By Quaid Najmi
Mumbai, Feb 10 (IANS) Once a recalcitrant young boy, Uddhav Thackeray used to help his classmates copy and cheat during school days at the renowned 80-year old Balmohan Vidyamandir at Dadar.
The candid admission came from none other than Thackeray – now the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, who was accorded a warm and exuberant felicitation function at his alma mater, along with another celebrity, NCP Minister Jaywant Patil, on Monday afternoon.
On his part, Patil confessed to getting “good prasad” (pasting) from a teacher after he and some like-minded boys shifted three benches near a window to peep outside during classes.
However, it left an unexpected gaping new “corridor” in the classroom, shocking other students while the girls giggled, and the errant students, including Patil earned their teacher’s wrath and a sound thrashing, he said.
Both Thackeray (1976 batch) and Patil (1977) respectfully remembered their school founder, the legendary Shivram D. Rege alias Dadasaheb Rege, who moulded their early years with his calm demeanour, strict discipline but a kind heart.
Around 75-80 batchmates of the two leaders, plus school teachers, staff and management, listened with rapt attention, often breaking out in applause, or peals of laughter and enjoyed the felicitation function, hosted by classmate Ajit Bhure, a renowned Marathi film personality.
On one copy-cat incident, Thackeray said that one class boy was so perfect that while copying an essay on ‘My Self’ he even “copied” the name of the other boy, but was caught and subjected to punishment, as the audience, including present Trustee Guruprasad Rege and Principal Bharat More, burst in laughter.
On Dadasaheb Rege, Thackeray said he laid their foundations by making them imbibe a good culture, character, developed their personality, taught them to distinguish between right and wrong, and instilled many other qualities which stood the children good in future.
This prompted Patil to say: “When the question of supporting Uddhav for CM came up, I told my party (NCP), that this man is from Balmohan Vidyamandir, and he can be trusted, he will do no wrongs to sully the name of his alma mater” as the auditorium reverberated with thunderous applause.
Thackeray said his first day at school in school was an all-day long ‘cry-baby’ affair, which moved his parents – the late Balasaheb Thackeray and Meenatai – to “postpone” his schooling by a year, and the thrilled little Uddhav escaped the academic torment for another 12 months.
Unlike Thackeray, who was a habitual late-comer, Patil said he mostly reached 5-10 minutes early to school, but both longed for the last bell to ring and dash home.
Appearing relaxed in familiar childhood surroundings, both the distinguished alumni reminisced of the heavy rain days when Dadasaheb Rege would close the school early to avoid inconveniencing the kids, how they would race out for a quick hot ‘vada-paav’ and a brief game of cricket at the adjoining Shivaji Park – all packed in their 20-minute long-recess.
“Unlike the 5-day test matches, our matches would last a month, daily taking over from the previous day’s play,” chuckled Thackeray, and spoke about other games like dog-and-bone, catching cook, etc that he enjoyed.
Patil said besides cricket, he loved playing ‘langdi’ (akin to hopscotch) and took part in the ‘dahi-handi’ celebrations in school though he never became the ‘Govinda’. He was also a voracious reader and in the arts class, fancied himself to be a great artist, but admitted with a smile – “Now, I know better..!”
The unabashed duo, especially Thackeray, remembered the names of several female classmates, the class toppers and other achievers, even as wife Rashmi Thackeray and son Adity Thackeray were seen smiling in the front row.
“But, though many students like us barely managed to scrape through our grades, we always felt happy for the toppers… Those were the days,” said Thackeray.
After the felicitation, Thackeray and Patil interacted briefly with their former classmates, many of them big names in different fields and others commoners, posed for pictures and generally ‘hung out’ with their ‘chaddi-buddies’.
Deriving its name from Lokmanya Tilak’s first name ‘Bal’ and Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘Mohan(das)’, Marathi-medium Balmohan Vidyamandir School’s distinguished alumni of the include Raj Thackeray, Poonam Mahajan, Hridaynath Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Meena Mangeshkar, top judges like Justice Hemant L. Gokhale, Justice Ranjana Desai, Justice Dilip Bhosale, cricketer Sandeep Patil, chess master Pravin Thipsay, actors Amol Palekar, Priya Bapat, Spruha Joshi, Dushyant Joshi, Atul Parchure, etc.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: [email protected])