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By Pradeep Gaikwad (1974)
THE WAY IT USED TO BE – SPICER HIGH!
It was with a great deal of sadness and trembling that I boarded the red and yellow Maharashtra State Transport Bus. A quick glance at the destination board confirmed that the bus was indeed headed for Poona (now Pune).
I was barely thirteen and on my way to Spicer High School – widely regarded by parents as the gateway to the prestigious Christian Medical College, Vellore.
I had heard a lot about the school and the high standards they set there. Would I match up? I had also heard about the ‘initiation’ (aka ragging) that each newcomer had to endure before being accepted into the ‘fold’.
Honestly, this was my biggest fear and it only grew with every turn of the wheel.
Eight hours later, my sister stopped the open-fronted Lamberetta auto rickshaw in one corner of the sprawling campus, pointed to where I needed to go and then disappeared with her luggage into the women’s hostel. I was now on my own.
I lugged my luggage to the staff-quarters-turned hostel for high school boarders, A friend pointed to an empty cot in the innermost room. I dropped my burden on the bed and looked around. This was to be my ‘home’ for the next three years.
Thankfully, two things worked in my favour. First, Ralph and Sunny (names changed) – two boarders famous for ragging - decided to change schools just before my arrival. Second, several hostel mates were old friends.
This did not stop the others from welcoming me in the ‘traditional’ manner. The first few days were full of surprises, most of which I could laugh away. Others required grit and resolve. I accepted it philosophically as a part of life.
I recall waking up each morning looking a little strange. What I saw in the mirror at 5:30 am was a far cry from what I’d seen at 9:45 the night before. Red, yellow, blue, orange and a myriad other colors would run off my matted hair and face as I washed myself in the icy water in one of the two open-to-the-sky bathrooms – even before the birds started their twittering!
A sound sleeper, I was seldom aware of the mid-night ‘raids’ of my seniors who roamed the place on silent feet and emptied tube after tube of water colors ( mostly my own) on me and the other unsuspecting victims.
At times, a slight movement in bed would result is icy water cascading all over the bed from a tumbler balanced cleverly on the mosquito net.
Occasionally, pushing a half-closed door (while returning from a midnight visit to the bathroom) would bring down a bucket of freezing water. The sentiments expressed by the victims (understandably) cannot be expressed here.
With time, the bonding with my seniors was complete. The ragging sessions did not end abruptly though. They tapered off gradually. Occasionally, there were ‘ducking’ sessions, when unsuspecting ‘victims’ were grabbed by their hands and feet and dumped into one of mossy green water tanks on the campus.
I will never forget the day I walked up to the cafeteria for breakfast – fully dressed for school, tie and all.
I’d been dragged out of bed two hours earlier by a senior, and had, with all the exuberance of a 13-year-old, run two rounds around the football field (I needed more stamina and muscle I was told).
With just two bathrooms between the 32 of us, we normally had to queue up for our chance to shower. That ‘morning’, when my seniors offered me priority privilege to shower, I was elated.
I had a cold shower, got into my neatly pressed uniform and trudged to the cafeteria – only to be challenged by the night watchman and told that the cafeteria would open at 6 am …two hours later!
The bottom line was that life was fun - give or take.
Alas, those days and times will never return, but it’s fun to sit back and reminisce on that golden period in our lives which brought so many interesting and unforgettable characters together under one roof.
Those were the days…
By Allan Willmott (1976)
The reason I ended up in Spicer high school all the way from Madras(Chennai)? I was exchanging love letters with a Hindu girl at the Vepery SDA high school. My parents found out and sent me to Spicer to find a good Adventist girl. I used to play the guitar and sing and had attracted a few girls.
When I came to Spicer, I thought I could continue. Unfortunately, my preferences in music were to put it mildly, a bit outdated. At this time, the high school boys occupied rooms 1-5 in the old boys hostel. I had sung a song titled "Farther Along" at the high school worship. For the rest of my high school life, every time I turned the corner past the girls hostel to go to the cafe, the high school girls would serenade me with the chorus to that song "Cheer up my brother live in the sunshine."
How did my mission to find a good Adventist girl go? Let's save it for another episode.
By Ronnie Gyi (1962)
Pranks in the Hostel
When the study hall time was over at around 9:17 pm, after the bell rings, somebody puts a coin in the bulb socket and this blows the fuse.
The whole hostel blacks out. Then Pr Chand and the Monitor Rodney Lord(?) would come with a flash light looking in every room to see which bulb has the coin.
By the time they come to our floor, the corridor is a battle field. The tanks (dust bins) come rolling with a rumble, spilling all the rubbish and the missiles (brooms) fly in all directions.
Then before the lights come on again we retrieve our weapons and sleep innocently. I do not remember if anyone was caught for the mischief.
Moral: Be sure your sin will find you out.Numbers 32:23.
(I wonder if the bell is still in the old mens hostel)
By Ronnie Gyi (1962)
Life at Spicer High
Social: Remember the social programmes every Saturday evening.
Mixed indoor games played in the hall which is now the library (before the Auditorium was built). The girls sit in a line on benches placed on the girls hostel side of the hall. The boys facing them on the opposite side.
Do not remember the specific games we played we but clearly remembered this embarrassing moment.
Many boys developed lip reading and sign language to a high degree but not I. So to my surprise during the social games in the hall, one pretty girl was trying to communicate with all her experience and skills. I was leaning forward and so immersed in trying to decode what she was trying to say so enthusiastically. Was it going to be the beginning of a hopeful emotional teen-age relationship? Finally getting nowhere, in exasperation I slump backward and found out to my utter embarrassment, she was doing this to a handsome boy sitting next to me.
