When past was a present

When past was a present

If the building seen in the background of the photograph appears familiar to some readers, they are right.

It is one of the old blocks in Maharani’s College on Seshadri Road. This photograph was taken circa 1950 which is nearly 65 years down memory lane! I am an octogenarian now, but was about 17 years old then. In those days, there were hardly any pedestrians walking along Seshadri Road. The only occasional audible sound heard was the silent ramble of a vehicle passing by!

The girls in the photograph are members of the basketball team of our college. I, the writer, am sitting on the left. On the extreme right is one of my best friends Shakuntala who retired as principal of Bangalore University’s College of Physical Education. By the way, we still remain good friends! Standing second from left is former cycling champion NS Leela. I also remember most of my other friends in the photograph.

Simplicity and practicality were the hallmarks of our lifestyles those days which is evident from the dresses worn by the players. It can be noticed that our white attire is apparently the only commonality binding the players. Sports shoes were optional. Slippers were the norm and some even played barefooted! Even affluent students wore only plain sports shoes.

Most of our leisure time was spent playing basketball. The college staff would encourage us by playing with us in their free time. We basketball players were the last of the students to board the bus on our way home in the evening. Due to the cloistered environment that existed for female students, a special bus was arranged which dropped us from our places of residence right into the college campus! Once a bus driver was so annoyed at us for being late that he drove off without us! It was our first lesson on the importance of punctuality! Since we were not provided pocket money, we had to walk a few miles to return home to our parents who were waiting anxiously.

My days in college are still vivid in my memory and I consider the time spent there as the most valuable of my student life. My husband’s career in the Indian Air Force took me to distant places, but feelings of reminiscence and nostalgia often overcame me during my annual visits to Bengaluru. My gaze would inevitably turn towards my college while passing along Seshadri Road, but the view of our old classrooms is now obscured by high walls, trees and new structures.

How times have changed! Now expensive sports gear, personal transport, pocket money and mobile phones are considered must haves. But are people happier today? Where is the zeal, exuberance and joy of years bygone? We were happy and content even if not affluent by current standards. I am reminded of lines from Sir Henry Newbolt’s inspirational rhyming poem ‘The Best School of All’ taught to us in school:

And where's the wealth, I'm wondering,
Could buy the cheers that roll
When the last charge goes thundering
Beneath the twilight
goal?

    In remembrance of my cherished experiences, I consider Maharani’s College to be the best school of all!

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