A Happy Band - The Journey So Far
Commemorating Sixty Years
Apostolic Carmel High School, Bandra
The School Anthem
- Music Notation by Ms. Celeste Cordo
Table Of Contents
1953 - 1963: A steadfast foundation is set
1963 - 1973: Music, theatre, f ine arts - The gifts shine through 1973 - 1983: Trailblazers on the playing field
1983 - 1993: Reaching out in love and service
1993 - 2003: A milestone achieved - Celebrating Gold
2003 - 2013: A renewed commitment to God and humanity
8 14 18 54 84 104 122 140
One needs to turn back the clock for a fascinating peek into the School’s history as it unfolded in the suburb of Bandra way back then......
Bandra, in the 1940s
A charming, sylvan suburb of the great city of Bombay, bound by the sea to the west and the south and the Bombay, Baroda and Central India (B.B. & C.I.) Railway line to the east. It enclosed centuries-old East Indian villages and Portuguese- built churches, sea-facing mansions dating from the heyday of the British Raj and the cosy cottages of newer migrants just discovering the joys of living in this friendly, laidback community. And of course, the fishing boats, coconut plantations and paddy fields that had been the subsistence of the earliest inhabitants of Bandra remained to sustain it as it came of age as the Queen of the Suburbs.
A set of fields lay between Hill Road and St. Francis Road, orchards of chickoo trees and vegetable plantations, watered by a little well to their south. Early morning, the caretaker with a leather sleeve across his shoulder would fill it with water from the well and make his rounds watering these plantations. There was a little old canal going out from near the well to the fields. Between the old well and Hill Road was a cottage, Anchorage, which housed the Recreation Club of the G.I.P. (Great Indian Peninsula) Railway Institute. Railway employees enjoyed several facilities here, including billiards, table tennis and a library. Whist drives were a regular feature and the club also hosted dances. Christmas and New Year balls marked important events here, with the British patrons in their exquisite finery—gowns and bow-ties, swaying to the lilting music of live bands.
February 1960 - The float for the Silver Jubilee of Bandra’s dedication to Christ the King passes down Hill Road, in front of the present location of the main gate of Apostolic Carmel High School. Valerian Cardinal Gracias is seen venerating the Blessed Sacrament. The float is being manoeuvred by a lorry way ahead (not seen in pic.) while Girl Guides and Boy Scouts cordon off the area. On the left, behind the float can be seen part of the “Sunday Circle” signboard. This access road for the erstwhile Sunday Circle is now the main driveway leading up to the basket-ball court and high school building.
The peace of Bandra, like that of most places under British rule, was disturbed when World War II broke out in 1939. Army garrisons were stationed at Land’s End in special barracks, where the Taj Land’s End Hotel stands today. An empty piece of land with a cottage adjacent, sometimes used as a tennis court (somewhere between the nearby Ferns Mansion and the Railway Recreation Club), was taken over as a storage space for army materials. It was made a protected area with restricted entry. After the war ended in 1945, this plot used for storage was cleared and the building adjacent to it was turned into another recreation club - Sunday Circle, by its Parsi owners. It had a dancing school that was run by one Mr. Dan Judah – a top dance teacher of Bombay in those days – where dance classes were held on Sunday mornings. The club was mostly frequented by Parsis who would spend their Sundays sitting out in the garden or on the verandah with their families.
Today, only some of the old trees dating from that time still stand in mute testimony to all that happened in the vicinity. The venerable Convent and Provincialate of the Apostolic Carmel now stand on the spot where the Railway Recreation Club dances and billiard games were held. The Sunday Circle’s gramophone records have given way to the baby chuckles and lisping of adorable little girls at the Apostolic Carmel Pre-Primary Section. The land, declared a protected area by the army during World War II, is now a basket-ball court on which girls in grey pinafores, with plaits flying, hone their skills at sport. The fields have given way to high-rise apartments and
to the Apostolic Carmel High School building; only some of them remain an open space as the BMC’s SARRA Park adopted by the St. Andrew Road Residents’ Association, just behind the School. Bandra could never have imagined this transformation that has resulted in one of its finest schools and its newest Junior College exclusively for girls!
It is a story encompassing sixty years and many thousands of people—but the most important moment in the story is undoubtedly the arrival of a band of pioneers by steamer from the Apostolic Carmel, Mangalore, at the Bombay Docks en route to the far-flung suburb of Bandra.
The venerable Convent
and Provincialate of the Apostolic Carmel now stand on the spot where the Railway Recreation Club dances and billiard games were held.
While the area between Hill Road and St. Francis Road has changed almost unrecognizably since the 1950s, some old landmarks remain.
St. Andrew Church as it was until 1966, when the porch was demolished and an extension to the church built. Seen to the right is the building (presently known as the Bosco Hall) that first housed the co-ed St. Andrew’s High School. While the boys' school became a separate section and moved to its present campus in 1927, the girls continued studying here till 1944.
St. Andrew Church
A 1935 advertisement for the King George Restaurant and Stores and the Excelsior Bakery, which present residents of Bandra know better as Cafe Delight and A-1 Bakery.
The nearby Chimbai shing village
Fishing nets in Chimbai
Holy Family Hospital
SR. M. CELINE A.C.
1953 – 1954 (Deceased)
SR. MARIA ROSA A.C.
1968 – 1977
(Retired. Residing at Carmel Convent, New Delhi)
SR. M. AIMEE A.C.
1954 – 1968 (Deceased)
SR. M.ASTRID A.C.
1977 – 1982 (Deceased)
SR. M. CLARIBELLE A.C.
