A Valley Re-Discovered
by Udit Chaudhuri

We all long to visit Rishi Valley as old students. And some of us yearn to give something of the RV we've carried with us. First the distance makes a short trip unworthy. Matching others' schedules is another hurdle. College, job and family priorities clash. Finally we wonder "who'll know us relics out there?" by which time we've lost touch with everyone else, getting middle-aged and cynical. The old dream floats away . . . Well, this one came true over 1st - 3rd October '99 and how! You can be part of the second one. Udit Chaudhuri (ISC '72) relates.

". . . Guess who!" said a strange caller from Bangalore on a muggy August evening, as if he saw me daily. I shot in the dark: "From school? You're Shivanand Reddy!" as if he lived next door. Hearing each other first time after December 1972, were we both floored by our responses!

Nostalgia apart, I was keen to visit the school to see:

  • How much or what of Rishi Valley education or values had each of us had borne over the years;
  • Development work, especially in aforestation, water management and rural education that we heard of;
  • What we can give back which is deliverable, without setting ambitious goals or making tall promises.

    I have tried to describe all experiences below, but the second needs to be seen to be believed!

    Meanwhile a massive manhunt was on. Shivanand and Gowri Shanker on the Net and telephone hunted down everyone in the class or their whereabouts except Shanker Subramaniam Ghoda, Baba (marine engineer; Where the ____ are you, man!) locating 16 in India by mid September. These were: Aruna (nee Dhote, now teaching at RVS and) and husband Shiv, Shivanand Reddy, Shendy, senior communications executive); Anand Reddy, Kodi (brother of Sreelatha Chitti, ISC '70; successful industrialist) Varsha (nee Prabhu, sister of Milind, ISC '69) and Suvarnarekha (Head of Paediatrics at St John's Hospital) all from Bangalore; Gowri Shanker Garry (now an industrialist at Chennai), TK Ramkumar Rom (lawyer, environmentalist and President of civic movement EXNORA), PS Ramdass, Doss (hotelier of Vega fame) Venku Reddy (financial consultant), Sashikala Reddy, Malini Krishnamurthy (nee Anandaram, sister of Raj, ISC '70 and Srikanth ISC '75?) and Prabhakar Reddy (civil contractor - largest owner of L&T-Poclain machines!) from Chennai; Shiavax J Vazifdar variously Shark, Dorrai, Bava (brother of Homi, ISC '67; Successful lawyer forever tied up in 'dozen 'matters'! at HC and SC levels) and yrs truly, Tidu (brother of Shubha, ISC '68 and Itu, ISC '77; Struggling tech copywriter & consultant) from Mumbai; RVL Ramchandra, Sanda (entrepreneur, also in environmental engg) from Hyderabad; Narendra Patwardhan, Naren (brother of Swati, ISC '68; CA and senior financial executive) from Pune. Contacted barely a week ahead, he cancelled all engagements to make it. And instantly recognised Shivanand on the phone after a good 30 years!

    This one journey to RVS gave no butterflies in the stomach with each approaching day. No squabbles with parents for more 'grub' and tins to smuggle, no dispute on the choice of clothes and no goading to pack. No book-laden trunks and stuffed hold-alls either. At Bangalore, Shiavax, Narendra and I were duly marinaded and stuffed like pate-geese by Shivanand and Anand Reddy at the KGA Club and we spent the 30th Sep night at Shivanand's flat rolling with laughter, recalling all our foibles. Woken up at 5 am by Mr Venks' chanting (recorded, of course) of Suprabhatam, we set off.

