Me & MEA – a flashback

அகர முதல எழூத்தெல்லாம்
ஆதி பகவன் முதற்றே உலகு

More than half a century ago, this very day, on 16th of July 1956, I had the honor of joining the MEA faculty at Lodhi Estate under the leadership of Principal, Shri K. Suryanarayanan. We both shared something in common – our love for teaching mathematics. Hailing from a remote village near Madurai, I had embarked on my ambition of serving our community with dedication and joy, working with the brightest minds coming from South Indian families in the capital, New Delhi. Having wanted to become a lecturer in a reputed college, this was a dream come true to be teaching senior classes X and XI in an English-medium higher secondary school run by a management comprising of top-ranking bureaucrats of the Government of India. It did not take me long to realize what a premier institution I had come to associate with. I selflessly served the MEA and DTEA my entire professional life for 36 years, very proud of all my students and the heights they have reached over the years. I look back today with a joy-filled heart for a life lived with purpose and pleasure.

My father retired in June 1956 and was counting on me to be the next breadwinner for a family of 12 members. Fresh from college, I was teaching in a Tamil-medium high school earning Rs. 89 a month when I ran into an advertisement in the Hindu newspaper for a teaching position in MEA School in the capital of India. I applied for the job without telling my father who I thought would be heart-broken to let me go. But when I got the interview letter, it could not be kept a secret anymore as the interview was in Madras and I had no money for the ticket. My father remained cold and said nothing. Borrowing money from a friend, I made it to Madras and realized I was interviewing with Shri. R. Venkataraman, M.P (who later became the President of India) at his Royapettah residence. The interview lasted 15-20 minutes after which he offered me the position on the spot. I was very excited. However, that excitement was not to last long! Shri. Venkataraman told me I’d be getting a salary lower than what had been advertised quoting some technical difficulty. I was disappointed and rejected the offer right there calling it unfair to have got me from 500 kms away. Obviously he had no idea of my hardship at home and what it had taken me to get to Madras. He noted his assessment of me as “A Bright Hand – may not take the offer” and concluded the meeting, while back home my father hoped I wouldn’t get the offer.

Subsequently the offer letter did come from Delhi with the lower quoted salary only. I was in a fix but then decided to take the opportunity. Amidst a tearful farewell and promising my father to support the family nevertheless, I boarded the train and left for Delhi once and for all. It was God’s will and I was on a sacred mission. On joining the institution, I got so involved, giving everything I had of myself, and it was only a matter of time when the Management revised my salary retrospectively! Since then there was nothing but mutual admiration and I continued to serve the children and the community.

As I began learning about the genesis of the MEA, it was only becoming more and more convincing of the solid grounds on which the school was established and the philosophy that guided it. The MEA Primary school was started in 1923, on Vijayadashmi day, in a small room in Shimla, by a visionary Shri. P. H. Sundaresa Iyer (known as PHS) with one student and one teacher. The country was under British rule and PHS fitted well into the times with his immaculate Western clothes and pure English accent. He was known for being punctual and sophisticated, with a charismatic personality, and who exhibited utmost dedication to the profession. All this helped him command respect from the elite South Indian community who were all serving the British, and PHS was held in high esteem by the enlightened community even though he himself was only a Matriculate (class X).

PHS then started a branch school at Reading Road (now called Mandir Marg) in New Delhi and he shuttled between Delhi & Shimla maintaining both the schools for nearly two decades. The South Indian officers working in the Central Government in the capital looked up to him for all the educational needs of their children. PHS came to be reckoned as a formidable force who was adored for his sense of devotion and leadership. I have to mention an important event where Mrs. Indira Gandhi was in our Lodi Estate School to inaugurate the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of the MEA. In the course of her address, she narrated how she too revered PHS as her teacher. It seems PHS was visiting Teen Murti House (Pandit Nehru’s official residence) to teach Tamil to Mrs. Gandhi. She was reminded of it on seeing PHS in the front row and she requested him to come on the stage and felicitated him profusely as a mark of respect to a great teacher!

