The Elegant Eleven 72-75

Wow! What wonderful days are the three years experience at our Q.M.C college. As the classes start by 10 am, some of us start feeling hungry. The first tiffin-box to open is Vasumathi’s, soft dosa’s with red-chilly garlic chutney, followed by Meena’s spongy idlies with idly-podi, with Uma’s dashing mouth-watering puli sadam (Tamarind rice) with potato will be over by the time our ma’ams come for the next hour class.

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Standing Row (Left to Right) : Sitharaman Anna, Shubashini, Pushpalatha, Umayal and Saroja.

Sitting Row (Left to right) : Latha V, Vashumathi D, Uma Maheshwari, Meena, Sagunthala, Parveen Sulthana and Chinnama,

Prof.Mrs.Shanthi Ragavan take us a dive from Madras to Stratford by holding the fingers of William Shakespeare. “To Be or Not to Be” made us to stay at the class and when our mam’s are absent for the next class – the wide-spread Bay of Bengal waves just drag us with a lovely breeze and beautiful atmosphere especially, during winter.

We just scrolled along the beach and reach to the University library to collect materials for our project work. Can we ever forget the exciting days at Saffire theater for English movies (non-stop shows) like “If it is Tuesday it must be Belgium” and at Little Anand Theater for Hindi movies, “Geetha aur Seetha”, Yaadhon ki Baaraath and so on.

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Me and Vasumathi walk all the way to Mount Road British Council Library to collect our study material. We also have rosemilk and Bosoto cake for snacks before going there.

In Literature, the characters study made us understand the other side of picture-that is, to study one’s mind at their point of view. This has helped us in all the walks of life to read almost the mind of people, whomever we met.

We are very much privileged and proud to have the Prime-Minister of India Mrs. Indira Gandhi who visited our College for the Celebration of Diamond jubilee on 22.02.1975.

Hey You! QMC. You not only made us to enjoy life but also taught us to tackle difficult situations at various juncture, to achieve our dreams to comes true, which makes us to be grateful and proud of you

Life Story of Ms. R. Lilavati

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As Queen Mary’s College revels in its centennial celebrations, I turn 96. Both QMC and I, R. Lilavati, as its student, have seen eras come and go, times change, and the course of education evolve.

In the summer of May 1935, a timid, introverted and conscientious 16-year old girl applied to the 2-year Intermediate Studies course (English, Tamil, Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry) at QMC. ‘Stone Block’ of the hostel was to be my home for the next two years, surrounded by beautiful trees.

Musical talents of my room-mate – Dwaraka Bai, daughter of the famed freedom-fighter Harisarvottama Rao, and of S.K. Kannammal, made those years memorable. Their veena recitals provided soothing background score during our study-time on the terrace, and made QMC a home-away-from-home.

Miss De La Hey, the founder, was our formidable Principal. Students called her ‘Ma’, evocative of our love for her. Her surprise inspections of our rooms instilled a virtue of orderliness in students, which remains second nature to me even today. Later, Miss C. Myers and Miss T. Lazarus became our revered Principals. Dressed in white cotton sarees, we would merrily and diligently attend classes and lab work.

Friends at QMC contrasted heavily with my inward predilections: they were outspoken and sang in the hallways – which slowly drew me out of my reticent nature. Greatest joys were found in simple, anticipated luxuries: evenings on the QMC verandah, soaking up the sea-breeze and admiring innumerable hues and waves of the Bay of Bengal sea from across the street; and holidays in a much-awaited trip home to Ambur. Sports was an integral part of our hostel life – the girls gathered around for games of tennis and throw-ball every evening, although I showed no sign of promise in either!

In 1937, I resisted family attempts to admit me as a student of Medicine. Determined to be a teacher instead, I enrolled in QMC’s B.A. Science course, living this time in ‘Jaipur Block’. Unexpectedly, I contracted an exceedingly high fever and was nursed in QMC’s Sick Room and in General Hospital, Madras. Principal Miss Lazarus ensured I received intensive treatment and cared for me like a daughter since. Graduation day in 1939 was a grand ceremony in the Senate Hall, with our pictures published in the first Indian-owned Tamil newspaper, Swadesamitran. Ambur reveled with celebration hangover, as I was their first woman graduate!

In 1940, I enrolled for the teacher training course at Lady Willingdon Training College, which took me back to ‘Stone Block’ for a year. Career as a teacher and an agent of social change ensued. Only one regret remained – being unable to experience QMC’s exquisite ‘Pentland Block’. In 1948, a home-sciences training for teachers from Vellore brought me back to QMC – this time to Pentland! A month whizzed by in the company of intellectuals and stunning private sea-side views from my room.

QMC underpinned my life as an educator and social reformer. Evidently, I enrolled my younger sister, Indumathi in QMC’s B.A. History course years later. Fellow students from QMC remained friends and mentors for years. In particular – Miss K. Jagadambal, later became QMC’s Principal. In 1974, she announced in QMC’s Diamond Jubilee Celebrations my appointment as the first Chief Education Officer (Evaluations), Tamil Nadu. I am filled with gratitude for this recognition and fulfillment to have made my alma mater proud. Jagada (as I fondly call her) and I remain wonderful friends to this day.

It is the beginning of a new era for QMC. May this grand institution continue to strive to leave behind a legacy of generations with admirable virtues. Wishing my alma mater the very best,

R. Lilavati (Retired Deputy Director of School Education, Govt. of Tamil Nadu, Student of Queen Mary’s: 1935-1939)