1982 – 1993
(Retired. Residing at Rosa Mystica Convent, Aldona, Goa)
SR. MuRIEL RITA A.C.
1995 – 2006 (Retired. Residing at Mount Carmel Convent, Dhantoli, Nagpur)
SR. M. THEODOMIRA A.C.
1993 – 1995 (Currently Manager, Apostolic Carmel High School and Junior College, Bandra)
SR. M. PEARL-ANNE A.C.
2006 to date
A steadfast foundation is set
separates from St. Andrew's High School
Valerian Cardinal Gracias invites the Apostolic Carmel
Sisters to Bandra
fun times -
fetes, fairs and concerts
June 10, 1953:
a new era
in girls' education
10 years of growth & service
and a chapel were added
PEARL THE FISHER MAIDEN A Successful Fundraiser
The Advent of the Apostolic Carmel Pioneers
The genesis of the Apostolic Carmel High School is an interesting and inspiring story indeed. It is one long enduring and endearing story.
Long before the dark brown serge habits of the Apostolic Carmel nuns swished down Hill Road, there was already a girls’ school within St. Andrew Parish. This was the girls’ section of St. Andrew’s High School—run by the same administration but entirely separate from the boys’ section.
St. Andrew’s High School in the 1930s. Construction of its iconic stone building on St. Dominic Road was completed in 1927 under the direction of the then Vicar, Monsignor Dominic de Sa and architect, Mr. Sally Athogias.
Over the decades, as both sections grew in numbers, finding enough space for all the students became more and more pressing. In the years before the coming of the Apostolic Carmel, the girls’ section used several different premises, including the present Bosco Hall next to St. Andrew Church and parts of the imposing grey stone building of St. Andrew’s High School on St. Dominic Road. By 1944, schoolgirl laughter and chatter had found yet another home, at the erstwhile Railway Club, at Anchorage, on Hill Road.
Mother M. Celine A.C. (born Marcelline Braganza) was the very rst Superior of Carmel Convent, Bandra and Principal of Apostolic Carmel High School, Bandra until her transfer in 1954
Though the issue of space had been dealt with for the moment, running a school out of several different premises was neither a permanent nor a sustainable solution. Besides, as the suburb of Bandra grew, there was an increasing demand for institutions dedicated to the education of girls and women. Clearly, the girls’ section needed to be nurtured and given its own space to grow and flower.
Thus it was that Valerian Cardinal Gracias, as Head of the Archdiocese of Bombay, wrote to the Mother General of the Apostolic Carmel, inviting the Sisters to come to Bandra and take charge of the girls’ section of
St. Andrew’s High School. The Apostolic Carmel was well-known as a congregation focused on education, especially in and around Mangalore, but it was looking to spread its wings and fly farther. Bombay would be a new challenge; Mother Sylvia – Mother General of the Congregation – took it up joyfully.
Valerian Cardinal Gracias, the first Indian Cardinal, served as Archbishop of Bombay from 1950 until his death on September 11, 1978.
The first challenge was to make the necessary alterations and additions so that the School could function effectively on the site of the former Railway Club. For this purpose, the Superior of the Poona Apostolic Carmel Convent, Mother Thecla, came to Bombay where she supervised and directed the building of a new block with six classrooms – ground plus two floors with a terrace. This block, completed in 1953 is still in use, currently serving as the
Primary Section of the School.
On May 20, 1953, the four pioneers left St. Ann’s College, Mangalore by steamer for Bombay, to take up, with gusto, the challenge and responsibility of establishing the girls’ school. They were: Mother Celine (Superior and Principal), Sr. Aimee (Head Teacher), Sr. Aloysie and Sr. Mafalda. A week later they were in Bandra. They were soon joined by Srs. Maria, Marita and Hildegarde, forming a Community of seven
The School itself officially opened on June 10, 1953 with six hundred and twenty-five students. For the girls of the erstwhile St. Andrew’s High School, the coming of the Sisters brought changes they could not have anticipated. The cause of girls’ education was suddenly elevated and poised to go beyond the expected. Yes, a new era had just been heralded!
The Sisters were horrified at the colloquial terms used randomly by the students and often had to reprimand them in order to shape them into fine young ladies. Noeline Farias DaCosta’s home was within the precincts of the School; she nostalgically remembers actually growing up in the shadow of the School. She was so accustomed to jumping over the wall and into school; Sr. Aimee promptly changed her route and made her walk in through the Hill Road entrance!
The Community with some more Sisters in brown serge (woollen attire) Seated (L-R): unknown, Sr. Aimee, Mother Mary, Sr. Maria, Sr. Bonoza. Standing (L-R) Sr. Hildegarde, Sr. Marita, Sr. Olga, Sr. Columbelle, unknown, Sr. Gratian, Sr. Clement Mary
L-R: Sr. Aimee,
Seated: Mother Mary
Sr. Hildegarde (left) with Sr. Aimee
Some teachers from the St. Andrew’s High School were transferred to the new school.... Miss Lilla D’Souza, Miss Agnes Britto, Mrs. Eidel Rebello, Miss Cynthia D’Souza, Mrs. Margaret Nazareth, Miss Anna Drego, Miss Vicky Dias and a few others.