As per the MEA constitution, no Tamil-speaking family would be denied admission for their children at any part of the year. Because Govt. officers were being transferred to Delhi any time during a year, this provision was indeed a great boon to every Tamilian family, a unique feature that no educational institution in the country has ever had, even today. English was the medium of instruction, but learning of Tamil was compulsory. Hindi was taught as a second language from class 2. There was a separate section for the Telugu-speaking children as a sizeable number of such children were also on rolls. Ours was the only South Indian school in the capital till the mid fifties. Added to that, our schools were coeducational and provided quality education almost free of cost. Besides, our culture, our language, discipline, and character were all preserved and nurtured by the MEA all through. Today it has grown into a mighty banyan tree with 7 senior secondary schools, 10,000 students on rolls and more than 500 staff members.

More on the MEA / DTEA story to follow…

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23 Responses to “Me & MEA – a flashback”


  1. 1 gkamesh July 16, 2008 at 5:06 am

    Dear Natarajan Sir

    Thanks for sharing the story of MEA (DTEA) School. This is a great post. Look forward to more.

  2. 2 K.S.Ramachandran July 16, 2008 at 6:35 am

    Natarajan Sir,

    I passed out of MEA in 1972 from Lodhi Road school. It is really nice to know about you and your contribution to our school. After 36 years, when we think of our school,class mates and loving and caring teachers, I really become emotional.

    I still remember Suryanarayanan Sir and Ganju Sir as our principals of LR school.

    Incidentally, my late grand father Shri.K.S.Rama Iyer (M.A.L.T.)was also a Maths teacher and Head Master at SRM High School, Nattarasankottai.

    May God bless you with good health, happiness and long life !!

    K.S.Ramachandran

  3. 3 Srinivasa July 16, 2008 at 11:54 am

    Dear Natarajan Sir,

    It was really nice to know about you and your contribution to the school. I still remember Suryanarayanan Sir and many teachers as the very epitome of what a teacher should be.

    I am looking forward to hearing more from you,

    Wishing you good health,

    L N Srinivasakrishnan
    DTEA LR 1973.

  4. 4 Padmini Jayakumar July 16, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Dear Sir,

    It is lovely to read about you and your association with MEA/DTEA. Sir my brother (K Jayaraman passed out in 1969) who is now a practicing doctor in Delhi and myself( passed out in 1975) started school at R K Puram which was under your Headmastership. I still remember those days my parents talking about you with great reverance. My mother too worked as a substitute maths teacher in
    R K Puram. We all remember you and respect you still.

    God bless you. I look forward to the continuation of your story.

    Thank you for sharing with us your experiences.

    Padmini

  5. 5 V.Thirumalai July 16, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    Dear Natrajan Sir,

    I am at a loss of words whether to admire the Language or the content. The Language reminded me of my late Father who as a typical south indian brahmin of the 1940s/50s had similar command. The contents were extremely absorbing since I am from the 1975 batch of Lodhi Estate and was fortunate to be associated with the great institution for the entire 11 years of my schooling. Whatever we are today and whatever little we claim to have achieved in our life would not have been possible but for the solid foundation the school laid for us. To that we definitely owe it all to the Great Teachers such as you. I eagerly look forward to the next posting sir.

    With profound respects

    Thirumalai

  6. 6 k v gopalakrishnan July 18, 2008 at 4:45 am

    Dear Principal Sir,
    I had the oppurtunity of studying in Pusa Road from 1st to 4th sd, at R.K.Puram from 5th 8th std and finally passed out of Lodhi estate in the year 1977.
    It is extremely touching to read so much nice things about our schools and it has been proved beyond doubt that DTEA’s guys have carved a niche for themselves across the globe and my batch is one which fortunately have been in touch will almost all the class mates irrespective of the position or stature one might have attained in thier personal and professional lives. This grows to prove the great value systems that was inculcated in us during our early days in school.

