I joined St. Joseph’s College, Bangalore, in 1951. In the hostel on Lal Baugh Road we had a cosmopolitan crowd – Coorgis, East Africans, Sri Lankans (Ceylonese those days), Goans, Andhra, Tamil and Kannadiga boys. Very few Mallus.
Since I had played cricket and hockey in Kerala before going to Bangalaore, I was keen on getting into the college teams for both these games. I was warned that the standard of cricket and hockey was much higher in Bangalore compared to Kerala but that didn’t deter me.
Cricket selections came up first. I had performed quite well as a fast bowler in Kerala and wanted to impress the selectors with my pace. It was months since I had touched a cricket ball. Regardless of that, I took my 18 stride run up at full steam and released the ball with all my might. It hit the pitch about three yards in front of me and sped to fine leg. That was the end of my hopes to make the cricket team.
But I was more fortunate in hockey. The previous year’s goalkeeper had completed his studies. I had only one newcomer as competition. He didn’t do too well in the selection trials and I was selected. Good luck followed me throughout my hockey career. The college management and teammates gave me great support. So did Mr. (Leslie?) Wilson, Sports Editor of the Deccan Herald.
Fr. Boniface D’Souza SJ was the Principal those days. He was actually a kind and understanding person but people were scared of him because of his formidable look. The joke used to be that anyone summoned to his room would not come back in one piece.
On the day of Inter College hockey finals I was called to his room. As I waited tensely the principal looked up and said, “Must win today” and dismissed me with a wave of his hand. We did win.
The second year public exam, English Paper II was an sad affair. We were required to do an essay – ‘On missing a train’. The students were shocked on seeing the question paper. A couple of girls started crying silently. The emotional tension was all about Len Dial, a college hero. He was tall, handsome, an all-round sportsman, and heart-throb of girls.
The previous evening Len had gone to the Cantonment Station to see off someone. He went on to the East Station and while trying to get down there from the slow moving train he slipped and fell between the platform and the train. The wheels went over both his legs.
We had gone to the examination hall from Bowring Hospital where Len’s body was.
Len had been a good friend to most of us. May his soul rest in peace.
Also see: Bangalore memories