March 21, 2018
My schooling in my birthplace – Navsari – started at the age of 5. I don’t remember whether I went to pre-school. My first school was about a 5 minutes walk from my home, where I studied grade 1 – 4. At this school, I learnt about (memorizing) arithmetic tables in the open play ground every morning before we went in the classrooms to read and write. The school had 6 rooms. I don’t remember, but there was no school uniform. The games I remember most, were “Langadi” and “Kho”. One other game that has always stayed with me was “Saat (7) Thikri”.
At age 9, I moved on to junior school, which was part of a High School. The school was big, named “Navsari High School” and had 2 buildings with a large play ground. This school was now a serious business, since there were may be 2 – 4 classes in every grade. Junior School building had about 10 rooms and High School was real big with almost 16 rooms plus science laboratory. Here the school was an all day (10 AM – 5 PM) affair. The home work became an important element in learning. There were different teachers for different subjects. The freedom to wear any clothes was gone, since there were school uniforms for everyone. History, Geography and Science was introduced in addition to Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. Sports became an after school activity and team sports was more at neighborhood level – “Moholla Team”. Cricket became the main sport. My nephew “Vijay” and friend “Hemant” were in my class at this school. My Cricket friends at this time were “Ravindra”, “Jekishan”,” Ishwar”, and my brother “Prakash”. Most important learning during this phase, was me learning to read “English” newspaper – “Free Press Journal”, without formally learning “ABC”. This was during the summer vacation at the end of 6th grade (I was 11), when Manubhai (my brother-in-law) mentored me how to read the headlines of the sports page and the home page from the daily news paper by recognizing the English letters and how they sound. I formulated the sound of the words and sentences from that, but still did not know the meaning. Next morning, I read the same news headlines in the news paper in my mothertongue “Gujarati”. Repeating this routine every day, I learnt the meaning of the English words and sentences. Of course, I still did not learn how to write English. That came when I went to High School after completing grade 7. This experience has been one of the most pleasant memory of my life.
I switched to Sir C. J. N. Z. Madresa High School at the age 12 and I started 8th grade. The reason for the switch was that the Madresa was rated as the best school in town and it was the family tradition. My father and brothers went to this high school. This school was about a mile and half from home. And the opportunity to get to ride a bicycle for the school was the biggest attraction of this phase. At this school we got into English, Sanskrit, Algebra and Geometry. I remember many teachers, ones who had left a good impact in our growth, especially Baria and Vajifadr for English, Shukla for Sanskrit, and Dastur for ACC. The awe and the impression of Principal Homi Wadia is still very clear in my head even now. This school had opened in Year 1856 and we celebrated school’s 100 years anniversary when I was in grade 10th. Another strong memory I have is about the fund rasing event, we did for our ACC (Auxilliary Cadet Corps) program under the guidance of our teacher Mr. Dastur. We remember selling tickets for the movie “Anchors Aweigh” (1945) and that was my first English movie. I did not know then, but we saw 2 famous Hollywood stars – Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly, 10 years before I came to US. Of course, I also did not imagine that I would be spending my majority of life in US.