Miss Lilla D'Souza
Mrs. Eidel Rebello
Miss Anna Drego
Miss Vicky Dias
Mrs. Margaret Nazareth
Miss Cynthia D’Souza
Growing Pains and Helping Hands
For the A.C. nuns, the throes of building up a school and settling down in a close-knit community proved to be a daunting uphill task indeed. Being new to Bombay's city culture, they found themselves saddled with multiple tasks in running the new institution. It was a difficult transition period for the Sisters. At the very outset, it was imperative to have the unstinted support of not only the students, parents and teachers but the community at large, in order to foster the right environment for the new school. However, the students and their families wholeheartedly rallied around pledging their assistance.
Leela Kirparam Kainth lived across the wall just behind the School in Meher Villa (now a highrise apartment housing the popular Mocha Mojo restaurant and Natural Ice-cream parlour). Leela often visited the Convent especially on holidays to help Sr. Aimee with her work; arranging books, carrying them across to the School Office etc. She vividly reminisces: “Sr. Aimee would tuck in her apron and polish the oors. Her hands were very worn. Beneath the woollen (serge) habit she wore a blue and white checked under-skirt. There was no help whatsoever - the Sisters started from scratch. Much later a young lad, Dayaram, was employed as a peon.”
Miss Lilla D’Souza, a young, energetic, fresh graduate teacher, spent a lot of time initially with Sr. Aimee figuring out the basic requirements of the School and setting up the makeshift Office. She accompanied Sr. Aimee to purchase all the stationery, black- boards and office material from the wholesale Crawford Market, travelling by taxi and returning with a full load. It was a half-hour run in those days with no traffic snarls!
For the A.C. nuns, the
throes of building up a school and settling down in a close-knit community proved to be a daunting uphill task indeed.
Mr. A. B. Moses
Master Roque Rodrigues
A black Baby Bug (Fiat two-seater) would regularly roll in to deliver text and exercise books to the School. This was the dedicated service of Mr. A.B. Moses who, along with his wife were familiar faces at Sr. Aimee’s office. Today, a sprightly Mr. Moses at ninety years of age, vividly recalls, “We had a very close and comfortable association with Sr. Celine and Sr. Aimee. We had our book shop and music store at Byculla but catered to all the schools in Bombay; much fewer than at present. We kept supplies at our residence ‘Augustine Villa’ right across St. Andrew’s High School. My wife would take care of this as students would pour in for additional books. Business was booming; we had the monopoly; Radiant Readers and other British publications were on the syllabus. It was only after the Government changed the system and brought in local publications – somewhere in the late 60s that we closed down the book shop and
concentrated on the music store which my son now takes care of. My wife has passed on and I, at ninety, keep busy with an international travel business.”
Master Roque Rodrigues, a teacher in the boys’ section
of St. Andrew’s High School, whose three daughters –
Marie, Agnes and Angela were admitted into the new school,
was a great help to Sr. Aimee. He would take the S.S.C. forms
of the School along with those of St. Andrew’s High School to the Department of Education at Poona (now Pune) where it was located at the time. It was indeed a difficult transition period for the Sisters who found procedures quite different in Bombay from what they were accustomed to in Mangalore; but it picked up quickly.
unfortunately, the School soon came up against a giant obstacle in the form of the Education Authority —the Department of Education initially refused to grant the School recognition, because of a proposed government policy to deny recognition to any new English medium schools. The forms for the S.S.C. examination sent to the Education Department in 1954 were returned. This was a tremendous blow to the aspirations of the Apostolic Carmel Sisters, and it was even more vexing because it was not anticipated. They were in a predicament. Parents were distraught. Cardinal Gracias stepped in and used his good offices to assist the School out of this quandary; the first batch went up for the S.S.C. examination under the name of St. Andrew’s High School.
The first batch went up for the S.S.C. examination under the name of St. Andrew’s High School
and ‘St. Andrew’s High School’ stamped on the certi cates.
The School Leaving Certi cates for the Class of 1954 would have been printed before the School hit a stumbling block. As a result, ‘Apostolic Carmel High School’ was struck off
Thankfully, the School found friends in Mr. Joachim Alva and Mrs. Violet Alva, both Members of Parliament, who used their good offices to work for the recognition of the School. It was probably their efforts that bore fruit in the Primary section being officially recognized in February 1954. Then, in June 1954, the government itself changed its policy with regard to recognition of schools with English as the medium of instruction; the High School got the official recognition so essential to its continuing existence and was affiliated to the S.S.C. Board. It was only in 1956 that the first batch of twenty- four students, went up for the S.S.C. Board examination under the name of ‘Apostolic Carmel High School’.
Mr. Joachim Alva and Mrs. Violet Alva, both Members of Parliament, who used their good offices to work for the recognition of the School.
Thus with prayer, perseverance, the support and largesse of their friends, initial problems were overcome. The Sisters’ dedication and efficacy, tenacity and concern for the well-being of others, backed by an unflinching belief in their mission soon became evident to all around. These very virtues stood them in good stead and endeared them to the community around. Struggling to meet their financial commitments did not deter them from granting fee concessions to families with three or more children in the School in an era of large families. This proved to be an incentive and so gradually the number of students grew with majority of them Roman Catholic.
The new school that the four courageous nuns set up from the foundation level, had now firmly embedded its roots in the ground and was ready to soar.
“Mother Celine and Mother Mary (the next Superior) were spiritually empowered. In their presence one felt humbled. They were not overbearing and never lost their temper. They exuded love. Though not directly involved with the functioning of the School, their presence added strength and support”, as Margaret Colaco Saldanha nostalgically recalls.