    Incidentaly my uncle was also a math teacher in mandir marg(K.G.Sivaraman) and his wife used to teach at the Pusa Road branch(Mrs.Gomathi Sivaraman).

    Sir, please continue your writings since it really takes us back to the Golden days of DTEA..

    warm regds
    k v gopalakrishnan
    batch-1976
    currently settled in Bangalore.

  7. 7 Suresh Subramanian July 20, 2008 at 7:24 am

    Natarajan Sir
    my respects.

    Your piece is wonderful. You have woven the story of your own personal journey inside that of the birth and growth of DTEA and the unique world of “south indian bureaucrats in Delhi”. Delicious!

    Sir, given the pace of your narrative, I hope this is going to be a long-running “thodar kathai”. We are all ready to travel with you on this one.

    Respectfully,

    Suresh

  8. 8 Natarajan Balachander July 22, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    Dear natarajan Sir,

    Wonderful to read your initial write-up on your blog. Thanks to tour DTEA-lodhi estate 75 group ( of which I am an alumnus and so is your daughter Meena)I was able to find our about this blog. I did my early schooling in RK Puram from the first day of the new school and was in the first Ist standard when all the classes were in tents and studied there till 8th standard when I moved over to Lodhi Estate. I had the privilege of receiving the first prize for coming in first in the first ever annual function which was a collection of books signed by you (your signature coincidentally was almost identical to that of my father (late S. natarajan). I have very fond memories of RKPuram school as it grew from a few tents to the metal shacks finally to the bulidings (which was after I left the school). I still vividly remember you from my early years at school and the role you and the school played in shaping my career. Thanks to the wonders of the internet it has been possible to rekindle old associations. I hope to read more about the growth of the DTEA school system during its hey days in the 60’s and the 70’s from your view point.

    Bala

  9. 9 S Natarajan August 8, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Reply to comments on my first post: By S Natarajan

    “A Teacher Touches Lives Forever” is adequately established in going through the feedback. Yes, I am moved by all the responses and the interest this write-up has generated, especially knowing that not everyone has actually passed through my hands while in school. I can feel the comments are sincerely meant coming straight from your heart. The love and respect you have even today (after more than 30 years) towards the institution and the teachers who have guided you through, speak volumes of the values instilled at home and the nurturing the school has provided during your formative years. Just as you are proud of the school, we too, the teachers, are more proud of you and your families for the great institution we have together built.

    By visiting me personally to make this request for a DTEA write-up, Kamesh has rekindled my writing after many years. Without a second thought, I felt like honoring his request for I was struck by his good heart and the genuineness of the cause he stood for. When I sent him the article, his immediate comment, “This is as perfect as a neat theorem. LHS is equal to RHS and so QED.” brought me a loud hearty laugh. How nicely he has put it!

    No doubt, it was a pleasure serving the MEA/DTEA community, but the joy of looking back is even more! While my writing may be enlightening to you all, it is definitely enriching to me to spend my time ruminating about the past, thinking of the wonderful people I have come to know, and all the little things that have made a difference. I am reliving every moment of it and am amazed at how vivid everything seems even today. Padmini and Bala shared their experiences from R. K. Puram school and the details they remember is very touching. I still cherish that special bond with my students and their parents alike. Thirumalai’s devotion to his alma mater is truly reflected in his comments and I will do my best to make this a worthwhile series, as also requested by Gopalakrishnan, Srinivasakrishnan and Ramachandran. And Suresh has said it all in one word – “delicious”! All of this is very heartening. It has been a nice medley of sentiments from different batches – a true Thanksgiving.

    My best wishes & blessings are in full measure to all of you. I am confident you would carry forward this tradition of preserving our value system to your children and grand children in the years to come.

