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RAMAKRISHNA MISSION ASHRAMA
Phone : 2477-2201,2070
December, 25, 2002
[ From : Shraddha-Souvenir of Re-union 2002]
I welcome all the ex-students of the Ramakrishna Mission Vldyalaya, Narendrapur to this Bi-Annual Re-union. I also welcome the family members, the guests and friends to this Re-union. One friend meets another, or a group of ex-students meet another group of ex-students may, be 10 or 15 years later—what happens at that time ? There is exuberation of joy, laughter and plenty of merrymaking. Why does this expression of joy and merry-making happen ? The question arises where does it come from ? It comes spontaneously from within our heart.
If we go on thinking physically, mentally and do some spiritual practice, in the final analysis we shall find the answer that we all come from 'ONE' which is 'UNITY'—the 'SOURCE'—the 'REALITY', the TRUTH. The Upanishad says, EKAM EBA ADWITIYAM ; it is the ONE and only ONE from which all beings and things have come into existence. It is the unitary consciousness which makes us express the joy when we are happy, anguish when we are unhappy, laugh or cry together because of the feeling of oneness. We read in the Rik Veda "SAMANI BA AKUTI SAM ANA HRIDAYANI BA." When the hearts become one or in other words when all the hearts feel the same way and vibrate with the same resonance then the feelings are also the 'same.'
We have come to the place of Sri Ramakrishna, the Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananda. THEY are Three in ONE to me. God incarnates on the earth assuming a human form to show the human beings how to know God, how to discover the Unity behind the multiplicity. The one behind many—EKAM SAT VIPRA VAHUDHA VADANTI. Truth is one, the sages call it by various names. Let us remember we are all children of God born into this world to play our own roles in the respective fields. Let us not forget that we are to serve as much as we can the people of our country who are less privileged, who are poor and the downtrodden and above all let us try to be honest, truthful, self-sacrificing and loving.
May the Almighty help us all to purify our hearts and see God face to face in this very life—is my prayer.
Tribute to a Great Institution
Dr. Sujit Ray
[ From : Shraddha : Re-union 25.12.2002]
It has been quite a long time since I left Narendrapur after spending more than six years of one of the most important, formative phases of my life at this great institution. Although almost three decades have passed by, the memories of my days at the Mission are still so vivid in my mind that I can clearly recollect even my very first day at the Vidyalaya. To a small boy barely ten years old who got admitted into class VI (English Medium), Advaitananda Bhavan became his second home which was later on followed by other hostels like Saradananda Bhavan, Turiananda Bhavan, Shivananda Bhavan and finally Premananda Bhavan.
Today when I look back to think about my days at our beloved Mission, what comes to my mind at the very first instance is the wonderful environment we enjoyed in our early life where an all-round development of both the mind and the body could take place in such a harmonious manner. I am quite certain that thousands of ex-students like me would agree with me on this point. It is true that like some others I too at times had something or the other to complain against. At times it was against the quality of food, at some other time it was against something else. But today when I look at the past in a retrospective mood I realise that we were indeed very, very fortunate to have such a huge, beautiful campus to live in, such great monks like Swami Lokeswarananda and others to guide us, such intelligent, brilliant fellow students (including seniors and juniors as well) and even such friendly, ever co-operative non-teaching staff.
What makes Narendrapur an outstanding institution in all respects and by any standard is that all our education and training were always value-based. I have had the opportunity of receiving my higher education at some premier academic institutions like the St. Xavier’s College (Kolkata), Jadavpur University, Indian Institute of Management (Kolkata) and the University of California. Without the slightest hesitation I can say that we learnt our school was something beyond any comparison. It was not only the rock-solid foundation many of us acquired in subjects like English, Mathematics, Physics or say Biology, or the great proficiency some of us showed in sports and games, music, N.C.C. or Quiz, it was those noble man-making, character-building values that we imbibed at such an early phase of our life, which have made us what we are today. Although the influence of our parents were always on us, there is absolutely no doubt about the fact that our sense of fellowship, discipline, respect to elders and love for humanity were all shaped at our Vidyalaya. Besides, it also taught us to be courageous, determined and self-respecting exactly the same way as Swami Vivekananda wanted it to be when he uttered those great words "Be bold, be strong and take the whole responsibility on your own shoulders. Know that you are the creator of your own destiny and therefore, make your own future."