    Gliding in Shivanand's Esteem, four of us reached RVS mid-morning, taking the longer but smoother Madras Road. The change in landscape struck us from the Mouth of the Valley. An engineering college threatening to come up. Lion Rock as it was. Car Rock split by quarrying (a sports car?). Grand Canyon half eroded, half greened. And lo! - no sight of the school from as close as the Tamarind Grove! A dense tree cover. Coconut grove, fruit orchard and paddy in fields where only groundnut and millets grew. Signpost missing at its fork, Sericulture Centre adjacent to it. Elementary School now Rural Education Centre, a modern, tile roofed brown-painted brick-walled quadrangular and cottage-sized buildings showing all concepts of solar design and environment-friendly architecture, straight out of Discovery Channel! Bushes, a canal and hard soil under the 2nd and 1st Bridges instead of sand, where we jumped to hide from Dr Iyer, Mr Venks or Naidu Sir at PT time!

    The Office is now all hi-tech. Computers, fax machines and hooked to a digital RAX that connects you anywhere in seconds! No Internet connectivity yet, though. Stocks of colour film, should you need any. (I did, the very next day!) A publication unit sells The Book of Chants & Songs as you remember them. Narayanappa's Post Office has moved to its own building. State bank of Mysore has an Extension Counter thereabouts. We stopped at the adjacent Car Park to abandon cars for the next 52 hours. No vehicles or smoking beyond this point, Shivanand warned us all.

    Reaching the ageless bouganvillea covered Senior School Building (the same palm tree at the centre of the quadrangle!) at Tea Break, we marched straight into the Staff Room - no ticking off this time! Same chairs but more rows. The big windows at jumping height. But a difference: Strange faces stared agape as thumps, punches and bear hugs were swapped between a somewhat mellow Naidu Sir, an ageless Mishraji and our own Arunakka who fired us for missing the Assembly. As usual, the delay was my fault – not the long route nor breakfast at Woody's. Over cups of tea we were introduced to Dr Sailesh Shirali the principal, Dr A Kumaraswami the Secretary of RV Education Centre, Mr Shailendran the Bursor, Mr Alok Mathur the Junior School Head, Mr Rangaswami heading the Institute of Bird Studies and Natural History as well as all senior staff. It was also a pleasant surprise to see Kartik Kalyanraman from the '77 batch having joined as Health Officer of the Rural Education Centre after about 18 years of service in the Air Force.

    Naidu Sir then took charge, marching us around the campus. Aruna insisted on going back to her classes despite 'hints' from her students to 'look after her classmates'.

    The new Children's' School building, next to the solid old Junior School is another quadrangular structure with spotlessly clean floors, covered porches for multiple use, neat geometric shapes, ample rooms, corridors and garden, earthy colours all over, neatly arranged functional furniture shining with paint, tidy racks full of neatly arranged and plenty of children's books and educational material. Simple yet elegant in appearance. Sathibai Akka greeted us, remembering all our names and introduced us to all the children. She runs that and the Red House under her total control, nearing eighty years in age, with all the dedication, perfection and discipline as ever.

    Moving to the Arts & Crafts dept next door, we saw that stepped up too. The old carpentry shed converted into batik / textile design studio with permanent dyeing facility; old batik room converted into a weaving class with lots of tiny looms; Raju Mama's den expanded into a carpentry workshop with machinery to compete with a small factory; the old pottery and painting areas all covered, equipped with electric wheel, a host of facilities and a crafts/hobbies workshop adjacent with a wood carving and model-making section as well! The output is exceptional, with children conceptualising a variety of furniture, models of windmills, gliders, rubber-propelled airplanes, sculptures, paintings and designed fabrics that can stand up to an art college! There is a team of dedicated staff for each section. I asked them to think of exhibiting the work at places like Bangalore to begin with.

    Nearing noon, we walked across the games field, enlarged in size by filling up the rivulet at the foot of Cave Rock Hill. And keeping with Olympic standards. Four tennis courts and basketball courts where throw-ball and ring-tennis were played. Sub-junior field is now Hockey ground, surrounded by more quarters along with the old houses of Mr Venks (now an educational consultant at Chennai) and Naidu Sir, who now stays overnight at Madanapalle with his daughter and grandchildren, being picked up and dropped by the school's Sumo. At the start of the boulder path to Boat Rock stands an international standard indoor games building. The old Swimming Pool is closed. Football and basketball are favourites while cricket is not played as frequently. PT for juniors is discontinued.

