A VISIT TO GOOD OLD JHSS !!


Kumaraguru Sambandan (80) writes ........

Well JHSSers,

I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Jawahar School in January '95. Before I share my experiences, it is my great pleasure to bring to all of you best wishes from there and an open invitation and request to visit them whenever you are in the area!

Each one of us have had different relationship with the school. As someone who left the school in 1979, which many people refer to as the period when JHSS at its best, I only have very pleasant memories. Althogh I have been hearing about the developments happening there all along, it never hit me hard until this recent visit.

I will try to fill in the bits of history from 1979 till now based mainly from the Neyveli grapevine. This is not a research report! Since I left in '79 none of the following is first hand info. And those of you there who did graduate after '79, feel free to add/correct. This is just MY opinion. I am more than open for substantiated corrections!

In the first few after Mr. S. Sundaram(SS) took over as principal in 1979, the school provided a choice to appear in the TamilNadu state board exams or CBSE. JHSS performance was very impressive, always 100% results, with many national and state ranks. These achievements took JHSS's name all over the place. People expected JHSS to produce results. It was becoming a place of all work and no play! JHSS seem to have become a machine that was churning out students whose horizon extended only until their school finals. Not much further.That seem to have produced the results that was in demand...in the early 80's.

As history has demonstrated many times, the same success that was the reason for JHSS's growth seem to have been the root cause of trouble as well. And the trouble was in "people management". Too much demands seem to have been put on the teachers and students to keep up the standard. Situation seems to have become stressful and dissentment seems to have developed among the staff. I heard stories that was too hard for me to believe. It lacked what I considered to be basic human courtesy. Management seem to have become autocratic, that was accompanied by a natural consequence: A rift that developed between the management and the staff. Educational standard and quality sufferred.

Staff began taking sides..and JHSS at that time seem to have lost all the charm that I vividly remember from my days. All the past glory finally seem to have reached the government and Mr. Sundaram did receive the National Best Teacher award! Irony is at that time he seems to have gotten far removed from the reality of the situation.

It is hard to believe that the staff formed a union, to ensure that their voice was heard. Mr. T.K. Ramanujan became the "opposition" leader and the staff had to make a choice: whose side they were on: SS or TKR !

There was a strong demand from the Neyveli community for going back to the days of past revive the erstwhile glory! Time was ripe for a split and the thing I could have never dreamt of happened in 1992 or '93. A JHSS-wall was erected right in the middle of the playground giving birth to two campuses. JHSS-North, headed by TKR preparing students for CBSE exams while JHSS-south headed by SS prepared students for TamilNadu Matric exams. The wall is absolutely tight: no flow of any kind through that! The only common thing between the two campuses was the common ancestry and the natural elements like sunlight, wind and rain...

After finishing class 5, students can choose to go to CBSE at JHSS North or Matric at JHSS -South. JHSS-North has about total 1500 students and South has about 2500 students.

This twin-campus situation was the hardest for me to take when I very eagerly approached JHSS for the first time during this visit. It was 6:30 am one cool January morning when I entered the campus with all pleasant memories. As I was slowly fathoming the difference myself, Jeevarathnam, who was the attendant on duty at that time of the day (a union staff) recognized me and filled in all the details that I tried capturing above...

I did not have the heart to talk to any staff and open wounds...But that was not was destiny had in mind. It was not going to let me return with bad memories.

Couple of days later, just two days before I was going to take off, I ran into TKR. He was very pleased to see me! Talked to me with the same warmth I remember we had for each other when I was a student. Was truly proud of the paths we had travelled since we left the portals of JHSS. And then he popped the very same question I was hoping he would ask: "Kumar! I would like you to address the students in the prayer". Honestly, although I had plans of doing that myself, before I knew anything about the 15 year history, and seeing the situation then left my heart bleeding, his sincere request made me forget all that has happened, and woke up all the pleasant memories buried deep inside, that I thought would never be touched again!

