Archive for the ‘Sainik School’ Category

Bangalore-based former students of Sainik School, Kazhakootam, Kerala, will have a get-together at the Officers’ Mess of 147 AD Regiment (Jet Busters) located near Ayyappa Temple, Banaswadi, Bangalore, from 11 am tomorrow, that is Sunday, July 11. Contact Babu C K on 9342816828.

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Not so often I am away from blogs. As regular bloggers would admit, this online journal stuff can get addictive. The maximum duration I can stay away from blogs without any adverse effect is a week. It’s mostly more important and immediate work that keeps me away from weblogs. But, before long, the urge to find some time to blog becomes compulsive.

Last week, Mr Henry Whitfield was back with us. He is a family friend of ours who first came to India from the UK in 1968, and has been coming back quite frequently; one, to pursue his passion of climbing mountains in the Himalayan region and two, to see — not the glitzy side of India’s development but — the heritage and traditional features of the country. One of his interests is rocks and minerals.

He is easily one of my best and closest friends, for one simple reason: his attitude and approach to life, the amazing realistic view he has to everyday situations; his ability to soak in and enjoy the precious moments that life has to offer. That’s possible for him because he has loads of patience and he is in no hurry to flee the present to some unknown future.

On 25th, he reached Bangalore by the Rajdhani Express around 8.30 am, some 2 hours behind schedule. As we drove into the city, his initial comments were that traffic in Bangalore was much more organised and less chaotic than in Delhi. But the next day, Friday, his impressions changed. He discovered how it had deteriorated since the last time he was in the city a year back. We got caught in a awful jam for more than half and hour near the Ulsoor Lake. We abandoned plans to see a few places of interest and instead decided to get to shopping right away.

On Saturday, in the afternoon he made a trip to Lal Bagh alone. But it ended some disappointment: a plant that he bought from the nursery there got badly squashed in the crowded BMTC bus. In fact it was meant to be an addition to our little garden at home, but he was so upset at the way the plant got damaged in the crowd, he just dumped it by the way side. We felt quite bad about it. “It’s okay, I must understand that such things do happen, and it’s by no means the end of the world,” is what he said about the incident.

On Sunday Mr Whitfield was at the at the get-together of the alumni of Sainik School, Kazhakootam. He had taught chemistry in the school from 1968 to 1971 along with my father. In a short speech there he said how important it was for all of us to get into a routine that’s different from the usual one. “When I am back in the UK, I follow a particular routine. When I come to India, when I am at the foothills of the Himalayas, when I am climbing the mountains, when I am touring places, I follow a very different routine. It’s refreshing as much as it is educative. Such occasional changes from the normal, helps us widen our perspective.” A very profound thought.

On Monday, around 8.30 am we set off to Kolar, some 70 km east towards Chennai. The small town is known for the gold fields, which are now shut down. It was Mr Whitfield’s interest in rocks and minerals that prompted this visit. He was quite curious about the KGF, the geology of the area, the methods used to extract gold, the reasons why such a successful mine has now been closed down. He said a number of mines back in the UK had shut down simply because they ran out of the minerals and ores. We were very lucky to meet an engineer, Mr K M Diwakaran, who was very optimistic about the future. He is the president of the Bharat Gold Mines All Employees Industrial Cooperative Society Ltd that’s involved in efforts to revive the mines. His estimate is that in a year employees would be recruited and mines would reopen.

A section of the dysfunctional mine.

Another view of the mine.

Kolar Gold Fields is said to be one of the oldest mines in the world, though the modern history begins with the systematic mining by the English firm John Taylor and Sons in 1880. One of the first hydro-electric projects in Asia was built in 1902 to provide power to the mines. The Mysore government took over the mines in 1956, the government of India took over in 1962 and the mines closed down in 2003.

We visited the a portion of the mine and the mill tailing dumps called the cyanide dumps, because of the cyanide content. These expansive elevated plains of deposits are nothing but the mining waste and have accumulated over the years. The dumps which have in them gold worth crores themselves provide gold extraction work for so many years. At some places it rises to up to 30 meters. From the top one gets a good view of the town. It’s a scenic area and not surprisingly many movie shootings have taken place there. We understood that the mines closed down because of a variety of factors: lack of far-sightedness on part of the authorities, poor management methods, and the bureaucratic lethargy many public sector firms in India have become victims of.

A section of the vast cyanide dump.

Mr Whitfield, who has a keen interest in rocks and minerals, examines a piece from the dump.

On the way to the top of the dump.
A view from the top.

Kolar has plenty of interesting places to visit. Just heard about them, didn’t get time to visit. However, one wonders, why these places aren’t developed into tourist centres. For a huge country like India, the tourism potential is wasted untapped.

On our way back, at a spot some 35 km before K R Puram, we saw a large nursery, from where Mr Whitfield finally bought a plant, that bears bright reddish yellow flowers. The next day, Tuesday, we had lunch at the Tamarind Restaurant on the Ring Road near the Ramamurthy Nagar junction. “The ambiance is very pleasant. I must say this is one of the best hotels I have come across in India, and it gives, what we call, good value for money.”

After the lunch, we headed to the railway station to book his reservation for onward journey to Pune. He is going there with the hope that he would be able to see a quarry (quite unlikely since one needs to get permission, which he felt may not be easy) or at least meet someone who deals in minerals. I am yet to hear from him. Hope he has had some luck! He got a berth in the foreign tourist quota in the Udyan Express for Wednesday.

