress code which is dhoti and white shirt.

N. Srinivasachariar lived up to 101 years of age and in a function got up by his old students to celebrate his entering 100 years, he declined to accept presents and, in his inimitable humble manner, suggested, “I do not want to receive anything, but if you want to do something, do it for the school and if I am an instrument towards it will give me great pleasure.” Donations poured in from all parts of the country and abroad where his old students are, showing how revered he was. When a few of his old students met Dr. N.V. Vasudevachari, Secretary & Correspondent of the school (who is also the nephew of Srinivasachariar) to discuss the arrangements for the function to celebrate his entering his 100th year, he narrated an incident that took place a few years ago.

One fine morning there was a posse of Army and policemen at the school and on enquiry it was learnt that Commander of the Indian Army was visiting the school, which had no information about the visit. After a few hours a person clad in civilian clothes – dhoti and shirt – got out from a vehicle bearing an Army flag and he went straight inside the house of Srinivasachariar, adjacent to the school, and prostrated humbly before the teacher and introduced himself as Sundar, his old student at R.K.M. Main, about 60 years earlier. Srinivasachari could immediately recollect his student days and enquired about his well-being. Sundar told him that but for his guidance and encouragement during his school days, he could not have achieved the high position he had in the Army.

In a function got up at the school premises in 2002, to mark Srinivasachari entering his 100th year, several of his old students assembled at the place. (There were no formal invitations for the function and news about the function was spread only by word of mouth).

Even at the age of 100, he was able to recognise most of them and recollected some of their personal attributes during their school days, showing that his memory was still good and he had not forgotten his old students. He insisted that he walk to the meeting place from his house and addressed the large gathering that was present for the function.

The School continues its traditions under the guidance of Dr. N. V. Vasudevachariar who himself is an octogenarian and has devoted himself to propagating the Vedas and Upanishads.

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