I gladly accepted. Thursday Jan 26th, 1995. I walked with TKR to the prayer meeting. I did not have to conduct the prayer - I was not the SPL. But SPL who did that, I did not even know him, did the exact same thing I did in 1978 when I was the SPL. TKR started with "Direct O God..." and the classes followed him...atleast tried to! Remember, students never really followed but really merged with the person leading. I could feel the adrenalin rising - have never experienced such a feeling in my life ever! It was a real time-travel to me - back 15 years! That followed a prayer song in English, and the day's news highlights. All of those things we did were still the same. ..and the hot sun had not changed too!

Finally TKR, stepped up and introduced me: "Children and staff: I am very proud to introduce one of our alumni......blah blah.. Here is Dr. Kumaraguru now". I had to force myself to take the step to the microphone and start addressing the group. I started, "Friends.." My mouth dried up. I choked. Never realized I had so much feeling for the school. Never knew how much a part of me was JHSS. Had a few things to say and finally did what I really came there for: asked the students to ask me questions. I opened myself to any questions. That was what I really looked for. Have a conversation.

There was silence. No one had anything to ask. I was beginning to get let down. No this can't happen. This is so unlike Jawahars! JHSS taught students to be free! Taught students to seek information. What has happened? Have the 15 years in between changed the students? For 5 seconds,that seem like eternity I was waiting. ..No! No questions were asked. It became clear I had to break the ice. " Come on! You can ask anything." I gave the answer to a question, I thought many students would be curious to ask, but would never ask: " Yes! I am married! I have two kids !!"

That broke the ice. I heard giggles all over and slowly questions starting popping up. " What do you do? What is computer science? What advice you have for us? Why are you not coming back to India? When will you return?...".. and I started having a ball! The sun was hot..but who cared? There was no stopping. Students started breaking ranks, coming near me and asking. I could see the hope in their eyes. I could hear the enthusiasm in their voice..and most of all I could see their dreams. Their curiosities, expectations all became very apparent. We developed a relationship..no reestablished a lost relationship! We were all part of the same family. We were, are and will be Jawahars.

We were going on and on.. TKR had to step in and stop us. They had to get on with their daily routine. I could see they were excited. I could see they got a taste of the wonderful memories I had of JHSS. They saw what a great opportunity they had in their hands. They were wonderful.

Those 20 minutes were the greatest 20 minutes of my entire India trip. Yes, better than the time I met with my family and friends. Better because in those 20 min I met myself from 16 years ago!

Friends! JHSS is on its way to glory again. The worst is over. But it needs your help. Take some time to go visit them. And experience it all over again. Don't ever tell you have no one in Neyveli, as long as JHSS is still around.

TKR is doing a great job. But he is hurting for resources. He is turning things around in spite of it. There is revival of a lot of extra curricular activities. They have even started a Bharatha Natyam Class. But no separate room to teach that. The day I went, they had the class in the staff room. Funds are needed to provide needed restrooms and other basic necessaties. Do what you can in whichever form you can.

Drop a card

Mr. T.K. Ramanujam,
Jawahar Higher Secondary School,
Block 17
Neyveli 607801

That's it folks. I had a great time. ..and I am sure you shall too.


T.K. Ramanujam (Principal CBSE/JHSS) .........
[JHSS Letter head, if you can remember how it looks]
Dated: March 16 1995

To:
Dr. Kumar Sambandan, Ph.D.
3105 Turnberry Ln,
Ann Arbor
Michigan USA 48108

Dear Dr. Kumaraguru,

Thank you very much for sparing some time for coming to the school on your visit to India. Your speech to the children inspired them a lot.

In the mean time we have opened a new library. At present we have an anemic number of 500 books. I request you to appeal to other Jawahars residing in States and collect as many books as possible on different topics like Computers, Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry, History, Geography, Literature, Psychology teaching, Philosophy, Comics, Encyclopedia and other reference books and mail them to

Principal/CBSE
Jawahar Higher Secondary School,
Block-17
Neyveli-1
South Arcot District,
Tamil Nadu 607 801

If you take this venture and help in collecting books for the school all of us will be greatly indebted to you.

with kind regards,

Sincerely yours,
(Sd. T.K. Ramanujam)

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