At Narendrapur Ramakrishna Mission we also learnt to be independent and self-reliant and the spirit of righteous thinking got absorbed in our minds during our school days. Our sense of logical reasoning, coupled with an impartial, unbiased bent of mind was certainly developed at our Vidyalaya. Like the words of our great poet Rabindranath Tagore "Where the mind is without fear and the head high ……..where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habits ……..", we have learnt to be bold and upright and to follow the dictates of our moral conscience only. I feel most of our ex-students will agree that some very positive characteristic traits were ingrained in our tender minds at our beloved Mission itself, which have helped to make us quite different from the vast multitude in our way of thinking.
As an ex-student, I earnestly appeal to all who have had the opportunity to study at this great institution to uphold the true spirit of rationality and righteousness. In these difficult times, let us give generously and unsparingly of ourselves and our talents to the nation whenever the occasion so demands. Let our mentor's passionate commitment to social causes and their invincible intellectual honesty be our guiding force. Everywhere we see today the all-pervading reign of rampant corruption, nepotism, religious fanaticism and a complete disregard for all ethical values. In fact this intellectual bankruptcy has permeated so deeply into the very foundation of our society that it leaves us wondering about the destiny of our future generations. So Brothers, let us do the needful on our own part to stem the rot that has already set in, so as to revive the glorious days of this great nation. Let us at least try to bring in some change in this shamefully supine and servile Indian scene today.
Nothing can be a
greater tribute to our beloved Alma Mater than our sincere efforts to live up to
the noble values she has always stood for.
Sujit Ray passed H. S. Examination in 1972. At present, Management
Consultant, President : Management and System Research, Kolkata, Panel Member
: The World Bank, Adviser : Parliamentary Sub-Committee on Marine Products,
Govt. of India.
[ From : Shraddha-Souvenir of Re-union 2006 ]
Narendrapur : My School
Pradeep Sanyal (HS-1974)
[ Joined State Bank
of India as Probationary Officer in May 1980.
Currently Assistant General Manager of SBI SEEPZ &
Off-Shore Branch, Mumbai. Pradip was a ranker in the school. ]
My father, a forest officer in Bihar, on a transferable job, went from Ranchi, Ghatshila, Deoghar, Purnea, Bettiah to Hazaribagh in quick succession in 1950s and 1960s. Most of our childhood spent in the salubrious green forests of beautiful Bihar. But change of places meant change of schools, medium of instruction, and also classes, both up and down. Once after passing Class IV, I had to get admitted to Class II as I could not manage English at St Xaviers, Hazaribagh. I used to hide in one corner of the large playground to avoid any 'Father' who might ask something in English !
Soon my father decided to send me to a hostel. I thought it will be Netarhat School, but first he took me on a round to Jhumri Tilaiya Sainik School and I felt terrified within, that I will have to go there. But, it was close to Hazaribagh. Something happened after that and it was decided that I will go to Narendrapur, where my uncle had studied as the first batch student of Class VI-XI from 1961 to 1967 and my maternal Grandfather stayed close-by, at Lahiri Bari, Kalitala, Rajpur. In December 1967, I appeared for the Admission Test, when I went to Junior Section for a stroll with my uncle, an ex-student. A few days after the exam, Sasanka Maharaj told my uncle that I have been selected for admission. Unlike the Sainik School at Jhumri Tilaiya, I liked very much the open, vast and clean surroundings of Narendrapur and wanted to get admitted. My first joy was that, at once, I will have hundreds of friends for 24 hours and I will not have to search for friends to play football and cricket, which was always so difficult at home with only my two younger brothers, Prabeer and Sudeep around to play with me. It was always so difficult to get adequate number of good friends in small towns and forests. Prabeer and Sudeep also got admitted to the Narendrapur School in subsequent years.