    Walking from the fields to the DH (Dining Hall) one could see many more pretty villa-type structures - students' Houses and staff quarters what with the greater strength and close student-staff ratio. Yet I could not photograph most of them as there were trees all over. Some with thatched roofs, some emulating adobe huts. The main lawn is still there, lush and full of blossoming plants although not as neatly manicured. And there is the old sun dial, built under Mr NS Ganesan's direction assisted by 5-6 students including me in 1970! Houses/hostels are no more age-wise like our time. There are many more, each accommodating distributed age groups of boys or girls. Mostly named after a flower. Each room occupied by 4-6 students. With space or books, desk for prep and perhaps double the carpet area per student. A remarkable pattern emerges: brickwork, some adobe- emulated construction; less of stone masonry than before, possibly to discourage quarrying and higher labour costs; local material used in proportion to cement and concrete; porches, shades, roofing in pyramid , convoluted or conical shapes - tiled, cement, lime mortar (?) or thatched; quadrangular layout; lawns, flower-beds and rock gardens in each quadrangle; Eucalyptus, gulmohar and hibiscus surrounding all of them and all painted in earthy colours. Indeed (the late) Nari Gandhi left his stamp on Rishi Valley architecture. Total harmony with the landscape. In contrast, New Hostel of our times (now re-named) stands out quite harsh (weren't we right in calling it Central Jail!) but for the surrounding growths of gulmohar and eucalyptus.

    We could not help noticing the enhanced use of technology. The old labs all beefed up, even a storey higher. They are supported by computer rooms and AV rooms, including scanning and image editing. I was able to scan and restore an old photograph of our class in RVL Ramchandra's possession and caption it, using the latest Adobe products on a Pentium II –based PC and take laser prints for everyone! Solar absorption panels for hot water cap nearly every hostel. Bicycles and two wheelers are all over the permitted tracks. The laundry is automated. The kitchen is full of processing and handling machinery as are the pantry and bakery - down to a bread-slicing machine! Biogas-fired burners at a number of locations. And although the senior school building looks the same its library has expanded and a large variety of study materials are used. A fleet of Tata Sumos and a Tempo Traveller as against just one school-owned Ambassador (still there!) and Willy's van earlier. Somewhat a picture of ideal rural development.

    Another striking sight is the presence of waste bins, separately marked "PLASTICS" all over. Further, at the Guest House there is a placard in each room instructing the use of the right bins for each type of waste, along with an appeal to carry non-degradable wastes back to the city. Part of this stems from the fact that Krishnaji's concern about the human race's responsibility to the bio-environment had, over the years, developed into higher emphasis on environmental education and awareness. The Institute of Bird Studies and Natural History is a culmination of all this. More about this later.

    By lunch, Anand Reddy drove in from Bangalore followed by RVL Ramchandra from Hyderabad with wife Devika, children Pawan and Shreya (the three did yeomen's service in photographing us as a group everywhere we went) and the Chennai contingent Gowri, Ramdass, Ramkumar, Malini and Venku – all disappointed that "Kanti" at Madanapalli had closed, hungry, tired but full of gusto. Another round of greetings. More news of this one and that. Some good, little bad. Same faces, marginal east-west growth and a sprinkling of salt n' pepper over the top. As we sat waiting outside the DH, all dressed pretty with creepers and flowering plants and a hat of solar panels, Mishraji and Naidu Sir reminded us of all our exploits in evading PT & Games and their efforts to nab us. Like the time Gowri climbed to the New Hostel upper floor bathing courtyard wall and scaled down the pipes only to run smack into Naidu Sir! I recalled Mishraji standing right next to me shivering under a cement cot one winter morning and going away away quietly. In the DH one could not help recalling the film song, lead by S4 and ISC '70 boys, "to inaugurate the new DH" when the silence bell had rung - and the subsequent thunder from Meenakshi Akka and Dr Balasundaram!

