Can you hear the school bell ring?

Can you hear the school bell ring?


Can you hear the school bell ring?

Poornima Dasharathi walks through the portals of Malleswaram High School with its stone walls, arches and clock tower. Every pillar here has a story to tell.

Though witness to radical development, Bangalore is still home to many old buildings that speak volumes about its local heritage. Among such buildings are old schools, where every wall has a story to tell from different eras.

Though some of the oldest schools in the City were located in the erstwhile Cantonment area, schools came up in the ‘City’ area of Bangalore in the early 1900s.

Apart from Central School (now Central College), the earliest Government schools in the ‘City’ area was Normal School that housed primary and middle classes. Then came Fort High School and Malleswaram High School. The Malleswaram High School was started in 1923 as a co-education school, though girl students were very few back then. The school was housed in three buildings on sixth cross, between Sampige road and Margosa road. This is the road parallel to the Malleswaram Main road leading to the Circle.

Flood of memories

H R Bhaskar Rao, a nonagenarian who studied here (batch 1933 - ‘35), recalls that those were the days when Malleswaram was home to huge bungalows and the roads were very wide. During those days, ‘High School’ meant schooling from IV form to VI form. He recalls his headmaster, Abdul Wahab, a tall and broad gentleman who used to commute on horseback to the school. A good sportsman, he made sure that the students developed a keen interest in sports.

As the students’ population swelled, the school could not house that many. As a result, a new building was constructed on 18th cross (the present Junior College) in 1939-40. Built in stone, its Gothic arches, long passages and a Central tower with a huge clock resembles some of the Christian schools of that era.

The school was inaugurated by the then Dewan, Sir Mirza Ismail, and it became commonly known as Govt Boys’ High School. The Girls’ High School was shifted to 13th cross and housed in the imposing home of H V Nanjundaiah.

Kallianpur, another old student (batch 1943 - ‘45), speaks of a time when 15th cross was the ‘outskirts’ of Malleswaram. He would cycle from 1st cross, where he lived, to the school in 18th cross, always with friends and as a group since it was lonely beyond the Kadu Malleswara temple.

His senior Bhaskar Rao recalls that the teachers would rap the students on the knuckles if they ventured ‘into the wilds’ beyond 13th cross. Until the 1950s, there were no private schools in the City and students would come from far flung areas to attend the high school. Students who studied here were not just those living in Malleswaram and nearby areas such as Sriramapuram, Sheshadripuram, Yeshwanthpur but also from places such as Nelamangala, Hesarghatta and Kodihalli. Unlike today, there were no uniforms.

“Just shirts and shorts,” recalls Dr A L Narasimhan, (batch 1962 - ‘64) . The huge clock was the master of time, he recollects nostalgically. Students couldn’t afford many books and the well-thumbed textbooks of seniors or older siblings were passed on. Even in 1962, the annual fee was just four rupees!

The teachers of that era were strict disciplinarians recalls, Sridhara Murthy (batch 1953 - ‘55). The students especially dreaded the NCC teacher, he recalls from his days. Though not highly paid, they were also very dedicated to teaching their subjects.

Bhaskar Rao, the oldest student has many amusing anecdotes of his school days. One such anecdote is his tryst with his maths teacher Sanjeev Rao. While walking on the Sampige road, he greeted his maths teacher, who was cycling towards him. The teacher suddenly got off his cycle and told him “zero might not mean something but in arithmetic it means everything” and zoomed off without any explanation, leaving him perplexed. He understood what his teacher meant the next day, when he saw that in an answer to a profit and loss problem, he had missed a zero in the result.

Anecdotes galore

Another anecdote he recalls is that of Thampiran, his English teacher. He once greeted him as he passed him by the gate and the teacher said “Shivaswami has done better”. Shivaswami was one of his good friends. He assumed that this must be the result of an essay that they had written. Later when he met his friend, he was surprised to learn that same teacher had said that, he, Bhaskar, had done better. The teacher wanted each one to excel by setting a healthy competition.

Kallianpur fondly remembers his maths teacher, Jayathirth Rao, who personally tutored him when he could not attend school, for more than a month, due to typhoid. By taking extra classes for him, the teacher made sure that the boy could write his board exams.

During my research on this school, I found out accidentally that my grandfather, K N Venkatachar, taught maths in this school from1953 to 1955. My father recalls memories of him getting ready to go to school, dressed in the traditional kacche panche, his black coat buttoned up and wearing a white turban.

In 1971, PUC was added to the school and the building today is better known Composite Junior College though it also houses the High School. A school which was once the only school in the suburb and whose alumni includes people such as Dr Raja Ramanna and Professor CNR Rao, looks just as majestic and austere as it might have been then. Its vast grounds still encompass the land between the college and Circle Maramma temple.

Strangely, there is no foundation stone or a plaque or photographs in the school premises.  Unless we record such nuggets of history and fund the school's maintenance, chances are memories of the school will fade away. The alumni of this school is making efforts and inroads in this regard.

The school’s old boys’ association, led by Sridhar Murthy, has been playing an active role in helping the school's staff by organising various programmes and felicitations and gathering documentation of the school’s history.