I still have faint remembrance of my first moments of arrival as a new Class VI boarder at Advaitananda Bhavan on 10th January 1968. I came in Rickshaw from Kalitala in the evening with my maternal Grandparents but soon my local guardians were gone and I was by myself. That was a strange unknown moment. Soon I saw a crowd of students around the Bhavan entrance. Someone was showing magic to the newly arrived boarders. There was lot of clapping and laughter. It was Santoshda (Mukherjee) trying to keep the little fragile hearts busy till the famous hostel bells started ringing for tiffin, for prayers, and for everything and for all the days to come, while we were at Narendrapur. I remember someone came to ask my name in those first moments. I said Pradeep, what is your name? Ranabir, he said, but call me Ranabirda, I am in Class VII. I am your Senior. He was much shorter and of smaller frame but I heard authority in his voice. The baptism in hostel life had begun.
At home it was very common for us to sleep off at 8 pm when asked to study and parents would struggle to wake us up and bring all of us, brothers, to dining table at 9 pm to eat. Same thing happened in hostel. One night in the first week, I slept off and did not hear the dining bell. But no one came to wake me up for dinner. I missed dinner, kept quiet, but never missed a dinner again.
Someone said there are ghosts in Junior Section and that it was earlier a graveyard. At night we were required to cross the entire open ground floor verandah, from Room 1.5 at Advaitananda Bhavan to reach the bathroom. I said, it is better not to get up at night at all. Some days I had to get up and I used to wake up my room-mates Punyabratada [Dr Punyabrata Dobey-PG Hospital] or Lido Lorren, to accompany me across the open verandah. The ghosts could be there any day ! Why take a chance ?
In Room 3.10 of Advaitananda Bhavan, in 1968, stayed Frank Holt, a British gentleman, who used to teach us English in the day and wash clothes most of the time in the residual period ! He used to eat fish with both his hands. He often asked us how we manage so many small kantas (fishbones) with just one hand or by mere tongue only. His handwriting was horrible and he said in their country they don't write, they only type! How true ! Just look at most of our children today.
In June-July 1969 there was Rather mela and Rath-jatra football tournament, among all sections (A to E) of Class VI and VII i.e., ten teams. Section A and B were English medium and Section C to E were Bengali medium classes. Our Class, VII B, won the cup, jointly perhaps ! When the best player cup was given to me by Sukumar Samajpati, dozens of hostel-mates hoisted me on their shoulders from the ground to the Advaitananda Bhavan. The cup I won, fell somewhere and got dented in the boisterous celebrations and joy with my friends and it is still a sweet memory. Any match between English medium versus Bengali medium students (Advaitananda versus Abhedananda and Niranjanananda Bhavan) used to be very passionate affair and victories both-ways used to be very big events. I wish I could get back those moments again ! All moments in life, good and bad, are like rainbows, they come only to go away. Why can't we get it back sometimes, for some time ?
I remember Governor Dharmavira came in January 1968 to inaugurate our Auditorium, the pride of Narendrapur. Lots of food was prepared for the Governor in the Garden, near Guest House of the Ashrama since morning, but Governor Dharmavira took only one samosa. I thought within myself, why so much for one man when he wants so little? It would be lovely to have all these food in our hostel ! Hostel life is great fun and good learning, except for the boring food. But it is often the best under the circumstances. I remember our entire boarding fees was only Rs 90 per month in 1968 and good students got Rs 12 scholarship. Hostel food tastes the same day after day, year after year. One simply has to learn to enjoy it. One could not start eating till the last person in the dining hall has been served and the 'Mantras’ chanted. One could not run away before the 'Jais’ either. If one was late for food, often an instant punishment was the norm. Two of the most profound lessons from Narendrapur were, punctuality and cleanliness. This is true of Ramakrishna Mission, everywhere, all the time.