    We retired briefly at the New Guest House. Comfortable clean rooms with linen, towels soap – 5 Star standards for our times! Kept spic and span by Gopala the 'in-charge' attendant who seemed to remember about all of us from our pictures in old copies of the School Magazine and old photographs he had preserved and pored over. He traced me to my brother, Itu and sister Shubha by deduction from that material! There were more recollections and confessions by all classmates, spiced by the Venku Reddy brand of one-liners.

    Getting together, each recalled their exploits and like Mr RV Ramanan pronouncing Shivanand and Venku 'con-genital idiots' (whatever it meant) in perfect 'BBC English' for hiding in their lockers at PT time. But Shiavax still denied pulling the alarm chain on the Bombay-Madras Exp. And I still refuse to admit any involvement in cutting Janardhan's bicycle tube to make a bigger catapult or in the attempt to steal Mr Achutan's moped - the only two-wheeler on the campus those days!

    Late afternoon, Naidu Sir again took us to see the aforestation and watershed development along the range of hills parallel to his old quarters, DH, Asthachal and beyond the Guest House. We had been hearing about it, but to see it in reality, with Naidu Sir's narration was another experience. With some help of students and some labour, he had planted seeds and saplings all over the campus and the hillside, right up to our old Lost Lake and Tree Top Secret. The trees included eucalyptus sandalwood, and drought-resistant varieties like acacia and red sanders, the last of which commands a very high premium in the export market. He had improvised a substitute to the drip irrigation system that worked until there was sufficient transpiration from the all-round growth and rain-water percolation, for self-perpetuating vegetation. He harvested rain- water by building a series of Contour Bunds, running along the strike-line of the hill slope, at close intervals. This prevented run-off.

    The Lost Lake became part reservoir, part forest. Now the trees are worth an astronomical sum, having multiplied by natural dispersion. He went on to relate his patently no-nonsense approach in pursuing assistance from the political bigwigs and bureaucrats, reminiscent of "No hands and legs (complaints). I want (you in the) PT field!" All efforts paid off as can be seen from the dense tree cover all around. About 300% increase in biomass is reported, all over the area. And Naidu Sir was awarded the Indira Priyadarshini "Vrikshamitra" in 1997. And the school had earned a good income from the sale of produce from this forest. Naidu Sir also visited our sister schools at Ojai, Oak Grove, Brockwood Park as well as the Chestland Flower Show, Kew Gardens, other gardening and aforestation sites.

    As we climbed the hill listening to Naidu Sir we could not but marvel at the visible achievement of this man, against such odds. With minimal inputs, severe set-backs in family life and the additional responsibility of managing the entire Estate. Single-minded devotion and robust pragmatism. I remember those large grey masses of granite for hill slopes surrounding the valley that did make quite an oppressive sight, especially near the end of the long winter-to-summer term. As Naidu Sir spoke, his demeanour changed from the soft-spoken and mellowed to his old drillmaster form, minus the whistle - "Come on, boys! this way!" leading us up the hill and down by different routes. We all had thoughts at the back of our minds on giving something for what we took of Rishi Valley with us. Perhaps this setting triggered off the subsequent concrete steps.

    Walking away from the crowd in small groups for a while, a 'whispering conference' started. It became a serious discussion later, over the evening. Ramdass, Shiavax and Gowri initiated a suggestion vetted by the rest of us, that something be done for these devoted men and women who have given their lives for the quality of all our lives. Most staffers would move to more expensive places on retirement, unless they left in their prime years for a more lucrative job. How about a pension trust fund? Another problem we found was that while teachers (and staff?) got free education for their children at school but their means were grossly inadequate for university education. So a trust fund was also mooted for assisting children of staff members with their university education. Yet another but inevitable question came up about the school's presence on the Internet. We felt that both the domain, its content and interactivity should be governed from Rishi Valley itself, given its fabulous computer facilities and archives by which richer content could be created and updated. The school could also have a channel of communication through the Internet. The existing sites could all be linked by an umbrella Website. We decided to take this up with the school administration.

