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

Vol. XXXI No. 16, December 1-15, 2021

Our Readers Write

Looking back on the Delhi’s ‘Madrasi’ school

Many thanks to Madras Musings for publishing my two-part story on the MEA/DTEA schools. The write-up on the school’s fascinating history, almost 100 years old, evoked an avalanche of overwhelmingly positive response, bordering on nostalgia, from readers both in India and abroad. More than 10,000 people read the first part of the article in less than 10 days on Madras Musings itself, a feat in my 43 years of journalism. It also showed the reach of your respected fortnightly which pays so much care and affection for everything Tamil.

Thanks to the piece, two of my teachers, Natarajan (Delhi) and Prabhavati (Chennai), got in touch with me. True to his self-effacing nature, Mr. Natarajan wanted to know why I had highlighted him so much when so many others had played an equally and perhaps more critical role in the success of the institution. He was satisfied with my answer that this is the least I could have done after having relied quite heavily on his information-packed blog to unearth facts about MEA/DTEA.

To everyone who asked (and to those who may have wanted to but did not), I reiterate that the article was an overview – however comprehensive – of the school and not a comprehensive history. Doing justice to the latter concept will only be possible in a book, which will need financial backing which I lack. Let us hope that a good book gets written ahead of the MEA/DTEA centenary year in 2023.

Now that we are on the subject, I am aware that many ex-students and former teachers are engaged in planning a grand 100-years-of-MEA/DTEA celebrations, in both Delhi and Chennai. Two senior ex-students who got in touch with me and who are deeply engaged in the planning of the celebrations are S. Sudhakar (ssrcontact@gmail.com) and Sukumar Rajagopal (sukumarrajagopal@gmail.com). One of them is based in Chennai and the other in Delhi. Wherever you may be, kindly get in touch with them to be part of the larger MEA/DTEA world.

On that note, I again thank Madras Musings for carrying my piece on our school.

M.R. Narayan Swamy
ranjini17@hotmail.com

* * *

The article on Delhi’s ‘Madrasi’ school brought back memories of the years I studied in the Lodi Estate branch from 1959 to 1962.

After studying for the better part of my teen years in a high school in my ancestral village in Kerala, I moved to New Delhi to finish school and join the family. My sisters and brother were already studying in the Lodi Estate branch, so this was the automatic choice for me as well. After passing the admission test I joined the ninth class. There were two more who joined with me.

The school building wasn’t equipped for the expanding number of students, so classes were held in tents. In the rainy season, some tents leaked. We plodded on, however.

Academics was given great importance and sports were add-on, though the school had a large playground and a regular sports master. The school did take part in inter-school sports events but didn’t fare well.

Many of the teachers were excellent and took very good care of the students. So, no student went to the principal’s office with teacher’s complaints.

Since I did fairly well in the higher secondary examination, Rajagopalan Sir told my father that I should do B.A. (Honours) in mathematics in Hansraj College, which I did. That I did my master’s in Economics is another story!

Kolathu’s canteen was a great attraction during breaks, though the pocket money I got was nowhere near my needs!

I also skipped many classes and went to afternoon shows at Racecourse cinema. This movie house was exclusively for service personnel but general public were allowed.

It is my regret that I haven’t been in touch with my school friends after I left New Delhi.

P.S. Seshadri
1959-62 Batch

* * *

Box full of thanks for the timely assistance extended in your recent mail in enabling me to speak to Narayanaswamy – in fact the matter could be steered ahead so much that I thought I should have the gratitude to thank you once again.

This write up on Madras Musings has presumably got over 10k likes and hence ­presumably these are all our students spread across the globe and it will help us tremendously to plan our Centenary celebrations slated in 2023 in case we get their contact details.

Sudhakar S
ssrcontact@gmail.com

More on Neo Roxy Cafe

Having been a resident of Purasaivakkam for several years, many pleasant memories flooded my mind, when I read Satyan(arayan) Bhatt’s story on the Neo Roxy Café (NRC) that dominated Purasaivakkam as a great eatery and restaurant between the 1950s and 1970s.

Champaklal Bhatt, a first-generation Gujarati, had ­settled in Madras, much before I was born. My knowledge of ­Champaklal commences only after he had established NRC on Purasaivakkam High Road, close to the erstwhile Roxy cinema house (which was previously known as the Globe Talkies).

Champaklal was a wonderfully amiable person and a dear friend of my late father, K.P. Anantanarayanan. Equally amiable was his wife Virbala, who used to enchant me by the peculiar way she wore her saree. I say peculiar because, few Gujarati-s lived in Purasaivakkam at that time and my familiarity with the Gujarati-style of wearing a saree was far less. Satyan had spoken of Champaklal’s passion for cricket, but had forgotten to speak about his deep interest in personal health care. I have seen heavy-weight discs and dumbbells and arm strengthening metal stretch bands in his house and occasionally have seen him exercising with those tools. As a caring human being he supported his younger brother and his young wife for several years and I remember participating in the inauguration of a new eatery, which Champaklal had helped in establishing as a property for his brother in Alandur, near St. Thomas’s Mount.

Talking of NRC, his eatery used to make packs of sweets for people during Deepavali festivities. Compared with other eateries of the then Purasaivakkam, sweets made by and sold at NRC were highly sought after by Purasaivakkam residents. The cashew-medu pakora was one specialty item of NRC, which used to be freshly made only in the early afternoons on Sundays. I remember going to NRC especially between 2 and 3 p.m. to buy the cashew-medu pakora standing in a queue and waiting for 15-20 mins. Curiously only NRC sold ice cream to northern-Purasaivakkam residents, whereas the other eateries provided only cool drinks and rose milk.

NRC was a great landmark of Purasaivakkam until the 1970s. Genuineness and goodness prevailed in those migrant business people, who need to be remembered and thanked for their contribution to the welfare and growth of Purasaivakkam: indeed Champaklal and Virbala are two names to be etched in the archives of Purasaivakkam.

Anantanarayanan Raman
anant@raman.id.au

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *