On to DAV school
After clearing the Class VI exams I was taken off the Sarafa School and admitted in the local DAV School. It too was in the midst of a bazaar but it was enclosed from all sides and a massive gate would only allow access to the school. Once the school commenced the gate would be shut and we wouldn’t know what was happening outside in the bazaar. Inside the school the main building was located after a huge open space. There were some class rooms on top of the gate where three classes – class VI, class VII and class VIII used to be held.
None was allowed to go out of the school premises during the recess. Children – we were all children at that age – would play whatever games that could possibly be played in that enclosed space. I do not remember whether we of the senior classes played any games; what I remember is the noise that would be raised by shrieking and screaming children of the lower classes. It was virtually pandemonium. One must give it to the School administration; they never came out to shout at the children for those high decibels that were raised by them. Perhaps, they realized that as the children couldn’t go out they had to have some place to play and use up their energy.
A boys’ school, DAV school was run by Arya Samaj, a Hindu reform movement that promotes values and beliefs of Vedas that they think are infallible. In the school, however, I never came across any event that promoted the Arya Samaj philosophy barring the Hawan that was conducted first thing before the classes every morning. Close to the main building there was a small temple-like structure in which there was a hawan kund, a place for conducting the sacred purifying ritual. It was a square depression on the floor where the fire used to be raised with four people sitting on four sides of the kund pronouncing Sanskrit mantras, offering ghee and other objects like sandalwood, honey etc.
Right in front of the temple-like structure there was a long and narrow paved surface along the main building on which everyone was supposed to sit. Hawans were where everyone was encouraged to pronounce the Sanskrit mantras loudly. I did not know Sanskrit even one bit, hence I used to only listen but I was never hauled up for this failure. Occasionally, I too was picked up for performing the Hawan and would reluctantly comply. What I did not like about the whole process was the smoke that was raised from the kund and would get into the eyes. But I gradually learnt the Gayatri Mantra: “Om bhurbuvah swaha tatsa virturvarenyam bhargo devasya dhee mahi diyo yonah prachodayat swaha“. Having repeated it numerous times during those two years at the DAV school it seems to have sunk deep into my consciousness - so much so that I can repeat it even now after almost seven decades. Some say it was formulated by Sage Vishwamitra and I have heard some saying it was conceived in the Bamiyan Valley of Afghanistan. Whatever might be the truth it is reckoned as the seed mantra from the Rig Veda and Gayatri is the Vedic metre in which it was composed.
DAV was one of the very few private schools in the town of those days. I do not remember any Christian missionary school being there at Gwalior. Miss Hill’s School was not a missionary school. It was opened by an American who later migrated back to her home town and occasionally would send some money. It was a good school and children of middle or upper class families used to study there. The DAV could be called a Hindu missionary school but there was no proselytising although Arya Samaj was free to proselytise to bring non-Hindus to the Hindu fold.
Be that as it may, the DAV had good teaching standards. I still remember the names of a few teachers who made a deep impression on me. They were Really good. There was Vasant Singh who used to teach Geography, Bharat Bhushan Tyagi who used to teach Hindi and was a writer and poet and also bit of a Hindi chauvinist; English used to be taught by the Headmaster Ravindra Singh himself and Arithmetic by Seva Ram Choube, our own private tutor. Seva Ram-ji had to leave when I was in Class VIII as he was selected for appointment in the Government High School which I had to join later at class IX. I still remember how he shed copious tears when we gave him a farewell party in which he was gifted with stainless steel utensils. Stainless steel was uncommon in those days and was unaffordable by middle class families. Seva Ram-ji proved his mettle as he distinguished himself as a teacher and was deputed to the United States by the Government of India in an exchange programme of teachers.
The Class VIII was considered a watershed in the careers of many students as one had to cross the hurdle of the Middle Examination. We in Gwalior had a board examination that was conducted by the Board of Secondary Education of Gwalior State and later by the Madhya Bharat Government after independence. It was a tough examination and many a bright boy faced his moment of truth and for many of lesser means it used to prove the end of their educational career. The board examination was later done away with as two years later one had to appear at the Matriculation Examination which, I presume, is now called Higher Secondary Examination held after Class XI.
In the DAV I picked up some very good friends one of whom remained a friend for long years. Others I somehow lost touch with but one of them I met up with in Washington DC in 1998. He was a senior official in the US Commerce & Diplomatic Service. He made us stay with him and one morning took us out on a trip around Washington, topping it up with a lunch in one of his favourite restaurants in Alexandria, Georgia.
I knew I was not a brilliant boy but I did reasonably well in Middle Examination fetching a II Division. Having done the Middle Board I was now ripe for Matriculation, the exam for which used to be very tough. But for appearing at that I had to move over to the Victoria Collegiate High School on the outskirts of the town and spend another 2 years there.