Musings over a cup of tea

Musings over a cup of tea

Timeless legacy

Musings over a cup of tea

The old boys of St Joseph’s Boys’ High School fondly call him ‘Widdy’ while the comparatively newer ones recollect going to their loving Abu for a quick ‘samosa’ during their much-awaited breaks.

Meet Abdul, the hardworking octogenarian, who runs the popular canteen (also called Widdy’s) of the great school. The tuck shop was started by Abdul’s grandfather Rahman in 1908 and Abdul joined it in 1942 when he was all of 12.

He recalls that there was boarding facility at that time and the school housed many British students. “The name Widdy came about due to the English priests who wanted to modernise my grandfather’s name. Since I was a young boy at that time, they started referring to me as ‘Young Widdy’. Over the years, I became Widdy,” he says.

“The boys were very cute and would wear an English hat and shorts as part of the uniform. They would get four ‘annas’ as pocket money. I just loved them,” he adds with nostalgia.

Some of the boys would often fall short of cash and ‘borrow’ his delicacies on ‘credit’! “The boys those days had certain charm and mannerisms. Even after they completed school, they would stop their vehicles to greet me if they saw me. You don’t get that kind of respect from the younger generation now,” he notes.

Rahman passed away in 1954 and that’s when Abdul took over and ran the place with sincerity. Earlier, he would sell the ‘samosas’, ‘bondas’, burgers, stick jaws and coconut sweets that his wife used to make. “But after she passed away, we started getting them from other places,” he adds.

Till date, most former students make it a point to meet ‘good old Widdy’ whenever they can, be it during their occasional visits to the school or the much popular Old Boys’ Association (OBA) Day that is held on the first Sunday of September every year.

Be it Jimmy Anklesaria (entrepreneur and global ambassador of OBA), Joe Manuel Pillay (senior Singapore government servant and former chairman of Singapore Airlines) or Keki B Tarapore (cricket coach), the list of the illustrious old boys that he is still in touch with goes on. In fact, the batch of 1969 even honoured him with a trophy for his contributions.

Ask him about some of the most popular old boys like cricketer Rahul Dravid or Sabeer Bhatia of Hotmail fame, and he laughs, “They all did a lot of ‘masti’. Sabeer was in the NCC and when I met him recently, we had a good laugh on how he would stand in queue to eat the ‘samosas’ along with the other NCC boys.”

Abdul was even invited to Rahul Dravid’s wedding. “A lot of boys invite me to their weddings. In fact, I have gone for the weddings of their children as well,” he jokes. KK Jose, who passed out in the 1950s, has invited him for many a family occasion in Kerala too.

Young golfer Trishul Chinnappa is another favourite old boy of his. “He is a really good friend of mine,” he says and points to a photograph taken with Trishul. “This was clicked during an OBA Day when he was playing hockey.”

Today, he is 85 years old and still goes to the canteen (now run by his son Hashmatullah), albeit for a few hours a day. Every year, he looks forward to the school song being played at the Sports Day held during the OBA Day. He has even been the chief guest at the functions of the school and given away prizes.

“Thanks to the school, I can speak better English. Before that, I only knew ‘rat’ and ‘cat’,” he laughs.  A special part of the Old Boys Association (though he is a non-alumnus), he is undoubtedly one of the oldest and most loved ‘boys’ in it.

“The fathers change, the teachers change and so do the boys. Only I remain the same,” he says as he parts with a smile. 

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