From the railway station we headed to the Iskcon (International Society for Krishna Consciousness). He found the spiritual and tourist side to the place quite innovative and was quite skeptical if a similar thing was possible back in his country. He felt Iskcon has been able to combine both remarkably well.

I spent a lot of time talking to Mr Whitfield: our likes, our prejudices, our cities, our nations, the world we live in, the leaders, heroes, and villains. He has the typical British understatement, and of course, what makes conversations interesting are the insights he brings into a subject.

I asked him what brings him back to India over and over again. “One, obviously the mountains and the nature in general,” he says immediately. “It’s remarkable to be in the midst of people who are extremely calm; Indians patiently work around situations that are very difficult, hardships that we in the West aren’t used to… I must say trees are a refreshing sight in Bangalore. Roads in Delhi are broader but the city isn’t as green as Bangalore. I’m sure the roads here will get better the next time I’m here.”



Last year’s visit by Mr Whitfield:

Friend from Britain
Business at Sangam
The Gumbaz

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This in continuation of my postings on July 7 (Guruvandanam) and on July 6 (Going back in time).

Here are some photos of the project at different stages:

A 2005 photo of the incomplete ‘clock tower’. The 1982 Batch of the School volunteered to take up clock tower project as a token of gratitude to the alma mater that has played a major role in the lives of each of us, students.
The work in progress in mid-May 2007

The completed clock tower with the Stupa of Remembrance in the foreground, on July 7, 2007.
A dream come true for the school and more importantly for the students of my batch which undertook the project. The tower was named “Gurudakshina Tower” and it was dedicated to school on 07-07-07.

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The clock up the tower struck 5 in the evening. A round of applause filled the air. The sense of accomplishment was real. This was the way we — the 1982 batch of Sainik School, Kazhakootam — said THANK YOU to our beloved teachers. The clock tower is called ‘Gurudakshina Tower’.

When the school was built, the clock tower was very much planned. During these 40 years it remained incomplete as many other infrastructural priorities vied for and won attention. When our turn came to sponsor old boys day, this year, we decided to complete the tower and fulfil a long-cherished dream of the school.

It wasn’t easy: the logistics and finances especially. First using the power of the internet ‘missing’ classmates were located, a group formed, and from then on there was no looking back. The project is being described as not just what alumni can do for the school but what committed team work can achieve.

We’re grateful to our teachers who graced the occasion today and blessed us.

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It was a glorious day of recognising faces and recalling names. Some of us were meeting each other after a good 25 years. Loud exclamations and gasps of joy of finding the childhood buddy rent the air at Hotel Uday Samudra, Kovalam. One could only see handshakes and hugs.

This was in the runup to Saturday’s Old Boys’ Day of Sainik School, Kazhakootam, Kerala. It’s 25 years since we passed out of the portals of this great institution. And we are organising this 38th alumni meet. Imagine the first meet was in 1969, no networking sites then; just inland letters and postcards. Such is the bonding my school provides.

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The Sarojini Nagar police station in Lucknow, it seems, doesn’t have a place of its own. Established in 1982, the profile of the station, however, has been steadily rising with the increased jurisdictional area.

According to a report in the Lucknow Newsline of the Indian Express of June 22, “the Sarojini Nagar police is carrying out its functions from an old three-room building of the Sainik School, due to the lack of a proper building”.

The police are helpless since “the space cannot be utilized for any kind of construction, as the compound belongs to Sainik School”, the report says.

Click here for the news item.

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The old boys of Sainik School, Purulia, West Bengal, met with their families in Kohima. Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio, himself an alumnus, joined his former school mates. He donated Rs 50,000 to the Old Boys Association. Nagaland’s forest minister, Kheto is also a product of this school. (Report in Nagaland Post)

The Old Boys Day of my alma mater, Sainik School, Kazhakootam, Kerala, will be celebrated on July 7.

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India will have its 22nd Sainik School, in Punjab, if the assurance given by defence minister A K Antony to chief minister Prakash Singh Badal, fructufies. This will be in addition to the one in Kapurthala. (Read report here)

List of all 21 Sainik Schools

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India’s 21st Sainik School is in Punglwa in Nagaland. It was inaugurated by defence minister A K Antony on May 12.

The school is the third in the North East, other two being at Goalpara (Assam) and Imphal (Manipur) established in 1964 and 1971 respectively. Spread over an area of 300 acres, the school is located in the scenic foothills of Pauna Range Peren district of Nagaland, about 47 km from Dimapur.

Report in Assam Tribune
List of Sainik Schools

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I should have been at my school. It was a rare occasion.

The Chief Army Staff, Gen J J Singh, was at my alma mater, Sainik School, Kazhakootam (Thiruvanathapuram, Kerala), on the 17th. More than that, Gen Singh was accompanied by three top officers in the Army – Lt Gen Thomas Mathew, Lt Gen Issac John Koshy and Lt Gen S P Sreekumar, all from the first batch of my school, 1965.

Every since these three old students, got promoted to the top rank, within the last year, my school has been on a high. And this visit of the Chief of the Army Staff has appropriately topped it.

January 17 was the birth anniversary of another old student, Col N J Nair. He was awarded the highest peacetime decorations of Ashok Chakra and Kirti Chakra while combating terrorism.

Nair, who belonged to J J Singh’s Maratha Light Infantry regiment, was awarded the Kirti Chakra in 1983 for his valiant efforts in fighting insurgency in Mizoram. Ten years later, he was posthumously awarded the Ashok Chakra when he laid down his life while fighting off an ambush in Nagaland.

Report in The New Indian Express, Zee News

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