    Returning by sun-down, we found the Asthachal place deserted, its observance discontinued for a variety of reasons. We however observed our own Asthachal, sitting at the same place for few minutes.

    A splendid dinner was laid out for us all by the all the senior faculty, Aruna's active participation and staff behind the Old Guest House which is now Krishnamurti Study Centre. And we had worked up an apetite for it from all the walking and talking! Using Shivanand as our spokesman, we put fourth the suggestions to Dr Shirali, Dr Kumaraswami and Mr Shailendran, Mr Aloke Mathur and others. They were open to the gist of all we had to say, but it seems some of our concerns were addressed during Krishnaji's time. A pension fund was already in existence. As for the Websites, it was considered wise to take advantage of the existing ones. Once Rishi Valley would get the promised Internet connectivity as a number of villages in AP have got, some support to the existing ones and appropriate links could be thought of. They were however more open to the formation of a trust for financial assistance to the children of staff pursuing higher studies. We suggested that a trust called Rishi Valley Alumni Initiative would be formed, which would be administered from the campus and a bank account for this would be opened there. Aruna was made the alumni's' envoy, to handle this work at the RV end.

    We began 2nd October with a morning walk to our Grand Canyon, starting before daybreak, to see students with their notebooks carrying out all manner of nature study excercises and jotting down a variety of observations. Obviously the academic workload is higher than in our time, but so seemed the motivation level. And the 10th and 12th students who we met seemed any day more innocent than the precautious, often pretentious, wily and cynical city breed

    A special assembly was convened for our benefit. Chants & Songs book in hand, we joined Narayana Narayana, Devaraja Sevyamana, Aygiri Nandni, Sundara sheetal samir suhaani and Raghu Jhandala Bhajana …. in full throttle and litle appaswaram - no scolding by Meenakshi Akka this time! One could not help remembering those 'general assemblies': writing KICK ME or packing punches on backs of those in the front benches; either keeping a stony silence or blasting the auditorium out of tune; variations like Gopi has a lorry; my silent mischief partners, Rajeev Yadav and V Ganapathy next to me on the same long bench. Having only just heard of Rajeev's sad life and fatal accident some three years ago and remembering others like Vishalakshi Akka, Dr Iyer, Raju Mama and others who would be very much part of all programmes in the auditorium - all of whom are no more, I had to battle for control of my emotions. Slowly looking around, I saw others in the same boat too and that felt comforting. An electric silence followed. Remembering our imitations of Dr Balasundaram, Dr Iyer and Mr Venks announce the week-end entertainment programme at the end of the assembly lightened the mood a litle.

    Later in the morning one more classmate joined us - Suvarnarekha and her husband Naresh. They were only able to spare one day, being busy doctors in Bangalore.

    Conducted by Naidu Sir again, we walked through the Estate, under the Banyan Tree, past the Dairy, Mallibhavi Well, Krishna Well, down the long 35 ft wide bund built to divert the Rishi River and past the lake-sized percolation tank as well as one of the many check dams. This aspect of watershed development and conservation work has succeeded in bringing back birds like the Yellow-throated Bulbul to the Valley. It has been documented in detailed by the Institute of Bird studies and Natural History in its publication Rishi Valley: Experiment in Ecological Regeneration and Environmental Education. A noted travel and foreign affairs writer Robert D Kaplan has devoted an entire chapter to this work, Rishi Valley and Human Ingenuity in his book The Ends of the Earth: A Journey at the Dawn of the 21st Century. We traversed the orchards - papayas, bananas, coconuts, guavas - this time with full sanction to 'raid' any tree provided the fruit was ripe! One lot of tender coconuts was sent to the Guest House. We also saw the new Sericulture Centre which, going by Naidu Sir's track record, could put RV on the silk map! Another striking observation was that all fertiliser requirements were met by composting of all agricultural wastes while neem provided excellent non-toxic pesticide. All these techniques are disseminated for the local villages' benefit through the rural education programme.

