|The stream below Shakuntala,Usha and Jayashree. 1973.|
The next time I was in Providence College was when I enrolled for B.A. Literature. Noeline (Tina) Fernandez and I skipped Pre University since we had done the Indian School Certificate in school. By then the college hostel and refectory were built.
We had great nuns and lecturers; like Sr. Margaret Mary the Principal who was firm and friendly, with an endearing smile. Then there was Sr. Francisca and Sr. Christopher whose stamp collection, we replenished. Sr. Magdalene was the garden sister who allowed Geeta Gangadhar nee Borlingiah and me to sit on the branches of a tree in the nun’s garden to study, since we were her pets!
The three lecturers who made our English classes bubbly and lively were Miss Becky, Miss Lakshmi Nambiar and Miss Jessie Verghese. Mrs. Bagavathi tutored me in Tamil and I still admire her patience. I would also like to mention Mrs. Shakunthala, and Miss Sarma.
Miss Sarma, also an artist, once showed me her painting of a leopard reclining on a tree limb. Awesome! It was for her forth coming art exhibition. She looked at some of my paintings and encouraged me to pursue my hobby. We often discussed Andrew Wyeth’s art and work, from books on loan from the American Library which used to come periodically to our college library.
Sr. Margaret Mary picked some of us artistically inclined ones to participate in the Mardi Gras, hosted by IIT Madras, where we won prizes. My first stint in acting was in Provy. I thought I could do wonders on stage, but it ended as a total fiasco. It was an Inter- Class competition and I started off well enough but midway I went totally blank. All the prompting from Geetha and Mini Isaac (also acting in the play) was of no use. The curtain had to come dolefully down upon an unfinished play. Geetha gave me a good dose since it cost us the trophy.
We loved the literature classes beneath the enormous pine trees on the grassy slopes which slid into the small, swampy reedy pond, off the driveway. We have even had classes in the Cyclops, the old college bus. In 2009 when I visited Sr. Louisa Marie in Providence there were no traces of the pond or the grassy slope. A substantial part of the place has given way to new buildings.
Those were the wonderful days when the only disaster in life was an English or Tamil test. We would plan strategies to bunk and disappear into the tea bushes and play in the stream at the base of the hill.
Ten rupees, in the 70s went a long way: which was all we needed on most weekends when we would visit Ooty. It would cover lunch at Shinkows; stick-jaws and chocolates from King Star for my sister Rajeshree and other friends.
We often walked to Bandishola where we treated ourselves to freshly baked buns. We bought bread there and ate it in our rooms with jam or honey or with pickle and jam. The bread was also eaten with the chunky pieces of mango pickle, which were dynamite. When we were starved for home food, Usha Ramani invited a few of us; Padmini from Sri Lanka and Sarojini for lunch in her estate house in Kotagiri. Usha, Sarojini and I were roomies.
On the fashion scene, those were the bell bottom, waist coats, maxis and hot pants days. Tina Fernadez would sport hot pants from time to time and nobody could disagree she had the gorgeous figure and the legs for it! Some of the Malaysian and Singapore girls even wore very colourful batik lungies with fancy tops which was in fashion then. I met one of the Malaysian girls, Annarani Kanagarajah a few years back.
Geetha and I had our first fag in room number 8 or 9, where we puffed, and coughed so much making it our first and last experience.
The Log Cabin, our canteen, was known for its aromatic coffee. Jayashree Padmanaban nee Rao and I had a regular cuppa in the evenings before she took the bus home to Kotagiri. The canteen also served yummy masala dosas. If orders were placed in advance, parathas and chicken curry were available.
When we went for short walks outside the college, we would meet up with Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw’s Gurkha orderlies with two Labradors on the leash. His house was quite close to Providence, situated in a strategic spot from where, towards evening, the lights of Wellington shone like a bowl of jewels. Once, we even had a tour of his lovely house with the Field Marshall himself, as the tour guide.
The year I joined, there was a contest for the Freshie Queen. It’s an event for the freshers where after the mild ragging by seniors, everyone got to know each other. The girls were all decked in elegant saris as they walked the ramp to Ananda Shankar’s melodious instrumentals. Sheila Joseph was the Freshie Queen that year and Jayashree Rao the runner up.
Those were the times when actors like Amol Palekar,Rajesh Khanna, Shashi Kapoor, Amithab Bachchan, Jaya Bhadhuri, Vidhya Sinha, Reena Roy and Zeenat Aman were in their prime. Our room walls were filled with posters of them and other popular bands like the Bee Gees, David Cassidy, the Carpenters, the Osmond Brothers and the Jackson 5.
I spent just two years in Providence as my marriage was arranged. I did visit Providence when my boys, Hemanth and Jaswanth were in the boarding in the Convent. Things were still much the same.
A few years back when I visited Provy, I found the landscape completely changed. So many buildings had sprouted and I felt happy to see the progress but saddened by the disappearance of all the familiar sights I knew.
I walked up to ‘my’ room in the hostel where three girls sat chatting. I introduced myself and said I was here many years ago....could even be years before they were born! I felt like a relic from the past. They were rather shy and didn’t talk much.
Dramatic transformations have occurred in the kitchen, dining, lab and class room areas. The old garden today has changed completely; there are many new buildings. The ‘tin shed’ has been replaced by a beautiful auditorium named Mother Marie Theresa Auditorium – one of the pioneering French sisters of St Joseph of Tarbes.
I realize that the visions of the early Sisters have come to fruition when I hear of the students from tribal, rural and the backward communities getting a chance to graduate and find good jobs.
Providence College, today, offers courses in not only graduate and post graduate courses, but also M.Phil, PhD programmes in various subjects.
Kudos to Providence College for its overall progress - especially the academic strides, it has made.
I do believe each one of us passing out from Providence excelled in our own spheres of life, whether doctors, lecturers, teachers, or home makers. Thank you, Sisters and lecturers, for what we are today!
|The English Literature class picnic to Ooty. Boat House. Noeline Fernandez, Usha Pillai, Rebecca Matthews, Lakshmi Sadanand , Liz Jacob,, Annie Oommen. Freeda ipe, Usha Gopinath 1973|