  10. 10 k s viswanathan August 9, 2008 at 8:33 am

    Dear Natarajan Sir,

    I am moved and touched with your posting. I had the pleasure of studying in MEA as well as DTEA at Lodi Estate. I had joined MEA, Lodhi road in class 1 and completed my class X1 with Geography as section in 1974. I guess in our times, it was a fun going to school , enjoy the morning prayers and participate in the Exercise regularly conducted and led by the Principal. Sports day used to be another attraction with Lakshmanan Sir wearing his cooling glass and a whistle on his lips. In my primary school days, we used to come to know about the start of the Board Exams when we used to get shifted to the Temprory Tent classes .Another unique thing, i remember among the DTEA students was “Passing of Books to the next set of persons amongst your friends”. I remember passing my Geography books to K V Goplakrishnan( who has replied to this post).The list gies on….

    I fondly recall all my engagement in the school. Although it is 34 years since i finished my schooling, all these posts and comments makes it appear as if I had completed my schooling just the other day. I had recently visited DTEA lodhi estate in 2007( first time after i collected my mark sheet for higher education in 1974) and had the opportunity to meet the current Principal and was completely touched by the humane values still inculcated in the school.

    On a separate note, after a long 27 years of association with the IT world and at Wipro, I have moved to take an assignment with Azim Premji Foundation- a NGO set up by Azim Premji to bring about systemic changes in the Indian Elementary school Education System. The primary objective being improving the quality of education with focus on Teachers and the Physical infrastructure in the school. Whatever you have mentioned in your post are connecting to what i am observing in the qulaity of education in the Elementary schools in the country. Wen i look back, it appears a miracle that despite all the hardship, DTEA school has been able to inculcate a good citizenship to all of us. I consider myself fortunate to have studied at DTEA under the able guidance of Teachers like Krishnambal,Rajalakshmi,Hari Om, Awathi,Pattammal,etc etc.

    Like others, I also look forward to your next post.

    Viswanathan

  11. 11 Anu Krishnan August 12, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    It was indeed a pleasure to read the post from Natarajan Sir. Indeed the sense we all got was the committment and true enjoyment in being a teacher. I think the best teachers and DTEA had many of them is the sense you get that they are answering to a higher calling.

    Many of us have gone on to have extremely successful careers and many rewards in our professional lives and even today most would thank the solid foundation laid by the teachers at DTEA.

    Coming from a large DTEA families spanning 2 generations of students, the oldest recently completed 65 and the youngest has starting university this year,we can very sincerely relate to the sentiments expressed!

    Both my husband and I were very lucky to have some of the wonderful teachers mentioned here, though regrettably neither have had the good fortune to have Natarajan sir as Guru.

    Looking forward to future posts/thoughts

    Anu
    Lodhi Rd 88
    Krishnan
    RK Puram 81

  12. 12 Ramaa Kishore September 11, 2008 at 5:44 am

    Dear Sir,

    Thank you so much for enlightening us on the truly amazing and grand heritage we carry on our shoulders as DTEAites.

    The note about not denying admission to children of Tamilian families on transfer has personal significance as I joined(and rejoined after a short break!)only under this rule. What a blessing!

    I did entire schooling and passed out of Pusa Road in 1990. My most vivid memories are of the commitment of our teachers and the discipline and reverence placed on academics.

    We have moved on in personal and professional fronts, but as they say, ‘one may move out of DTEA but you cannot take DTEA out of one’.

    I eagerly look forward to reading this magnum opus about our beloved alma mater.

  13. 13 S.K.Manu Chopra September 16, 2008 at 8:20 am

    Respected Natrajan Sir,

    You may not remember me by name but let me revive your memories. My father was teaching with you since your Reading Road days. I was the first non Tamilian to have studied in MEA/DTEA school.I passed out in 1977 batch after studying for 11 years in school from L.B.Nagar Branch. I am son of ARYA Sir, the Hindi Teacher who was with you in Lodhi Estate also.My basic Tamil education started with Chitti Teacher from class 1 and am very proud to be a DTEA alumnus.With the blessings of all the teachers Now I am settled with father at SOLAN in Himachal Pradesh.
    By God’s grace Father is absolutely fine and still remembers his long association with the school.