    Yet another experience was the Rural Education Centre, previously the Elementary School. We were driven there and to a 'Satellite School' by Mr Shailendran. The system and its functioning, difficult to explain this briefly, is the brainchild of Mr and Mrs YA Padmanabha Rao, who shifted there from Hyderabad nearly two decades ago. Adapting the concept of assignment cards for each student as in the Western countries, here children were given a host of imaginative assignments in the local language or dialect, relevant to their lives. The teacher would be a "facilitator" to guide the activity of a child making progress at his or her own pace and initiative. Aids were improvised there too, by the teachers. Letters cut out of rubber sheet, for example, so that their shape could be learned by their feel by children, especially those in first generation of literacy. Traditional leather puppets, Bombalatta acting out plays with a lesson, educative toys and games made out of locally available materials. The results are well proven, with a very low drop- out rate and highly increased literacy level. These schools have their own kitchen to provide a mid-day meal as well as play space. Students from RVS are also involved in a number of the activities of the REC school.

    The above rural education system has been developed into a model. Teachers are also trained under this model at the REC and Satellite Schools have been started at about 30 villages within a 40-50 KM radius. Such schools are started on waste / fallow land provided by the village Panchayat. Development begins with planting of trees, flower and fruit-bearing plants; sinking of a borewell with partial assistance, construction of a functional structure appointment of the trained teacher and assistance in preparation of the educational material. Parents from the village are also encouraged to visit and participate, such as in serving food etc. At the Satellite school near Kurbalakota that we visited, a leather-puppet show was enacted by children. A parent had brought halwa on account of his daughter's birthday, which he distributed while also helping the staff serve lunch to the children. A Health Officer under this Centre (Kartik Kalyanraman, Tape - ISC '77 - AFMC Pune graduate who worked in the Air Force until earlier this year) takes a round of the REC and all Satellite Schools, providing free health care and counsel to each student and at a very nominal fee to others in the villages. One standard plaything at each center was a tree swing made from a used tyre and v-belts. Our own Mr SJ Vazifdar tested and adjudicated each as fit, even as he learnt by a rather hard way that one tyre was under-size for his girth and one v-belt too elastic for his weight!

    The villages also looked stepped up – smooth paved roads, clean swept courtyards and lanes, neatly dressed folks and growing 'wet' crops, fruits and vegetables where dry crops were the norm. The countryside is sprinkled with ponds and rivulets, run-off being controlled by check dams and bunds. And trees line the village landscape too.

    Late afternoon, Sathibai Akka hosted a tea party for us at Red House, she insisted on serving each one of us and was full of fuss, making us forget we ever grew up! And she seems to have a remarkable memory for all her 'children', enquiring after each of our classmates and siblings. The old Red House Papamma of our times (God knows the good lady's real name!) came specially from the village and was very moved to see everyone, more so with Anand, Shiavax, Ramdass, Shivanand and Gowri who had been in the Red and Blue Houses, under their care. A printout of the old class photo was also autographed by all of us and presented to Sathibai Akka.

    Later that evening, being Saturday evening slated for a film in good tradition, the folk dancing session was preponed by 24hours for our benefit - see the spoils of having your classmate teaching! Though the music evoked more nostalgia and motivation, this was perhaps the first reminder of age catching up. Right limb moving where the left should have. One forward step while everyone else step both ways - much to the amusement of the students. Overcoming cold feet, I would cautiously join a dance after brushing up the steps, by which time it would end. Our old New Hostel Housemaster, English teacher and cricket supervisor JP had arrived from Chennai earlier in the day. He insisted on having us over to his place for an after-dinner chat and desert. We went back to the guest house and chatted late to hone our ideas on the Initiative and to horse around till the wee hours.