Baro Maharaj, Swami Lokeswarananda stayed close-by the Junior Section. He had a favourite Alsatian dog, named ‘Saphire’. One always heard so many fascinating things about him. For example, his speed reading, his personality, his love, his lectures has stayed with me, like with many friends who had the opportunity to be near him from very young days. In those days, keeping Julfi, wearing bell-bottoms, were the fashion. Once Baro Maharaj said, "if you want to stand out, first, do something outstanding, then do the fashion." We always went to all major functions at Auditorium in School dress only. Baro Maharaj once said, "Sometimes come in colourful clothes." Baro Maharaj used to say, "I want to have all my 100% students in First division, than one student to come first in merit and also have even one in the second division." He was entire Narendrapur and entire Narendrapur was in him. He lives in each of us, whoever is from Narendrapur, forever.
It is not possible to mention everyone, but they all come crowding in my mind now, as I try to remember all my teacher dadas. Harida was Headmaster at Junior Section and also the Warden of Advaitananda Bhavan during our time. I needed three days leave, immediately after admission, in January end in 1968, to go back to Hazaribagh to collect my Class V First Prize at St Xaviers there, but Harida would not say yes. I sat down on the road outside his office crying for quite sometime, till he finally agreed to let me go. The teachers were all great friendly souls who made us forget our homes. There were so many of them, ever helpful, ever affectionate.
There was great "competition" between Pradeep Dutta(da) and Raja(da) in 1968 and 1969 as Sportsmen. There were two fan-groups, one of Duttada and one for Rajada. That used to make the annual Sports event electrifying. Joydeb Burman and Bibek Debroy [Great economist now ] were other students, who had fan following. They took away all academic and other prizes. So did Alapan Banerjee [IAS] in later years. Rajagopal Chatterjee and Sumit Mitra did the school proud by being First in merit in West Bengal in H.S 1975 and 1976 respectively. Rajagopal's handwriting was always better than print. Shyamalda (Swami Jitatmananda), our loved and revered Headmaster and mentor, would take me, Rajagopal and Sumit together for a chat or walk, once in a while, in the morning or evening. Once he called us for dinner with him and made us read loudly the first few lines several times, from a volume of Swamiji. “One of the greatest lessons in my life is to pay as much attention to the means as to the ends." I asked him once why these compulsory reading in school assembly ? He said "School's job is like that of a Radio Station ... keep transmission on., who knows what will strike whom and when ! And a strike could change a life !"
One of our revered teachers Saradadadu once came at 10 pm at night from his residence outside, in the rains with his umbrella, to Yogananda Bhavan only to correct a preci’s he gave us to write earlier, as we had the exam next day ! Where can we get these totally dedicated teachers ? We were really very very fortunate to have many teachers like him. We gave very little in return.
We had great Ashrama teams both in Football and in Cricket. Football matches with outsiders, with Saratda in Goal, Debuda as Back, Duttada and Rajada (and later Maity and others) as Forwards, are still fresh in our memory for the then thrill and joy. Ashokda, our Bengali teacher in Class VI and VII, was the Captain and opening batsman. Arunda was the opening bowler with Narayanda to follow. Often we won, and next day’s Bengali class was only on how we won the match ! The imaginary story of John Pic, the bowling wizard, as told by Ashokda in classes, has been difficult to forget till now, although we have forgotten many of the lessons.
One memory is most profound in my mind ie. visit to Mount Abu National Integration Camp in May-June 1971 from the School. As Jibanda (Mukherjee) could not escort the five member students team from school at the last moment, Parbatida (Charan Chakraborty) took us along. He had apparently limited experience of traveling long distances and that too with five young students. Baro Maharaj himself came to the Howrah Station to see us off, the School team to Mt Abu.
We missed up the connecting train at Delhi, took a wrong train and were thrown out at Jaipur, all six of us with all our luggage ! Somehow, we reached Mt Abu in time and joined teams from Punjab, Rajasthan and Pondichery. We put up a good show at the Camp on behalf of our School and West Bengal. But the return journey was more adventurous ! We got no return reservation. Due to sudden rains, lots of train were cancelled in previous days, hence there was a lot of rush. I was the only student of Class IX while all others were from Class X. The seniors, Satyanathan Nair, Ajay Nandi, Samaresh Chaudhury, put me in the train through the window at Abu Road Station more than once and the passengers inside kept on putting me out through the window.