Thursday, January 01, 1998

Kodai School - The Early Years

I did most of schooling at an international school in Southern India. My father was stationed in Zambia, Africa with the UN and the schools in the remote region that we were staying at were not up to par and since the UN was paying for education, my parents decided, why not send them to the best boarding school in India. This way we could we close to our relatives, my parents could feel safe about us and we'd be getting an excellent education. I joined in 3rd grade when I was 8 years old and stayed through graduation.

Kodaikanal International School, in the hill top station of Kodaikanal is called a Christian multicultural school. Because, it was started by missionaries at the turn of the 20th century and slowly evolved into an international school. When I graduated in 1999, the total student population from kindergarten to 12th grade was around 500, with 300 of us in high school. This enabled us to get to know our classmates very well and even most of the school. There was also a downside to this, as you couldn't really blend away when you needed to, everyone knew what was going on with everyone. The demographics were about 75% Indian (mainly from the north), 15% Korean (from all the Korean companies (Hyundai) setting up shop in nearby Madras), 5% white (mainly the staff kids) and 5% other international.

The education was very well-rounded. There was a good emphasis on academic excellence, social service, physical activities and other extra-curricural activities. By the time I graduated, I had: played in the concert band, played in the jazz band, sang in choir, played my sax monthly in church, produced 2 or 3 class plays, produced a rock concert, incharge of the prom, been the class president a few times and got a hiking award. Not really bragging, but just trying to show the breadth of activities available to us on this desolate hill station.

One of the best things about being in the middle of nowhere is the fun activities that you come up or that are arranged. Every Friday night, we saw one of the latest (by about 4 months) Hollywood movies and then on Saturday, the highlight of the whole week, was Canteen. No, not a cafeteria, but an open dance party. I believe the term came about during the 70's at Kodai, when students used to gather on Saturday nights for snacks in the cafeteria, or canteen. Slowly music was bought to these gatherings and bodies started gyrating and thus was born a holy tradition of Kodai School.

Every Saturday night, from 7 to 10 pm, in our great big assembly hall, one of the student groups (either a dorm or a class) organized the music for the night and the food. Music ranged from pop to hip hop to rock and of course, Bob Marley was a favorite. I remember once we continued singing and dancing to Is This Love even when the power went out briefly. Canteen was a great outlet for stress as you could dance as much as you wanted and no one cared. Food consisted of this Indian snack called a "paratha" - which could resemble a burrito. It was a light flour soft shell wrapped around chicken in this creamy sauce. We still drool over them when I meet up with classmates.

Since we were accredited as an American high school, we had the GPA and semester system, unlike other schools in India and this enabled the transistion to American colleges to be as smooth as possible. About 70% of my class is in my states now with the rest being scattered across the UK, Australia, India and other parts of the world. We took part in the International Baccalaureate system from Geneva, which is similar to Advanced Placement (AP) in the US. This enabled some of us to skip ahead of freshman level courses in college.

Another good thing that carried over from American schools was formals and proms. These were elaborate occasions, where you could ask a girl out to a date, dress up, have a fancy dinner and enjoy a dance after wards. This dance was similar to Canteen, with the exception of a slow song after every three fast songs (school rules, haha). There was an actual rule that couples had to be six inches apart even when slow dancing, but we got one of the the younger exchange teachers from the states as a chaperone, almost anything went on the dance floor. Guys who danced with the hottest girls there were given much respect for their courage and you had to strategize. November Rain from Guns N Roses was considered a slow song (except for the fast part in the end) and being 11 minutes long, you tired to ensure that you had the best girl for that song.

My 5th grade class. The great thing is I'm still in touch with about half of them

6th Grade: Mark, me, Sam and Harjoth

8th Grade Formal - the International Banquet, the guys

My first date with Priya. Dont ask about my smile, I didn't know what I was doing.

8th Grade Graduation. Yes, even my parents thought it was funny to have a commencement ceremony for graduating from Middle School.

The Class of 1999 in 1995, coming out of Middle School into the pits of High School

Thar Camp - camping for those that earned the hiking award

Day hikes through rivers dotted with boulders and thick foliage. That's me on the left

The waterfalls that were hiking around

We were camped right behind the huge rock in the center

My barnabas group with the Perkins. Every week a group of students got together with one of the staff to have a home cooked meal

Having fun in the dining hall: Joy, Masayuki and Rajen

My 10th grade Physics class with Dr. Ben Johnson

10th grade: French field trip to the French colony of Pondicherry, south of Madras

10th grade: Camping out and relaxing on the bench that we made

My roommate and good friend of many years, Harjoth: a sikh with his hair down

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