Father Extross, my class teacher at Catholic school

Author: 
Subodh Varma

Subodh Varma attended St. Mary’s Convent, Udaipur, St. Paul’s School, Udaipur and St. Xavier’s School, Jaipur. He finished his engineering from Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani and joined an electronics firm in Bombay. After some time he decided to set up his own small scale manufacturing unit in Jaipur. Indifferent health made him close his unit in 2011 and move to Delhi with his wife, Purnima. He lives in Indirapuram, Ghaziabad with his daughter, Sakshi. His current interest is in developing some indoor games for children.

Those who have studied in Catholic Schools or in Convents know about the personal interest that the Nuns or Fathers take in the students and the way they understand the students. I will narrate three small incidents to show this.

I joined St. Xavier’s, Jaipur in Class VII and our class teacher was Father Grace. At that time I had buck teeth, protruding out quite a bit, making me look very ugly (not that I became very handsome later on). But orthodontists were unknown then and mother always thought that once I grew up I wouldn’t look so bad.

But one day Fr. Grace called me and asked me why I don’t get braces for my teeth. Of course I had no idea that such a thing existed. So he wrote to my father asking him to see a dentist. My father took me to Dr. S. D. Sharma, Head of the Dental Department in S.M.S. Hospital and he agreed to set right my teeth. I think I might have been the first person, at least in Rajasthan, to undergo this procedure. So thanks to Fr. Grace I could manage to get a few girlfriends as I grew up!

The second incident concerns Fr. Extross, our class teacher in class X and XI. At that time English movies were screened only at 10 AM on Sundays in Jaipur in cinema halls. One Sunday there was a Tarzan movie at Polo Victory. From my early childhood I had heard about the exploits of Tarzan from my uncle who had read all his stories and seen all his movies but I had never seen any Tarzan movie myself. As my brother was more interested in another movie, “Rock Around the Clock”, I decided to see it alone.

I reached Polo Victory quite early. At that time there was no proper cycle stand there and the contractor placed the cycles against a tree, piling up one against the other. Since I was early, my bicycle was amongst the first to be parked.

I then went to the students’ concession window to get a concession slip but found that the window had not opened. I waited there for some time but when the window didn’t open, I decide to go and buy the full ticket. I was standing there in queue when somebody said that the concession window had opened. Eager to save on my pocket money, I decided to rush there. But meanwhile a big crowd had gathered there and before I could manage to get to the window, it was closed.

So I went back to the ticket window but by that time, the queue system had broken down and a multitude of people were jostling against one another to get a ticket. In no time the Housefull board had been put up. Dejected, I went back to the cycle stand only to find my bicycle drowned in a sea of bicycles. The stand owner refused to retrieve my bicycle from the pile so I sat there under the tree till the show was over.

Next day, as I was getting ready for school, my elder brother, who had gone out somewhere early in the morning, came back and informed me that there was going to be another show of Tarzan at 10 AM. Of course it was a school day and how could I ask my parents to let me go to a movie?

But my mother, a very soft hearted woman, could sense my desire to see it. She talked to my father, who knew I was good at studies and one day wouldn’t make much difference, and so he also allowed me. So while my friends attended the classes school, I was in Polo Victory watching Tarzan’s antics. Unfortunately, I found it to be a dumb movie and actually regretted missing school.

As per school rules, one had to take a letter from one’s guardian, mentioning the reason for being absent in school. So I asked my father to write an application. But the problem was what reason to give for my absence. My mother suggested that he wrote something like ‘not feeling well’ or ‘had mild fever’. At that my father glared angrily at her asked her, “Do you want me to write a lie? And when he sees me, who has always talked about Gandhiji’s truthfulness, lying, don’t you think he will become a liar himself?”

So in the application he wrote, “Subodh had gone to see a Tarzan movie as he was very fond of one and missed it on Sunday. Seeing his intense desire I did not think it proper to restrain him.”

The first thing Fr. Extross did as he entered the class was to ask me, “Subodh, you were absent yesterday. Have you brought a leave application?”

Shivering in my pants, I handed over the application to him, wondering what sort of punishment was in store for me, especially as I had even missed an English Test (about which I had not told my father).

To my utter amazement, Fr. Extross read it, gave me a wry smile, folded the letter and kept it in his pocket.

As per protocol, he had to send it to the Vice Principal who was Fr. Rebeiro. Next day I was called to his office and the firing I got was the severest I had ever got in my life. He even criticized my father for not caring a bit about his son’s studies to which I wanted to reply that my father was a leading educationist and knew better than him what his son needed. Of course I kept mum as we were taught never to speak back to our teachers.

Another small incident related to Fr. Extross. I was a staunch atheist from my childhood. Once, perhaps in Class X, I had a small argument with Fr Extross about the existence of God. Fr. Extross, gave a few arguments to prove the existence of God. Since I was not willing to carry on the debate, I capitulated, saying, “O.K. Father, if you say so, there might be a God.”

I forgot about the argument soon after but nearly 30-35 years later, Fr. Extross had come to Jaipur and our batch mates of 1961 class met him at Aimaduddin’s bungalow. Father not only recognized all of us but remembered our names too. But what flabbergasted me was when he recalled that little argument and remembered my last sentence verbatim!

Comments

Subodh, good to read this, as I was also involved these teachers later (My classmate's story about Father Grace will appear here shortly). Your father was indeed an enlightened man ... I cannot imagine anyone else allowing his son to miss school for a Tarzan movie.

Hi Subodh,
Where are you and what are you engaged in right now? Can I have your e-mail address?

Interesting reading. We Xavierites can easily relate to such incidents, and can never forget the contribution of such teachers in moulding our lives.

Sir, our principal took us to watch - Fiddler on the roof. None of us could understand what the film was about. Finally our favourite teacher, Mrs Naronha explained us the nuances, which then made the film rather interesting.

Subodh I really wonder whether St. Xavier School of today has this kind of teachers. May be someone like our batchmate Siddharth Consul who has been in touch with the school all along can say. One does not generally find this kind of teacher pupil relationship nowadays

I agree. BTW, Siddarth's younger brother Shantanu is my classmate.

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