Sr. Aimee, the School’s second Principal
Born Gwendolen Mary Isaacs (and nicknamed “Birdie”), her life before she joined the Apostolic Carmel was touched briefly but irrevocably by tragedy; her beloved parents and two siblings fell victims to the Spanish ‘flu epidemic of 1918, followed only a week later by the aunt who had taken the surviving Isaacs children into her care. The orphaned children eventually took refuge in a convent in Tellicherry, and Gwendolen entered the Apostolic Carmel order in 1922. Her students at Apostolic Carmel, Bandra, remember the personal attention she paid to them, her talent for the piano and singing (she had done the A.T.C.L. certificate in piano), and her hard work to get the School on its feet during the fourteen years she was Principal at Bandra.
Sr. Aimee, young and dynamic was a pillar of strength and a versatile personality. She worked tirelessly as the Principal, the English teacher for the higher classes, Music teacher - playing the piano as well. Woven into this hectic schedule, was her personal supervision of the construction of the Secondary school building and later the Hall completed in 1963. “Sr. Aimee was always on the move...in fact, she would run – never walk! Her beads announced her arrival; a Rosary tied at the waist with a big wooden Cross dangling on one side. She wore soft crepe shoes.” Laura Gonsalves Rodrigues fondly recalls.
The School’s Early Years...
Like all growing institutions, it became critical to procure funds to finance the renovation of existing buildings, construct new premises and acquire land for the same. The rapidly growing number of students needed to be comfortably accommodated. The first decade after the arrival of the Sisters was one relentless effort at austerity with spending limited to sheer necessities only.
The School’s infrastructure was
essentially basic and expansion
plans need-based. A makeshift
library consisting of a meagre
collection of books from well-
wishers had its beginnings in a
dingy store-room. Writer Enid
Blyton reigned supreme. The
girls could count themselves lucky if they managed to find a Charles Dickens or a William Shakespeare.
the high academic standards upheld but the School worked diligently towards augmenting its resources that would make these hopes a reality.
The Apostolic Carmel Sisters had a great deal of experience organizing fetes, fairs and concerts and their fund-raising events were a huge success, gleefully anticipated by the schoolgirls and the neighbouring community. Those were fun times as these events meant holidays or half-days and generated a lot of camaraderie in the ranks of parents and teachers as they pitched in to help.
The absence of fans in the classrooms; no coolers or lters for drinking water – just a row of taps around which one had to cup one’s hands in order to drink.; the cold dark cavernous approach to the cement toilets on the rear side of the school building which were so scary that it always necessitated having to coax another girl along when one needed to visit the toilet. Nevertheless, whatever its snags and concerns, the School always nurtured hopes of a brilliant future; not only were
Special guests at a fete enjoy high tea. Mr. L.F. Noronha (seated in front on the right) was Chairman of the Fete Committee for the 1957 fete held at the Apostolic Carmel High School grounds; he held a senior position in the Indian offices of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and students recall that he often arranged for the School to borrow prints of films to screen. Behind him is Msgr. Henry Remedios, then Parish Priest of St. Andrew Church. Carmelites clad in skirts and blouses donned aprons to serve as waitresses.
Another snapshot of the fund-raiser
of 1957 to raise funds for the High
School building. In the background
is ‘Gipsy Rendezvous’, the cafeteria.
A familiar occurence around Bandra
was the appearance of a nomadic
tribe called ‘Gipsies’ who would
set up camp with their meagre
belongings on any open space. They
would pitch their tent and light fires
with twigs and stuff to cook their
food. They wore brightly-coloured
long skirts with long-sleeved blouses.
They donned scarves on their head
tightly tied behind their ears to show
their long dangling earrings and
nose rings. Bangles and anklets and beaded or metal belts added to their interesting attire. The women and menfolk smoked beedis and were barefoot. They
were harmless and did not trouble anybody and no one objected to their presence. They were part of that era. Who they were and where they came from... nobody knew!
Visitors and students at one of the fetes, milling around a cafeteria called Green Door
Msgr. Henry Remedios speaking at the Opening Ceremony of a fete; the ribbon to be cut is visible at the front of the stage. Sr. Aimee (Principal) can be seen (hidden behind the Monsignor) seated with other dignitaries. Mother Mary (Superior) is fourth from the right. Mr. L.F. Noronha (next to Sr. Aimee) and his wife Mrs. P. Noronha (seated second from right) are also seen.
Arrangements of flowers handmade from paper, at a fete. These were
typically made by the students for sale. Some are displayed in well-scrubbed discarded tins.
In the 1950s, two big fetes were held at the School, one in November 1955 and another in March 1957. These two fund-raisers provided sizeable finance for the purchase of the neighbouring fields and construction of the Secondary Section of the School and a much-anticipated School Hall both of which stand today.
These memorable fetes were events when mothers were called upon to mobilize their culinary skills and turn out delectable food, community favourites and scrumptious cakes/pastries, all of which generated good money for the cause. The needlework stalls were a ubiquitous feature at the fetes. Much in demand were the knitted baby sets
and hand-embroidered baby dresses with smocking, pin-tucks and lacy frills – all neatly put together by the Sisters, parents and well-wishers of the St. Andrew Parish. These were made out of remnants collected by the school children, neighbours and friends of the School.
Children enjoyed the games of skill – Nine Pins improvised with empty jam tins an all-time favourite, the excitement being the crashing sound of the jam tins! Ringing Games – rings made of cane, the prizes invariably being plastic toys and soaps, with a display of banners like “Ring the Gift and Take the Gift”.
On the first floor of Meher Villa lived a very talented and vibrant gentleman, the late Mr. Carlisle Curry. He was a compere par excellence at several fetes where auctions and raffles were the order of the day. Apart from being Master of Ceremonies, he kept his audience enthralled with mimicry, magic shows and a never-ending stock of jokes.
