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Home Articles Nostalgia Our Orphanage Days

Our Orphanage Days

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Fr. Percy never fails to conduct important visitors to the St. John's Museum at the ground floor of the College and he glows with pride as he points out to the row of photos showing our very honourable first few batches of Johnites. I wonder if his pride would retain the same glow if he knew of the very honourable exploits of some of the legendaries staring back at him from those venerable photos.

During those days of yore, the Anatomy Department was on the first floor of the St. Mary's Orphanage in Cooke Town and was ruled by a giant of a man, a legendary who decided that the dissection hall needed a hosing down with water. Problem was that no hoses were available but that did not deter the legendary from substituting the hose with a full length ileum neatly dissected out from his alloted cadaver and securely tying one end of the ileum to the tap he pointed the other end to the dissecting tables occupied by the fairer sex. What gushed out when the tap was opened, is best left to the imagination.

Another legendary outdid this one by dissecting and removing both the testes from the cadaver alloted to the girls while they were away at the prosection featuring the lower abdomen. The response was equally electrifying when the girls returned and one of them let out a yell. "Who the hell stole our balls ?"

Monday morning blues are well known the world over, when one has to return to work after a lazy weekend but imagine compounding it by having the entire college standing in the quadrangle and singing the National anthem before charging off to the dreaded Weekly Monday Tests. While the poor juniors stood in front singing the anthem, those behind would either be reading last minute notes for the Test or engaged in more honourable pursuits such as putting on their trousers hastily! Now don't get ideas! Well, you see the hostel was a row of mud walled and thatched roof affair situated in the same quadrangle and it was easy enough to rush straight from bed to classroom!

We never needed the modern day ROP camp then, since it was always ROP style living in the thatched row of huts labelled, Student Hostel. It never mattered if in the morning a snake chased a rat right between the beds or you swatted away- a toe-nibbling cockroach as you would a mosquito which were in plenty anyway. The Management, even during those days, was slow to act and it was only when all the hostelites marched up to the Dean's (no Principal then!) room in procession with dead snakes caught in the thatched hostel, that an official word of sympathy was pronounced (no action, even then).

No point in getting ideas about the thatched roof hostel being a romantically rustic surrounding for meeting the fairer proportion of our class-mates. The mud walls that separated each 'room' was low enough to provide a panoramic view of the whole scene for anybody who decided to merely stand up! Anyway, the girls were housed in separate homes of (lucky!) well-wishers spread far and wide around the Orphanage. In short, there were no correspondingly thatched hostels for the girls!

The Orphanage was never meant to house a Medical College and so students never ran from class to class at the end of each period. As soon as Physiology Practicals ended, the "Drums" were lifted off the table and stowed away in the lockers below and up would come the titration stands for the ensuing Biochem Practicals! The staff rotated but the students stayed in the same dreary class room. Afterall, rooms were at a premium in the Orphanage building.

The pride of St. John's was a big blue and white COLLEGE BUS! Yes, St. John's once had a college bus! The first AirHorn to be fixed in a vehicle in Bangalore (yes!) was our college bus. Anywhere in Bangalore if you heard the long, earsplitting bleat of the airhorn, you could bet it was our own dear college bus. Moses, the college bus driver (you never dared to call him that!) held our fate in his hands as he was our only hope of reaching our clinical posting at the St. Martha's Hospital (St. John's Hospital was a field of Eucalyptus trees then!). He would indulgently wait for a student to run up to the bus to board it but then would hit the accelerator just as you thought you'd made it to the bus! He would then slow down for you to catch up, only to accelerate again. He loved to see a bunch of ragged students with lab-coats flying, running behind his bus like a bunch of stray dogs chasing a vehicle! It was his favourite game and played daily and if you tried tricks, he was always one up on you. The first and last classes began and ended with the blaring air-horn of the college bus. (Oh! Yes! There were those who bribed Moses to hit the horn button earlier if the last class was particularly boring!)

Everybody knew everybody as the college had not yet grown gigantic enough for one to meet a staff member and exclaim, "Well! Looks like you are new to St. John's. How do you like it?" and then face the ignominy of an icy stare and a hasty retort, "Well, I was thinking of asking you the same question these last five years that I have been around!" Anyway, staff and students always got together a lot more often for a lot more functions and a lot more got gossiped about a lot more happenings than we witness today.

These legendaries of yore had to traverse a year of what was then called the PPC (Pre-Professional) at St. Joseph's College on Residency Road, after getting admission to St. John's. So, when inter-collegiate hockey matches came around, there was a schizophrenic divide in loyalties between St. John's and St. Joseph's for the PPC students. GAS College (Govt. Arts and Science College), Bangalore was the venerable site of many barbaric matches during the intercollegiate hockey matches! There was less use of the hockey stick for hitting the ball than for hitting each other's heads! What set these matches apart from today's tame affairs was that it would take less than a hostile stare to set off the whole audience to invade the grounds and often led by our venerable Professors! Yes! The staff and our girls in full strength were always there at these matches and they were no tame spectators!

The legendaries of St. John's have now become legendaries in their respective fields of medical and surgical specialities and the early days of St. John's are fast becoming dim memories confined to Fr. Percy's Favourite College Museum where more visitors have treaded past the photographs than our own present day staff and students!

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