  14. 14 K GANESH September 16, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    Respected Natarajan Sir,

    I passed out in 1977 from Lakshmibai Nagar school. It was wonderful to read your piece on this site – it brought back the great memories of your English class. I firmly believe that our school and teachers like you laid a great foundation in life for so many of us. I still remember when you would insist on conversing only in English – after all you were our English teacher teaching us in a senior class ! That added so much confidence at a young age for the students of families of our background. I remember the wonderful English grammer book co-authored by you. It was for us, our own Wren & Martin ! The solid foundation in language and the confidence that it brought along are priceless.

    I am so happy to have been re-connected to you through this site and look forward to your future posts.

  15. 15 lalitha sharma September 19, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    dear mr.natarajan,
    it is very touching journey you have taken us through,with modern era, we are very quick to criticise and not appriciate but your article has acutually made me think the hardship,passion and selfless devotion you and other teachers have endeveoured on us.whole heartedly i would like to say THANK YOU .wish you good health.

  16. 16 C. P. Ramani September 23, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    Dear Natarajan Sir: Thank you so much for capturing the wonderful evolution of this great institution. Yes, I remeber with fondness the outstanding teachers from my days at the Reading Road (mandir Marg) and Lodhi Estate Schools. I belonged to the 1962 batch when Shri Suryanarayanan was the principal there with TR the vice principal. Revered teachers like Ganju, Rajaraman, Physics Pacha, Rambhaj, Jayalakshmi et al laid the foundation for my early education. Last week, in Minneapolis, Minnesota at the annual meeting of the International Code Council, I received the honor of being named the recepient of the 2008 William Tangye Award for 35 years of unparalled service to building safety in North America. As I walked down the aisle in front of over 1500 members, I paid silent tribute to the MEA faculty that prepared me for the role I now play as president of an international scientific body. Not a weekend goes by without recollection of my friends and teachers from the bygone era. It is so good to hear that Arya sir is doing well. I saw Physics pacha sir during my recent visit to Chennai. He too had fond recollection of his many years at MEA Lodhi Estate.
    Thanks again for a great experience.
    With much love and namaskarams

    C.P. Ramani

  17. 17 N P Eshwar October 3, 2008 at 5:25 am

    Hello Natarajan Sir,

    Teachers are lighthouses. They show light to people sailing in the ship of education, guiding them through the rough seas of ignorance to reach the shores of enlightenment.

    You’ve been one such beacon for me personally. I’ve been inspired by your wisdom, equanimity, amiability and of course erudition.

    I passed out in 1974 under your able tutelage. I’m working in a French company, having mastered French in much the same manner, if albeit a little less, as English.

    Your article has opened the floodgates of past memories. Hoping to be in touch with you, Sir. All the best for your work in the Foundation. As usual, you would do great.

    With pranams

    Eshwar

  18. 18 K.R.Arun Kumar December 30, 2008 at 10:32 am

    Dear Sir,

    It was really very moving goingbthrough your memories which you have penned down. I was a student of MEA/DTEA-R.K.Puram from 1969 to 1977. I am sure you will remember me, i who acted as the Great Mahatma Gandhi in one of the tableau that was presented to Mrs. Indira Gandhi during the Golden Jublee celeberations at DTEA LOdhi Estate.

    I do remember you and still have great regards for you. I will always pray for your good health to the Almighty.

    with lots of warm regards ,

    K.R.Arun Kumar
    09981991434

  19. 19 Seetha Venkataraman July 12, 2009 at 8:59 am

    Respected Shri Natarajan
    I am Seetha Venkataraman (nee R.Seethalaksmi of the arts batch 1960 .The website has truly brought many of us who were scattered all over the globe to find our roots and locate friends with whom we had lost contact for mnay decades .The history and growth of the school and the dedication of the teachers is something many of us cherish from the bottom of our hearts . The pictures bring back flashback of our days in school. Some of us have met in connection with the golden jubilee celebrations and photographs have been circulated of the gettogether organized in the various metros .

