Athar Ali Sayed, my scoutmaster at St. Xavier’s Jaipur

Dhananjai Birla

Dhananjai Birla was born and brought up in Jaipur. Proud to be a full-fledged Xavierite as he did schooling from St. Xavier High School, Jaipur and graduated from St. Xavier’s College’s Commerce Department, Kolkata. In 2012, he retired from Birla Corporation Ltd. (Cement Division) after serving for almost 32 years in. He worked in various Departments such as Accounts, Civil, and finally Headed Stores. He also looked after various other activities such as Recreation Centre, Horticulture, and Water Conservation. After retirement, he worked as CEO in local multi-specialty hospital having heart centre and nasha mukti kendra (alcohol detox centre).

During my schooling at St. Xavier’s Jaipur in the 1960s, I took keen interest in all its extra-curricular activities. These included games, sports, school newspaper, dramatics, social service, organizing picnics and parties and variety entertainment programs in collaboration with the then boys and girls of public/convent schools for contributions to a good cause. In fact, St. Xavier School was more than home for me as I could implement my thoughts and ideas.

Athar Ali Sayed served as scoutmaster at St. Xavier’s School, Jaipur. This photo was taken in 1960.

One more such activity was Scouting, which I chose over NCC (Air Wing). Our Boy Scout Troop was headed by a Troop Leader and guided by our Scoutmaster. Mr. Athar Ali Sayed, a teacher in our school, was the Scoutmaster for many years.

Apart from our normal scout activities, every fortnight Mr. Sayed used to take us to the local SMS Hospital. We would carry post cards, and write letters dictated by illiterate and poor patients to their relatives.

Now let me tell you about our Scout Camps. After dinner, we all used to sit in a big circle around the camp fire. Each Patrol had to present a skit, crack a joke or relate a story. When the presentation was over, Mr. Sayed would ask, “Kishok lagyo (How was it)?” and the scouts yelled, “Chokho lagyo (good).” The Camp fire ended with a couplet from Mr. Sayed.

Mr. Sayed cared about his students. Once we had camped at Humayun’s tomb in New Delhi. At the same time, Delhi had an Indian Industries Exhibition in New Delhi. On the last day of the camp, my relatives had come to the camping ground to take me with them. Mr. Sayed said it was OK for me to go with them. In Delhi, I was engrossed with my same age group cousins and visiting the Fair. Back at Jaipur, Mr. Sayed was very worried as to whether I have come back. Daily he used to come cycling to my home and ask my father if I had come back.

At that time, the telephone system was very poor, so it was not possible to phone me. Somehow, a message was sent to me to come back immediately to Jaipur with my uncle, who was in Delhi to see the exhibition. When I reached Jaipur in the morning, Sir wanted to see me physically if I had reached back. From this I realized that student-teacher relations are not built by books alone.

Republic Day celebration. St. Xavier’s School, Jaipur. Probably 1963. Speaker: Dhananjai Birla. Sitting at the table: Guests at the school function; extreme right: Father Willmes. Standing behind: Mr. Athar Ali Sayed, scoutmaster.

Mr. Sayed was a great mentor, guide and painstaking teacher who explained everything practically. He always encouraged public speaking to his pupils. This photo is a concrete example. I am speaking at the microphone, while Mr. Sayed (in the beret) is standing several steps behind me. The occasion was the eve of India's Republic Day, and my talk was on the significance of Republic Day.

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