Way back in 1979, some ex-students of Tashi Namgyal Academy, got together at a local restaurant and decided that we establish an Asssociation which would enable us to maintain a longstanding relationship with our alma mater. I took upon myself the task of getting the Alumni Association registered which finally happened in 1984 after our application got repeatedly lost in the Government. After all I was an ex Tenacian and had been taught to try, try and try again with tenacity.
How time flies. I was now here in the TNA Auditorium sitting with my former class-mates attending The X Tenacian Dinner Nite on 20th September 2014 which had been organized by the school as a prelude to the TNA Golden Jubilee Celebrations. We were attempting to talk to each other over the cacophony of music playing full blast and everybody dancing around. We did not recognize a sizeable fraction of the ex-students in the jam packed auditorium. When we got introduced to them as the 1973 batch of TNA, they said, “Oh! we were not even born then” That comment made us feel like fossils
All the commotion did not prevent me from reminiscing about the eight years I spent in the school.
After spending my formative years in Saint Joseph’s Convent, Kalimpong and Goethals in Kurseong I was brought to Gangtok in 1966 because my parents felt Tashi Namgyal Academy in its public school avatar would meet their expectations of giving me a quality education.
Oh how clearly I remember the first day in school: Class IV 1966. A crisp March morning with flowers in bloom and the birds twittering all around. The school assembly less than 100 in number stood in the lawn in front of the Principal’s Office. The Principal – the hoary VN Langer soon appeared and we stood awestruck in front of him. He lectured us for about half an hour and then ended with
Each minute wasted is a part of an hour wasted,
Each hour wasted is a part of a day wasted
And each day wasted is a part of our lives wasted.
Perhaps not a single assembly during Langer’s tenure went without this saying being quoted.
In 1966 the school was till Class VI with each class having an average 10 students. Every year a higher class was added. As the strength of the school grew the School Assembly was shifted to the space in front of the Auditorium and thereafter to the main ground.
Langer was a strict disciplinarian and was alive to the problems of environmental degradation even then. We used to have what were called “Self Help Days” regularly in which the students would clean the campus, cook their own food and plant tree saplings. I once while walking to class room mindlessly plucked a flower from a plant in the lawn. I was immediately greeted with a knock on my head from behind. It was no other than Langer who admonished me tersely,” Don’t do that again.”
He always had the interest of the school uppermost in his mind. I once overheard him arguing with the Chogyal who was the Chairman of the TNA Board. “ Sorry , your Highness, I will not allow it”, he said.
In the year 1967 during the shooting of Jewel Thief the entire school –maybe 120 students- was made to run down the school gate a number of times by Dev Anand for the first scene of the blockbuster. The story line was that one of the students (young Sachin the actor) gets kidnapped from amongst this crowd. For our efforts we were treated to a snacks –a Singhara and a Ladoo- by none other than the actress Vyajyantimala in the next day’s school assembly. The snacks had been supplied by Narayan Das – one of few sweet-shops in town the next day in the school assembly. The same year in September skirmishes broke out between India and China on the Nathula border. I vividly remember going to the Ridge Road after school to hear the rumble of firing cannons coming over the mountains.
1968 was a year of gloom. In October that year, the Tista got flooded bringing about widespread damage and destruction of life and property. Gangtok was cut off from the rest of the country for about a month. A Dakota used to make sorties over Gangtok to drop essential supplies. We used to run to windows of the class-room to see the air-dropping taking place ignoring the pleas of the teachers to remain seated.
In 1969, when the first man landed on the moon, Mr Arvind our Physics teacher who had been following the events on a transistor radio went around the corridor of the school excitedly shouting “ The Eagle has landed” (Eagle was the name of the Lunar Module of Apollo 11).
In 1971, Satayjit Ray visited the school to film the famous documentary film “SIKKIM”. I vividly remember the sound of the whirring of his projector while filming the assembly in front of the School auditorium. The Gyalmo of Sikkim Hope Namgyal used to visit our School Library quite often and contribute books and interact with us senior students. During one of her visits she personally distributed amongst us the Class XI students one of the first authentic maps of Sikkim titled “Kingdom of Sikkim” published by the University of Kentuky. The Royal Couple also used to regularly call us for evening parties at the Palace Guest House. Towards the end of 1971 Mr V.N. Langer retired and Dr Fanthome joined as the principal.
Sikkim was in the throes of a political turmoil in the early seventies which later culminated in the state becoming a part of India -Protests, Rallies, lathi-charges. We the school children were somehow insulated from what was happening all around. Business went on as usual. Sometimes the stillness of the school would be shattered by the singing of songs “ Dela Dzong Si Ling gi….. and Jaha Bhagcha Tista r Rangit” as protestors confronted the CRPF on present day Bhanu Path. But I clearly remember the Army helicopter carrying important Government of India Officers hovering above trying to make an emergency landing in the school ground as the roads to the helipad were being picketed by protesters. The morning Assembly was going on then and an Army Officer came up to Dr. Fanthome, the Principal and requested him to have the ground vacated. He flatly refused. The helicopter kept hovering overhead and could land only after the Assembly was over.
There was another upheaval taking place elsewhere in the seventies: on the football ground. The matches with TNHSS tended to be particularly rowdy and boisterous with us cheering our team with an old number “ Sunday morning, up with the lark……”
The loud din of the Honey Singh’s Hindi song “Pani pani, pani; Aur dil bhi hai sunny; Aaj blue hai pani ….” from the movie Yaariyan transports me to the present and breaks my nostalgic reverie.
(The writer Rajesh Verma is an Alumnus of Tashi Namgyal Academy School 1973 batch. He retired as Secretary, Information Technology from the Government of Sikkim)