    Thank you for refreshing our memries to the sacrifices many of you had done for bringing this school to what is was .

    We offer our very sincere prayers and good wishes

    Seetha Venkataraman

  20. 20 K.K.Rajaram September 30, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Hi…Natarajan Sir…!!! I am Rajaram who passed out in 1975 from R.K.Puram School. I remember you in impeccable Black suit and tie in Winter months and you were a Handsome man albeit small pox marks on the face… I joined in 1967 at RKP from Laxmibai Nagar and we had such great Teachers as Mrs. Savitri, Mr Ramachandra Sir ( whom we regrettably yet funnily called as “Kudumi Sir”– we were punished for running at any place other than the Grounds and asked to o “Thoppu Karanams…such aHeathy way of punishing…!!!), Mrs Meena Teacher, Mr Dhamija etc… I did not have the good fortune of being taught by you but your account should inspire many people to put social responsibility before personal career as it has done to me… Sir..I am now in Mumbai

  21. 21 TS Shankar October 3, 2010 at 11:30 am

    Dear Natarajan Sir and everybody else who has posted,

    It is so very nice to read and be remembered of our school days. I studied the entire 11 years at Lodhi Road School (in fact me & LN Srinivasakrishnan were classmates, same section throughout the 11 years, except for the biology classses – LNS had taken sanskrit, to score high marks and i wanted to become a doctor, ended up becoming an engineer & now a management consultant.

    Honestly, I donot remember you sir – Mr. Natarajan, but i am sure my brother (63 batch passout), sisters (’65 & ’66 batch passout) would surely remember you. They all studied at Lodhi road school.But, i remember clearly Mr. Suryanarayanan Sir, Mr. Ganju. Mr. Hariom, Mr. Awasthi, Ms.Krishnambal, Mrs.Jayalakshmi, who taught us how address problems and be positive always.

    My father (Late T K Subramanian popularly known as TKS, we wre living at Pandara Road) played some active role during the sixties / seventies and was in the management committee at Lodhi road school, along with (late)Mr. L K Murthy – LNS your neighbour at Lodhi road 20 block, father of Laksman, Lakshminarayanan /chotto / lachhi.

    While going through these posts, i am able to re-collect many guys who have posted – eg , Vichhu, Thirumalai, and obviously LNS. I would like to re-connect with one & all. After all we have these fond memories to share & cherish. Like Vichhu wrote about Laksmanan sir wearing his dark glasses – hey he used to wear even during regular days in the afternoon’s after 11 am till about leaving for home in his cycle. I remember my primary school teachers like Kamakshi, Lalitha, Bhuvana (our classmate arvindan’s mother) who used to come to our house in Pandara Road during the dussera celebrations for Vethalapaku, during Deepawali for preparing sweets, celebrate etc.

    Regards,
    Shankar

  22. 22 Dr V Madhavan August 31, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    i am Dr v madhavan studied in dtea pusa road in the year 1966 to 1971 till my 5th class before my father got transferred to baroda my cousins ravi banu ramesh studied in lodi road schol during the same period i am now settled in Erode practising ophthalmology am very nostalgic about my formative years in meahs school

  23. 23 THYAGARAJU KOPPAKA May 28, 2017 at 10:43 am

    Respected Sir,
    I am very fortunate to be a student of this prestigious school during the academic period 1966 to 1970 under the able guidance of Principle Shaali and some of the teachers were Miss.Geetha, Mr. Dhamija, P.T. sir Mr. Gupta and some more lovely teachers whom I unfortunately do not remember. Whenever I am alone and lost I go down memory lane and remember those golden days where discipline and good teaching was the main goal in this reputed school. I wish I would get in touch with somebody of that period one day and recollect those happy days with them.


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