Thursday, 3 April 2008


Actor Aamir Khan has announced that he will take part in the Olympic torch relay in India "with a prayer" in his heart for the people of Tibet, turning down calls for a boycott. That is his decision. See his website.
I do empathise with the Tibetans, but what caught my attention was the Olympic torch, and what happened in my school half a century ago.

The State Games in Pondicherry were to be held, and our school, St. Joseph de Cluny High School, Pondicherry, had been asked to organise an appropriate event to launch the games, along the lines of the Olympic Games.

Our Headmistress, Rev. Mother Peter Claver was a most resourceful person, and arranged it efficiently to take place at the Aayi Mandapam (see picture) set in the lovely green Government Park. Despite the very Thamizh name, the monument looks rather like a Greek edifice. She selected students to play a high priestess and satellite priestesses, all dressed in white robes. The high priestess had to light the lamp and hand it over to one of the athletes, after singing a song which went,
“O Lord Zeus, O Lord Zeus,
Give us the spark of fire
With which to light
The athletic flame”.
To this day I am not sure if it is a song translated from Greek, or one that she wrote herself.

Recently my brother Bala sent me this picture from the Chicago Sun Times dated March 25. 
It shows Greek actress Maria Nafpiotou, portraying a high priestess lighting the Olympic flame in Ancient Olympia.
Bala asked “Where is Raji?”

Obviously his thoughts had also gone back half a century. I was amazed at how closelyMother Peter had followed the finer details from costumes to the sequence of the ceremony, in a day long before television and internet. See for yourself.

P. S. That is me handing the torch over to the athlete.


Sarumann said...

Hey!!! What a cute photo! I love it!!

Gowri Mohanakrishnan said...

That made for lovely reading! Simply written - and so clear, so evocative. The new picture looks so much like the old -- was it really 50 years ago? Trust Bala to ask that cute question.
M.Peter must have been a remarkabole lady. I always wished I'd seen her. The book she gifted Bala when he left Pondicherry, The Age of Fable, opened up the wonderful world of Greek Mythology to me...and now it is with Parvati!

Viji said...

With all the talk of the Olympic Games and Torch , Raji ,this photograph was foremost in my mind -thanks for the lovely piece

Indrani said...

Amazing similarities between the two pictures and nice memories to accompany them.

Kat said...

I like people who take such efforts for excellence. Rev Mother has really impressed me. Thanks for the nice write-up.

I knew.. I knew.. even before reading the post script that it's you.

That athelete must've won the all-round championship subsequently :-)))

Anonymous said...


Karthik Narayan said...

that's raji donning the greece- paint lol. very cute pic and well written.

Alaphia Zoyab said...

How lovely! I love the way both you and Maiji have preserved so many memories. This digital age makes it harder to do that somehow.

kallu said...

Raji, you must post a pic of you from your hey days. You must have been something for Mother to select you.

But those nuns really organised things well didn't they? And you were privileged to be part of such a school.

Great pics and pithy post.


Thanks, everyone, for the nice comments.

Kat and Kallu, yes the nuns were wonderful, especially Mother Peter - I shall devote one whole blog to her. Nothing less will do. We were really fortunate to have come under her aegis.