Then we had the moonlight walks. Perhaps the boys and girls walked in separate groups, not sure about this. But I remember holding a girl's hand helping her to climb a small hill. On one such occasion I remember Gentry and his quartet singing the song, "A Fox Went Out On a Chilly Night." That was a great hit and to this day I remember the words of this song. For those who are new to this entertaining song, you can find it on YouTube.
By Gordon Christo (1966)
One outstanding memory of high school years is of the Ram River. I thought it exciting that we had to cross a river like a moat to get to the hostel. I learnt to cross the bridge by walking on the railing. In the rainy season we used to catch fish in the Ram River right by the bridge, by hand and also with an umbrella dangled near a little fall where they jumped. Then we took them to Mrs D P David who fried them for us. We ate them with bread from the Cafe. It would have been like the 5000 in the Bible if only it had multiplied.
By Lorna Christo Samraj (1972)
Dedicated to the Poor Academic Performers in High School
As a child I was a good student. The family story is that I learned how to read from observing my older sister’s reading lessons with my mom. At the English Elementary School in Salisbury Park, Nelson Khajekar and I vied for first-place in third, fourth and fifth standard. Good grades seemed to come effortlessly to me, that is until I arrived at Spicer Higher Secondary School.
Imagine yourself landing in the middle of an entertainment park at the age of 12 without any parental supervision. Every lesson from home about developing good habits was relegated to the back of my mind as I immersed myself in a joy ride that lasted for four years. In the hostel, wherever there was something fun happening, I was there. During study hall, I passed notes to friends, read a book, day dreamed or slept. Fortunately for me, year-end exams carried the most weight, something like 60 percent of our final grade, and exam week would find me cramming at 3 am under a weak hallway light. I got promoted each year, but just barely. And that photographic memory my mother swore I had, was highly exaggerated.
In my defense, all through high school scores of college students posing as teachers breezed through our classrooms. In fact, in 7th standard we had no maths teacher, much to our delight, for several weeks in a row, allowing our whole class of 11 to play chor police on the banks of the Ram River. Also, ours was the only class to be deprived of Mrs. D. P. David’s teaching.
The ultimate disgrace came when I had to drop out of the ISC class because I didn’t have the grades. It didn’t matter where the blame lay – whether solely on my shoulders, or on various other circumstances, I had come to the end of a road. Other than repeating a class, which I didn’t think was viable considering I lacked a strong foundation in the maths and sciences--having fooled away those hours necessary to build it, my only other option was to join college. The DSLC exams, which we considered a joke, I had scraped through with a 3rd class pass, but it was sufficient to enroll at Spicer Memorial College.
It was easy those days, thanks to our immaturity, to think less of those who weren’t promoted to the next class, to measure ourselves against our classmates who went to Vellore and to come up short. Perhaps it did take a few years to regain confidence in our intellectual ability, but after we had proved ourselves capable in the workplace, developed honest and passionate relationships, become creative and sensitive parents, and above all shown ourselves to be authentic and resilient in the face of setbacks, we understood that success is not tied to intelligence or looks; wealth, title or social status, but how we live our lives—and we had learned to live fully.
The Origin of the Spicer Confectionary.
Solicited by Gordon Christo
(Mr Ian Grice sent me this in response to my request. The products she and her helpers produced included lamingtons, brownies, pies, brownies, burgers, and all the goodies we enjoyed at Spicer. In those days the disciples of Rajneesh filled the city and devoured the confectionary products. The purchase of the Wonderland store proved a great investment at that time.) The following story is in a book published in 2005 by the Signs Publishing Co., Australia titled "Ordinary People, Extraordinary God."
By Ian Grice - The Impossible, Possible with God
Georgine glanced at the fund transfer for one hundred thousand rupees she was about to hand over to this Adventist College Administration. It was not a huge amount when converted to dollars, but a princely sum in the local economy. She was overjoyed to have facilitated this donation, and her mind went back to the event which made this possible.
The President of our denominational college had called her into his office and outlined his dream of a College food industry. This industry would make it possible for poor students to earn a living while they were at college, and perhaps earn enough to make a contribution to the college as well. She was officially appointed to be in charge.
“But I have no background in running an industry!” Georgine protested.
The President looked surprised. Missionary wives were supposed to be able to do anything, and if not, why did the Mission Board send them overseas?
Georgine could see it was no use arguing. “What about the money to start this dream going?”
“Talk with the finance people, they will arrange for finance,” said the President with a smile.” He was smiling because Georgine’s husband was in charge of finances.
So with a prayer for help Georgine commenced operations in her kitchen, borrowing three thousand rupees from family savings to get things going. There was no money in the college bank accounts that could be spared for a new and untried industry.
Students took the kitchen-produced food products on the back of their bicycles and sold them to shopkeepers around the city on commission. To Georgine’s surprise orders poured in and soon the college had to assign a room, and later a building to care for the orders. A small army of students with bicycles materialized to service orders pouring in for the new orders. Many of them would earn their college fees from this daily activity. The President’s goal to have an industry which benefited students had been reached in a surprisingly short time.
At the end of the first year of operation Georgine was able to fulfil the President’s second goal with a substantial donation to College operations. Personal funds had also been repaid.
Efforts to develop a purchasing and marketing strategy had paid off. Hours in searching for scrapped industrial ovens and other discarded equipment had been well spent. Bone tiredness of dawn starts and late-night closing had not been in vain. She had proved that Missionary wives lived up to their reputation.
The discarded equipment from the rubbish heap had been made to work for the Lord under protest, a home kitchen had started what was to become a major industry for the College, and a humble Missionary wife who did not know her real potential had been the facilitator of it all. These were the instruments God used to fulfil the dream of the President, but more importantly, the achievement of His purposes for this Adventist College.