I wasn’t sketching or painting much in my teenage years when I left my hometown for the first time to attend St. Bede’s College. With stimuli and “hill station” beauty around every bend, I envision the missed creative opportunities. On cool, crisp weekends when classes were not in session, I sat in the sun on the iconic wooden green and brown antique bench adjacent to the statue of the patron saint and took in the grandeur of the main building. Behind the statue, a few feet away from the grotto that housed a figurine of Our Lady, my gaze moved from the rocky, moss-lined hillside with its organic nooks and crannies to the large glass doors of the library entrance on the east and the classrooms on the north. I watched the new lime green ivy leaves creep towards the rays of sunlight on the stolid stony walls. I watched the rays dance between the soaring trees. I marveled at the guileless beauty as the cool breeze carrying the fresh aromas of pine wafted in meditative silence. It was mesmerizing to do nothing, say nothing, albeit savor the ancient charm. An induced contentment in a place of learning worthy of the stateliness attributed to it.
Those impressionable years were not about producing but about becoming. St. Bede’s provided an ethos that pushed young women like me to become self-reliant and resilient. Yes, there was content and curriculum; yes, there was the stamp and seal that each of us desired at commencement, but there was more. There were challenges that made us recognize that potential is not achievement and that talent is not success. Most often it was tireless study as marks received on comprehensive board exams determined individual standings. Friends supported each other as best they could. Alongside the grueling hours of work, we had reading, needlepoint and knitting competitions. I remember midnights of pianos playing willy-nilly in the classrooms, statues moving from their affixed spots, horse buggies rolling through the snow, and the typical boarding school pastime of supernatural story-telling! Rendezvousing at the Gaiety Theatre while feasting on eclairs from Trishool’s bakery was always a treat. Light-hearted fun in tangent with kindness, compassion and an enduring work ethic encompassed the essence of becoming.
I have not been back to St. Bede’s for decades, but learned that the college was commemorated on a postal stamp and accorded a distinguished heritage status by the University Grants Commission of India. Nostalgia. The ink and watercolor sketch of the exclusive 1904 building is my way of acknowledging my memories of college days and my love for art and literature.