Tuesday, November 07, 2000

St. Xaviers Alumni Association (Patna) by Dr. K. V. Srinivasan

A fine article on one of the finest schools in India, St. Xavier's of Patna. Written by Dr. K. V. Srinivasan, Ph.D (Newcastle upon Tyne); retired Professor of Chemistry, Patna University (Science College.) Provides a glimpse, just a small snapshot, of the quality of life in the Patna of 1960's thru 70's; a far cry from the present. Read also the fierce loyality, and contibution to the needy, of its distinguished alumni.

(The author retired as Professor of Chemistry in Patna University and has been actively engaged in the functioning of the SXAA)

The terms old and boys are contradictory. However, when brought together they conjure up a whole lot of remembrances, activities, frozen times, camaraderie and many other emotions. If you are an old boy of St Xaviers Patna, which until the early sixties, was easily amongst the ten best schools of the country, your credentials were automatically immaculate. The school was started at Patna, in the year 1940 with its first Principal being Rev. Fr. M D Moran, SJ. The terms SJ stand for the Society of Jesus, an order that drew its strength largely from the United States of America, in those days. Now its a world wide order and the missionaries have specialised in giving quality education everywhere. Their Alumni, better known as the Jesuit Alumni now number more than ten million and are to be found all around the globe.

The St Xaviers Alumni Association was a pioneering effort to keep the flock together", by a very famous and loveable priest called Fr. Wroblewski of those days. He worked hard to bring out the creative talents of his students and encouraged and cajoled them to write articles and letters to him, which he would publish and thus would not allow anyone to fade away. The school remains an institution of pilgrimage to all those, specially its alumni of the first thirty years or so. They come in ones and twos from all over the world, stare with deep pride -its building and the proverbial imli tree, walk around to the hand ball court and then step into the corridors to have a look at the photograph of their class.

With changing times, the school gave up some of its old traditions, such as the huge emphasis on games like cricket and base-ball. The little boys of St Xaviers School have beaten the stalwarts of Patna College and the PW Medical College in the Cricket League matches. Fr Cleary who used to play cricket with the boys and thoroughly educate them on all the nuances of the game, would himself be present in these matches. He would use his enormous experience to instruct the bowlers on what kind of ball to bowl when, since he had carefully studied the weaknesses of each of the rival batsmen. "Now son, bowl the wrong un" often preceded the demise of the unwary batsman, of the rival side.

A great event came about in the fifties when the school swimming pool, was constructed and students were given instructions in swimming. Thus a Xaverian who passed out was a good debater, could write well and could play proficiently in at least two games and knew enough not to drown. This kind of overall education led to our Alumni being extremely successful in later years. Their skills obtained for them some of the most important positions in society.
One should normally play safe and avoid mentioning names of some of those stalwarts, if only for the reason that one may forget several others who have distinguished themselves even further. However amongst the Alumni of St Xaviers are Surojit Sen the famous news reader and sports commentator of All India Radio, Tejendra Khanna the Lt Governor of Delhi, Padma Sri Ranjit Roy Choudhary, the Rhodes scholar who went on to be a top ranking Public Health expert of WHO and the Govt of India, several IAS officers, engineers, publishers, professors and experts in various fields spread out all over the world. Drama and literature have such eminent Xaverians as Roshan Seth and Vikram Seth.

There have been occasions when current students of the school have been helped enormously by some of the Alumni. One such incident comes to my mind as I write these lines. A young boy who was a good basketball player lost his legs on a railway track and needed prosthetics to carry on his studies. An appeal went out for funds in our magazine called "Round up". A distinguished Alumnus Dr Chiang immediately rang me up from London to say that he was sending a thousand pounds and the money paid adequately for the treatment as he had to undergo several surgeries. Another Alumnus, Dr Shashikar, currently a well known anaesthetist in the US deposited a lakh of Rupees with the Unit Trust of India, the dividends from which would go towards the University education of the children of the non teaching menial staff of the school. Arun Narain Singh, now a Vice-President of TISCO, Jamshedpur stood tall at the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the SXAA when he offered hospitality to nearly 500 Alumni who congregated in the school over two days. Donations for important social work keep coming in.

The schools motto is "For God and Country". It is engraved not only in appropriate places in the building and magazines but also in the hearts of its Alumni. Several Non Government Organisations are run by our Alumni and are doing excellent work particularly in the rural areas providing medical care and organising health and eye camps. The Samvedna clinic at Patna is one such, managed and run by a group of three prominent Xaverians, amongst others. They have an infectious enthusiasm in them and Doctors flock to them, offering their services free.

As the years have rolled by, the inevitable had to happen. With the school turning into a government aided, Hindi medium school, the priorities changed. Anti-elitism took over and now the school follows the Bihar Secondary School Board syllabus, emphasises in providing cheap education to boys drawn largely from the poorer neighbourhood and being Indian in outlook. Although the medium of instruction is Hindi, the school has reverted to English for a few of its classes, which have adopted the All India ICSE board.

The St Xaviers Alumni Association has been active and meets regularly in the school premises. The Annual Reunions are held every year in the school where the Xaverians are given a free hand to dwell upon the glorious days of the past and be the tigers, leopards, lions or panthers that they were, in their good old days.


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