    3rd of October. The day to leave had already come. Again by daybreak, this time we had to finish an important mission of the re-union. Climbed to the base of Cave Rock, then backtracked and went up to Boat Rock, puffing like old steam engines, but strangely not tired. Took in the aerial view of the new-look Valley, recalling earlier expeditions. Campus under tree cover - no sign of a 600-strong establishment. Pucca houses in all the villages, some two-storeyed, a macadam road connecting them, as against mud huts in haphazard clusters and a dirt track meandering between. Electricity in the houses, streets, submersible pumps and borewells. More bunds and check dams. Telephone lines. And lush green fields where boulder- laden soil just permitted sparse cultivation. Cars, tractors, buses and a bulldozer all carrying people to begin another purposeful day, where all we had seen were few bullock carts picking their way along the meander of a subsistence-farmer's life.

    We had a final discussion to tie up lose ends on the Initiative in the mid-morning Tea Break. To go ahead with a trust independent of the school's funds, whose initial focus would be on the earlier stated financial support to staff children. Other ideas could be proposed later. Unfortunately this kind of intention has been expressed by so many other alumni and forgotten. Few others have exploited this type of want-to-do feelings of the alumnus fraternity and made a PR gimmick or appealed for funds without their own contribution. (Whereas here a sizeable sum has already been set aside by at least three classmates, I now learn.) We felt that the best thing would be to is to identify the 'doable' and act on it. Like Aruna had done towards reviving some of the co-curricular activities that were once a tradition - folk dancing, the old chants and songs among them - in addition to her role as senior biology teacher. As we put the Initiative on the Internet we could share more ideas and identify areas of commitment. And so we concluded.

    Ramkumar gave an excellent presentation of slides on the civic movement EXNORA that he presides. They have done exemplary work at Chennai and (recently at) Bangalore, addressing issues from waste management, recycling and cleaning of streets to preservation of mangroves and clean-up of water-bodies polluted by effluent disposal. The work had been commended and seen as a model by the World Bank and other UN organisations. Ramkumar had visited other countries to present their successfully proven concepts in civic improvement. He had overcome the diffidence of his school days and built up a successful legal practice. Apparently he never let others' jokes get the better of his sharp gaze, curious stares and his spirit of adventure. His interest in emergent technologies and outdoor activity continue to this day. Just my fvouite sort of customer! Perhaps the most successful student of our batch in terms of the school's objectives.

    I shall not describe the good-byes, drive to Bangalore, a ten-minute hello to Dr Balasundaram and Meenakshi Akka, then the journey by Udyan Express back to Mumbai.

    On our way out of the school we stopped at Mr CR Hanumanta Rao's house, at the fringe of the 1st Village. The same serene expression, bright smile, nominally aged, with a beard. He spoke with fond remembrances of all of us and enquired after all siblings, relatives and other classmates, remembering each one's name and ISC year! He has retired, but carries out some translation work and is also an advisor to the RV organisation. Some people come to him for Sanskrit lessons. His son Babu (ISC'77) an engineer, is a senior executive in a computer training organisation, having previously put in ten years of service at ONGC and built this two-storeyed house with a most well-tended garden. We took leave from this perfect picture of a fruitful life and a continuing interest in it. And the much endeared old guard like him, Naidu Sir, Mishraji, Sathibai Akka and JP playing the role Robert Kaplan likened to granite columns holding the aerial roots of an ever-growing banyan tree. Support systems that bolster our alma mater against 'crashes and cataclysms' in its journey across generations. The familiar hillsides diminished as more and more road entered the line of sight. And Shivanand's Esteem glided on . . .