Our beacon light
“St Josephs be our beacon light, in this wild and tempestuous night..
Be our radiant, guiding star o’er life’s troubled seas, till dawns eternity”
Some songs are so much a part of you, that the lyrics and the melody come to you magically, even though the last time you sung it maybe a couple of decades ago; standing in that expansive school ground, hemmed in on all sides by beautifully preserved school buildings, which are more than a 150 years old. It’s the morning assembly time, when the scorching sun coats everything in your line of vision, in a hazy white layer, like looking through a curtain of ivory, gossamer thin mulmul or muslin. The assembly always ends with the school pledge and the dramatic swooning of some students who cannot stand the heat and the subsequent scramble to whisk them away to the ‘sick room’. The girls file into the class rooms, smartly dressed in their navy blue pinafore, which falls exactly two inches below the knee.
There is something about school teachers that makes you gush like a school girl, even as you introduce your school going child to her. You remember the teachers along with their little quirks, the lessons they taught you, which ironically have little to do with academics and most importantly the quiet, unobtrusive way they helped you evolve from wide eyed, giggly girls to young ladies; ready to deal with real world outside the school.
The class rooms are bright and airy with high ceilings, exuding an old world charm, with wooden desks that have been used by generations of girls before you; the carved inscriptions giving you a glimpse into their school days. The class rooms open out into wide parapets, where you spend many a recess hour, sharing tasty morsels of lunch with your friends, while doling out delicious bits of school girl gossip or spread out your books, trying to coax your brain to cram in as much information as possible, before an exam. The first floor class rooms open out to wooden planked corridors that creak every time you run though it and makes you stop for second to ensure that it has not crumbled under your weight.
The chapel is like an oasis of calm in the frenzy of activity that marks a typical school day .It is cool and dark with an arched doorway and marble flooring which feels cold, even through your stockinged feet. You sit on the polished wooden pew, letting the scent of incense, the soothing soft murmur of a nun deep in prayer, her wooden rosary keeping count and the intermittent toll of the chapel bell lull you into a state of tranquility.
Outside the chapel, the school ground is abuzz with the hustle and bustle of lunch break. You come across a group of girls, deep into a game of lock and key or basket ball, someone trips and scrapes her knee and is taken to the office room, where the staff in charge brings out the large first aid box and dabs the wound with a smear of tincture of iodine, its startling purple shade covering up the wound. In the distance, you can hear the strains of the trumpets and the steady beat of the drums as the school band does its practice sessions. Sports day is fast approaching and the two opposing teams red house and blue house, recognizable with the red and blue badges practice hard to beat each other in an eternal battle for supremacy.
The screeching sound of the electric bell as it slices through the quiet afternoon signifies the end of another long school day, filled with laughter, learning and friends. You pack your bags and say your goodbyes, safe in the knowledge that tomorrow you can do it all over again.
“Education is the movement from darkness to light”- Alan Bloom
Thank you St Josephs, for being our beacon light.
All photographs taken by the talented Saina Jayapal.