Another great entertainer was Mr. Edmund ‘Bonzo’ Chinnery who kept the crowds in splits when he compered various contests at the fund-raisers. In fact, Bonzo is still a dear neighbour of the School and faithfully patronises every White Elephant sale held by the Apostolic Carmel Alumni, Bandra.
“Huge boxes held Lucky Dips – one could barely see what was being shed out! The Ruins of China was simply hilarious and brought on roars of laughter as people exited from it. Sr. Aimee was in charge and turned crimson with amusement, because all it had was a room full of broken glass, broken plates and broken bottles – literally the ruins of china!!” remembers Beatrice D’Souza Zuzarte.
The Cafeteria was manned by the High School students in attractive aprons, a crowd-puller as the strong aroma of sannas, sorpotel and duck moile lured patrons. The rides like the giant wheel, merry-go-round, tumbling box etc. all added to the fun and frolic of the fetes.
The construction work done with funds raised through organizing fetes included extending the existing buildings so that new classrooms and a new chapel were added.
The buildings visible are (from left to right) the erstwhile Secondary Section built in 1954 (now the Primary Section), another building of the Secondary section built in 1957 (now the Convent premises), and the old Anchorage house (then used by the Convent which has now been replaced by the Provincial House).
Some Sisters at prayer in the new chapel
Studying and Mischief
There is no doubt that the constraints and challenges faced by the School in its early years were made easier by the dedication and sincerity of the teaching staff. They worked selflessly and with a great sense of dedication to achieve a high academic and disciplinary standard, an effort appreciated enormously by the administration and parents. Students loved them dearly and learned well under them – but also took every opportunity for mischief!
Master Dolphy Pais, the lone male teacher at that time, was the victim of many a practical joke. Leela Kirparam Kainth remembers how, “He used to sit on the teacher’s desk in his dark pants. One of the girls wrote 420, in reverse, on the desk and he got it on his pants. He walked all over the School with it.”
Master Dolphy Pais who taught in 1958-59 as a substitute teacher. He was ready to give up a lucrative job offer from Indian Aluminium as he could not bear to leave Sr. Aimee and his students in the lurch in the middle of the academic year. The Manager, impressed by his loyalty to the School, allowed him to work part-time until the Std. XI girls completed their Board Exam. He went on to retire from the same company.
The Class of 1961 recalls how they once locked Ms. Ezekiel in a classroom where she was busy correcting papers. All hell broke loose but when questioned each and every one of the girls feigned ignorance. Their punishment – stand under the mango tree from where they shamelessly called out to the boys standing outside the Irani restaurant opposite the School. Sr. Aimee had to take them back into class far sooner than she had intended.
Ms. Rachael Ezekiel, the much feared Hindi teacher
Maria Gerson, a student who lived on the premises, ran the canteen and sold toffee and chikki as well as boiled gram kept in huge aluminium containers
On another occasion, this same class spread a whole box of chalk in the corridor and stamped it into a fine powder; the idea being to imitate ‘Holiday on Ice’, an ice rink show where skaters from Russia perhaps, put up a never seen before performance at the Brabourne Stadium. Again, their punishment was to stand under the mango tree till someone from the class owned up. No one did and Sr. Aimee had to call all of them back to class. Such was their unity!
Rhona D’Silva Noronha remembers Sr. Maria, who was nicknamed ‘Kangaroo’ for her way of walking. “She taught us Geography with the most interesting actions and loud expressions. I still remember her explaining something and she ended with ‘and then a BANG took place’. We made her explain it over and over saying we did not understand it... just to enjoy one more laugh.” Anita Fernandes Colaco adds, “Sr. Maria was so dramatic; we learnt so much from her. She would go up on her toes when taking the high notes at Singing Class! Whilst explaining the Pressure Belts at the Geography Class, she would make sounds of the wind howling and simultaneously gesticulate her arms wildly—high drama!”
Other memories of that time are of the simple, small things that made up the life of a schoolgirl – walking to and from school, the canteen, the monsoons. Children played outdoor games like hop-scotch, seven tiles, four squares, kho-kho and indoor games like carrom, cards,
snakes and ladders, ludo. They took great pains to select and correspond (via the Post Office) with pen-friends from abroad whose details were regularly advertised in the newspapers. At times, pen-friends were exchanged or introduced to others thus lengthening the chain of friendship; some even visited each other! Autograph books were considered a very important and healthy part of those growing years where innocent and tender thoughts were expressed alongside a sketch or a drawing and carefully preserved and regarded with the same nostalgia as photo albums.
Msgr. Vivian Dyer speaks at the inauguration of the fund-raiser held in 1957. In the background, to the right, is the canteen.
The canteen was just a makeshift structure with Mangalore tiles, and chickens kept in the rear. Maria Gerson, a student who lived on the premises, ran the canteen and sold toffee and chikki as well as boiled gram kept in a huge aluminium container. The gram was parcelled in newspaper cones. Two annas got one a piece of chikki, coconut sweet or a cone of black gram and 4 annas, a dal wada! Not everyone visited the canteen; as pocket-money was a luxury.
School bags were generally made of old faded school uniforms turned inside out with a little pocket sewn on for the ink bottle. Military bags were used by some privileged students.
Students generally walked to school in large groups without any fear, because each family had many children and the traffic was scarce. Some used the public BEST buses while quite a few rode their ladies’ bicycles to school, parking them on the wooden cycle stands. Very few came by car. Bullock-carts with water containers or blocks of ice covered with sackcloth and sawdust were a regular sight each morning as they delivered ice from the ice factory on Hill Road to the various wayside inns because refrigerators were not yet in!
