Mazgaon’s St Mary’s school is celebrating 150 years of service to the city this year, with the upcoming release of a new book – Colours of Immaculate White- on September 8, the birth anniversary of Saint Mary. The school’s 150th year celebrations began in November 2013 and have so far included a sports carnival, a programme for underprivileged children, an alumni dinner, and a play, “Rusty Screws”, starring alumnus Boman Irani.
The soon to be released book, edited by Tony Pereira and designed by Priya Pereira, documents the fascinating history of St Mary’s, originally set up in 1864 as a military orphanage for the Anglo-Indian community.
From its humble beginnings as an orphanage, St Mary’s went on to establish itself as (in the words of alumnus Dom Moraes) an “Eton in India”, benefitting from the services of Jesuits who set sail for the city from Germany and Spain. Boys were trained in the British public school tradition, with activities like boxing, fencing, and horse-riding complementing academics.
Post independence, St Mary’s continued to be a pre-eminent school in South Mumbai, the alma mater of many talented young men who went on to make names for themselves in a wide range of fields. While schools like Cathedral, Campion, and Bombay Scottish tend to rank higher in recent rankings, St Mary’s continues to be a landmark Mumbai institution, whose history is intimately tied up in the history of the city.
In the book Colours of Immaculate White, this history comes alive through priceless artefacts discovered in the archives, such as photographs and route maps of “Bubble”, the first St Mary’s school bus, which was also the first school bus in Mumbai.
Of the 105 “school boys” to pen pieces for the book, many are illustrious names -Azim Premji, Zubin Mehta, Homi Bhabha (Director of the Humanities Centre at Harvard), Dom Moraes, Gerson da Cunha, Goolam Vahanwati (the 13th attorney general of India), and others- but in the pages of the book they become ordinary students once again, nostalgic about the canteen, school grounds, pranks by boarders, and the (now defunct) school band that used to enthral audiences over the All India Radio.
“After our two sons, the book is our third St Mary-ian child”, joke Tony and Priya Pereira, who spent two and a half years researching and sourcing contributions for the exquisitely produced 304 page book, that includes reminiscences of students from as far back as 1868.
“We have organised the year long celebrations to inspire our students to live up to the legacy of the school. Since I approached them in October 2012, Tony and Priya have spent arduous months and put together a first-of-its kind yearbook with professional photography by alumnus Jaideep Oberoi, tailor made printing, and high quality research,” said Father Kenneth Misquitta, principal of the school.
“I think the best thing about St Mary’s is how well it balances academics and sports. I sent my son to the same school because they have kept up the same standards and commitment,” said Prof Devang Khakhar, the Director of IIT-B and a St Mary alumnus.