Mrs. Eidel Rebello was a student of Sr. Aimee in Mangalore. After she discontinued teaching Physiology and Hygiene in Apostolic Carmel High School, Sister requested her to start a school bus service. She willingly obliged and would personally pick up pupils from various points. En route she would spot late-comers and pile them into the bus as standing passengers, to ensure they reached school on time.
The monsoons were always difficult. Duckback raincoats and gumboots were commonly used but with certain road -flooding, it was poor relief. With gumboots full of water girls walked in the centre of the road as there was light traffic, only a few cycles here and there. The sides of the roads had to be avoided due to open manholes. Holding ink bottles with the infamous pink blotting paper around them and bags above the head to keep the books dry, was no mean feat. Sister Hildegarde would keep some uniforms for those who were completely drenched, but most sat with squeezed out uniforms, shivering in class. Pouring out the water from gumboots, sitting barefoot in class with the gumboots turned upside down to drain out the water, was a common sight.
Life Outside the Classroom
School didn’t just mean the classroom for the young Carmelites. Extra-curricular activities always played an important part in school life, with concerts, celebrations of special days, picnics, excursions, inter-school events, Girl Guides and so on. Everything may have happened on a relatively small and simple scale, but the School did its best to give the girls the opportunity to take part in all sorts of activities. Sports were not developed much in that first decade, but drill or P.T. was a major feature and bloomers were a must. The girls, as usual, managed to excel at these activities and also have a lot of fun!
Sports Day was a relatively low-key affair with the two teams namely Blue House and Red House competing - none of the fanfare that is endemic in such events today!
Performances for Prize Distribution Day: Ball Ballet, Ribbon Dance and the Pandu Circus with Nayna Pednekar taking a lead role were very successful. Sr. Maria choreographed several plays which were highly entertaining and served as fund-raisers – The Learned Astrologer, Fr. Campion (on the life of St. Edmund Campion), uncle Jacob’s Statue, Fiery Blaze, Charge of the Light Brigade to name a few. The Grecian Dance directed by the young, petite Drill teacher – Miss Madon was a thumping success as presented in this poem by Margaret Colaco Saldanha.
Eight maidens were chosen for the Grecian dance Not so much for their academic excellence
but because they could prance.
The Drill teacher took pains
for the grace of the dress.
So, on modesty did not lay much stress. Sister Aimee, so disturbed was she that she closed her eyes
to the "Stars" that might be.
Miss Madon’s Ball Ballet was one of the innovative and graceful drills presented. A mixed group of Std. VIII, IX and X performed passing the ball to each other in a rhythmically precise way.
Miss Sooni Madon (known to later generations as Mrs. Sooni Dubash) - the innovative Drill teacher responsible for graceful and beautiful
dances presented at every Concert and Prize Distribution Day
The Ribbon Dance was another Miss Madon innovation. The ribbons were of different colours and each dance was meticulously put together to create breath-taking formations. The girls tripped around on tip-toe to a count of 1-2-3-4; holding the edges of their paper skirts which matched the colour of the ribbons they held. The grand finale was always an intricate formation; indeed a grand treat for one and all.
The social calendar consisted of the School Feast, annual pilgrimage to Our Lady of the Mount, Christmas celebrations, annual picnic, Prize Distribution Day, and from time to time, being part of the cheering brigade when dignitaries visited Bombay.
Rooted in the contemplative spirit of Carmel and nurtured by a special devotion to Our Lady, the annual school pilgrimage to Our Lady of the Mount assumed a deep religious
signi cance. The Catholic girls of the School congregated on the grounds and proceeded in a procession to the Basilica, reciting the Rosary and chanting hymns. Some Sisters along with House leaders escorted the students. The road to the Mount in those days with its lush verdant gardens and stately bungalows was a far cry from the present bustling road. Having assembled in the church, Carmelites participated in a special Mass, listened to the homily and prayed for Our Blessed Mother’s protection.
The school Sodalists in 1960 with a medal of Our Lady pinned on the school tie with a blue satin ribbon. The Sodalists were affiliated to the Sodalities of the parish (Ladies’ Sodality, Girls’ Sodality etc.) and were encouraged in prayer, good work, and to help out at the church, among other things. As students at a Catholic school so closely linked to the St. Andrew Parish, the Catholic girls of the Apostolic Carmel High School were involved in several such religious groups, like the Sodalities and the Crusaders.
Valerian Cardinal Gracias celebrates Mass in the
A.C. Sisters with Msgr. George Fernandes – Vicar of St. Andrew Church with his dog in tow
makeshift Chapel on the occasion of the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on July 16, 1953
Nightingales in white
The opening chorus at a school concert that took place in 1963. All are wearing the white cotton outfit for ‘special’ events. The girls were encouraged in their music and singing by Mrs. Mavis Coelho and Sr. Aimee in particular.
The Inter-School Choral Singing Competition, 1964 held at St. Michael's School, Mahim in their School Hall. The First Prize was won by the Senior Choral Group of Apostolic Carmel High School for singing Linden Lea. The girls wore white with a blue sash across their outfits. Beatrice D’Souza Zuzarte recalls running down the steps in her excitement. She sprained her foot and had to limp home.
The feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel – the School Feast on July 16 – was always celebrated with solemnity and gaiety. Sweets were distributed on the eve. Students usually decorated their classrooms and put up a skit or some form of entertainment. High School Catholic students’ participation at the solemn High Mass on the Feast Day was mandatory. All the students had a white cotton outfit for ‘special’ events – Mass, Choral Competitions, Opening Chorus, etc. comprising a white pleated skirt with a white boat-neck blouse with cap sleeves.
Democracy Day was another event when the teaching staff took off on a day’s picnic and left the running of the School in the hands of the Std. XI students who morphed into the School’s teaching faculty overnight. The students too, rose to the occasion by responding attentively albeit with an undercurrent of wary amusement. It was a learning experience for everyone concerned.
Picnics and excursions to the Vazir Glass Factory, Simplex Woollen Mills, National Park, Aarey Milk Colony and Elephanta Caves were routinely undertaken.
A series of snapshots of girls from the Class of 1960, on various picnics and excursions
Std. VIII girls at a picnic in 1961
Mr. Beresford-Huey whose daughter Louise studied in the School, frequently showed the students movies with his reel projector. Ivanhoe, Ben-Hur and Bridge on the River Kwai were some of the movies the girls watched.
Students looked forward to trips to various leading theatres in Bombay to view blockbuster movies like The Ten Commandments, My Fair Lady, Sound of Music and King of
Kings. In an age devoid of television, these “cinema trips” were very distinctive treats indeed. Mrs. Eidel Rebello, the proprietress of the bus, ensured that it was packed to capacity; sing-song sessions lightened the mood en route to ‘Bombay’!
Miss Lilla D’Souza, in charge of the Girl Guides wore the same attire as the students – navy-blue dress with a scarf
and epaulettes. She trained at the Government-run institute in Khadakvasla. The Khari Kamai week was much enjoyed
Students about to board the bus specially hired for their picnic/ excursion
by the Girl Guides who went from house to house polishing oors, shoes and brassware to earn money for the Association. Miss Lilla also attended the Meets and Parades at Goregaon with the students.
A troop of Girl Guides from the School, in 1960
The Std XI class of 1960 had only one division, comprising just twenty-six students
Bursting at the Seams
Carmelites from that first decade recall that social norms with regard to the education of girls and women were different from what they are today; this resulted in some of the students leaving school before Std. XI which was then the final year.
Most of the girls came from large families with low income and had to start earning as soon as possible to supplement the family income. Mothers were housewives-cum-teachers and tuitions were unheard of! Stenographers/typists were the most sought-after jobs/ professions at that time while the more glamorous joined the airlines as airhostesses. Even those with only an S.S.C. qualification got jobs in banks. Many girls married early and did not need to work outside the home.
“At this time multi-national pharmaceutical companies like Glaxo and Pfizer made their presence felt in Bombay. They recruited packers who were paid a lucrative salary and retired at sixty years with a hefty bank balance. The Secondary School Certificate was not required for these jobs; good English, VII Class Pass and eighteen years of age were somewhat the required qualifications.” as Rhona D’Silva Noronha reminisces.
A selection of class photos, taken in the year 1960, points to how student numbers were much lower in the higher classes than in the lower ones, partly because of students dropping out and partly because enrolment in the lower classes increased.
Std. VII A, in contrast, had forty-four students and was only one of two divisions
Std. IV A, again one of two divisions, had fifty-three students
A student who failed twice had to leave school and could continue in another school; thus many girls were over-age for the class. There were no grace marks; even one mark short of the passing marks attracted a red line. This led to many drop-outs who took up employment and later retired with good financial benefits. Hindi and Marathi were tedious subjects for most of the Catholic students whose parents had studied under British rule without these languages in their syllabus. The subject of Art was encouraged especially for those not academically- inclined. It boosted their morale and instilled self- confidence. French and Persian were optional subjects from Std. VIII onwards with most Catholic students opting for French in lieu of Marathi and others taking up Persian which was also on the syllabus in college. Tuitions were unheard of and the students had to rely entirely on the School’s excellent, dedicated teaching staff...Mrs. Tara Dighe for Marathi and Miss Shahida Dar/Mrs. Ratansey for Persian. Later, when Persian
became obsolete Mrs. Ratansey taught Hindi.
Even so, the school population did grow, in part perhaps because of a lack of clarity on the government’s recognition of the Cambridge certificate, which was then the alternative to the Secondary School Certificate. Apostolic Carmel had concentrated on preparing students for the S.S.C. examination, whilst the nearest larger girls’ school, St. Joseph’s, had both, the S.S.C. and the Cambridge sections. There was a big shift from St. Joseph’s Cambridge Section to Apostolic Carmel High School mainly because the government brought in a rule that the Cambridge certificate would not be recognised unless the student did the S.S.C. examination as well. This meant that students had to appear for the Cambridge examination in December-January and then start studying for the S.S.C. examination held in April or so. This resulted in a wild exodus and the Apostolic Carmel High School was flooded with new admissions. The shift-over continued for a while.
Std I A, also one of two divisions, had fifty
Growth also came about because of the ever-increasing population of Bandra. Eventually, in the year 1961 it became necessary to start construction of a new building to accommodate its growing band of girls. This building currently serves the Secondary School, along with the present Hall. The late Mr. Marshall Farias (a good neighbour and father of Madeline, Noeline and
Premaline all A.C. students) meticulously supervised the construction. He stood with a kerchief on his head, in the hot sun, taking count of the cement bags being unloaded from the truck and made notes in his book. The Sisters respected him and greatly relied on his advice on various matters. He sacrificed much of his time and energy for the School.
The Farias’ home still stands; presently used as a store-room
The newly built High School building and School Hall
One of the good neighbours of Apostolic Carmel High School, Mr. Marshall Farias with his wife Mrs. Mary Farias
Valerian Cardinal Gracias celebrates the Eucharist to bless the new school hall after its completion, in June 1963. The familiar window grills and pillars can be seen.
Sr. Aimee generously and kind-heartedly permitted Christobelle D’Souza Lobo to have her wedding reception on May 6, 1967 in the new Hall; the first and only wedding reception permitted then. As a rule, the Hall was never ever let out for outside functions.
Queen Elizabeth II on her visit to Bombay in 1961
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s visit to the Indian subcontinent in 1961 was an occasion to remember. School children of Bandra were taken to line Ghodbunder Road (now S.V. Road) in readiness to welcome her. They were taught a few relevant facts in the run-up to this event. Students memorized the one pager which detailed that the Queen, the constitutional monarch of sixteen sovereign states lived in Buckingham Palace in
London. Daughter of King George VI, she was crowned Queen of Great Britain and Ireland on June 2, 1953. World Press coverage around that time presented her as a focus of the wider “family of peoples”. Nevertheless, Carmelites were agog with excitement at the unique prospect of seeing the Queen of England even for a eeting moment.
Sr. Aimee delivered her customary “the day-before” spiel. She urged the students to dress neatly and ensure that school uniforms and footwear were spruced up. Fashionable hair styles were strictly taboo. She also exhorted them to behave in a manner be tting Carmelites.
On that day, the Secondary section of the School trouped out in a procession up Hill Road towards Ghodbunder Road junction. The excitement was infectious as the students chatted like magpies and had to be repeatedly shushed by some of the Sisters/teachers who escorted them.
Waiting in the scorching sun for more than an hour along with students from other Bandra schools, waving little paper flags in happy anticipation; the discomfort did not diminish the enthusiasm as the murmur of cheering suddenly and steadily rose to a crescendo – slowly the royal procession came into view. Craning their necks, the crowd spontaneously cheered the British monarch as she swept past majestically in her motorcade followed by her seemingly endless entourage. Everyone was enthralled with their first glimpse of royalty. The Queen’s lovely complexion with the gleaming pearls, turquoise blue ensemble and white gloved hand raised in acknowledgement marked a memorable page in everyone’s calendar of events. Soon after, many students dispatched their entries to the Camlin - sponsored painting contest - a given outline of the Queen had to be coloured.
Mr. Leo Rodrigues, Administrator-General of Bombay was the Chief Guest at the public performance of Pearl the Fisher-Maiden at the St. Andrew’s High School hall
Pearl the Fisher-Maiden – A Fund-raiser for a New Building and Defence Fund
By the time the first decade of the Apostolic Carmel High School in Bandra was drawing to a close, the School had found its feet. One of the best illustrations of this new comfort and confidence can be seen in the staging of the School’s very first operetta in February 1961. Operettas were popular with schools at the time, bringing together large casts, telling stories through a couple of hours of song and dance, and providing a means of raising funds and showcasing the students' talents. However, they demanded huge amounts of time and effort on preparation, even if costs could be kept down, and couldn’t be staged without a suitable venue. The Apostolic Carmel nuns in Mangalore had been staging operettas for years, but it was only now that they brought their production skills to Bandra with Pearl the Fisher-Maiden, under the able direction of Mrs. Mavis Coelho assisted by Mrs. Muriel Roberts. Pearl the Fisher-Maiden was the first operetta the School staged, with a band and musicians from outside. Initially planned as a fund-raiser for the School, it was thrown open to the public at the St. Andrew’s High School hall by popular demand.
Mr. Leo Rodrigues, Administrator-General of Bombay was the Chief Guest at this performance. The cast comprised nearly seventy children – as brigands, fisher-maidens and the Court scene. It entailed meticulous planning and execution and rigorous practices for more than six months after school hours. The lead role of Pearl the fisher-maiden was played by Beatrice D’Souza with Rochelle Thomas as
Lorenzo for the performance in the School. Rehearsals were overseen by Mrs. Roberts and Mrs. Coelho with Sr. Aimee at the piano. Sr. Maria too assisted backstage. For the public performance held at St. Andrew’s High School hall, Zarina Noronha played Lorenzo and an outside pianist was called in, supported by a full-fledged orchestra.
The nuns made all the costumes in school. The costumes were fantastic. As a fisher-maiden, the costume was simple, with just a skirt, an apron, a blouse with puffed sleeves and a shawl. Pearl’s hair was done up in a long plait. All the other fisher-maidens had similar costumes. All were supposed to talk and giggle; some had lines to speak. When the brigands came, all had to be shy and want to run away. The brigands had to wear moustaches and sideburns.
Pearl, Pearl, Pearl of the ocean waves, Fear not, thou canst thy lover save, Keep a brave heart,
Ne’er shall thou part, Sunlight is shining above.
Pearl, Pearl, fair maiden never fear, Thy heart will always stay near, Close to my heart,
We shall not part, Sunlight is shining above.
A scene from Pearl the Fisher-Maiden, showing fisher-maidens on the left of the stage and brigands on the right. Standing: 3rd from left is Beatrice D’Souza (Pearl) and on the extreme right is Zarina Noronha (Lorenzo).
Another scene from Pearl the Fisher-Maiden; the star-crossed couple, Pearl and Lorenzo, can be seen at the centre of the stage, with Pearl kneeling and Lorenzo standing. To the left are brigands standing, while courtiers are seated over the rest of the stage.