It was the first five or six years of the nineteen twenties, say, the period between 1921 and 1926. What is Maharaja’s Junior College today was then the Maharaja Collegiate High School with classes from the fourth form to the University Entrance, after which one stepped into the College classes in the University. The student strength was around 800.
My father, Mr. R. V. Krishnaswamy Iyer was the Headmaster of the Collegiate High School during the period covered in this note. He came here on transfer from Hassan. Mysore was then a little more than a town but had urban problems like housing shortage. And so, our family consisting of our father, mother, three sons and a daughter lived huddled in one room in the Sita Vilas Choultry, with our bag and baggage, for a couple of weeks before moving into a small house in Weaver’s Lines (now Krishnamurthypuram) paying a rent of Rs. 20/- per month which was considered extravagant for a Headmaster. My eldest brother, Pattabhi joined the High School in the sixth form, while I joined the Lower Secondary class in Lakshmipuram Middle School, and my sister joined some class in the Maharani’s High School which provided a bullock-cart transport for its students.
In due course, my elder brother R.K. Narayan who was studying in Madras came over to Mysore and joined the V Form in our High School. After taking his degree in Maharaja’a College he adopted writing as a profession and became a renowned writer of novels and short stories in English. By the time, the three of us passed out of the High School, three younger brothers entered it. Of them, R.K. Laxman, the well-known cartoonist was the youngest. Thus all of us, six brothers are proud to claim alumni status in the Maharaja’s High School. However, the last three brothers came in when Mr. R. Kasturiraj Chetty took over as Headmaster after my father’s retirement.
My father had a formidable combination of personality, voice and temper and was always well dressed in a three piece suit and turban. Students, teachers and clerical and menial staff alike felt intimidated in his presence and always avoided a confrontation with him. With him discipline was everything and he strove to maintain it with what was regarded as undue fervour. But in all fairness to his memory, it must be mentioned that he was never vindictive or unjust. However, in retrospect one may feel that he could have achieved whatever he did achieve, even with a little less severity and seriousness.
The Drill and Drawing masters were fairly free from work in the forenoons. They were therefore drafted by my father to watch out for late comers and to produce them before him for a dressing down.
My father took classes in English and History. But while teaching, he kept an eagle-eyed watch from his eminent seat on the platform for late coming students trying to infiltrate past the vigilant drill and drawing masters. This preoccupation would interrupt his teaching and we were happy as that meant his attention would be diverted away from us at least for some time.
My father was an avid reader. The High School Library and Reading Room were enriched during his time. There was a complaint that he fed the library and reading room and starved sports, and that funds that meant for balls and bats were used to buy books and magazines. It is unlikely that he would have done anything so irregular, as in all financial and administrative matters he was guided by Mr. A.A. Krishnaswamy Iyengar, a senior member of the Mathematics section, and a very wise and experienced aid on whom my relied at all times. In fact Mr. Iyengar’s stock was so high that he was the only member of the staff who could walk into the Head master’s room without permission. Incidentally, it may be mentioned that Mr. Iyengar’s illustrious son Mr. A.K. Ramanujan is presently in the Chicago University, and writes in Kannada, Tamil and English with equal proficiency.
I will not be wholly fair if I do not touch on another side of my father’s personality. He was at his pleasantest during the annual class socials. EH was an entirely different personality when, joking, joining in jokes, talking of arts, music, books and mixing with students and teachers with beguiling charm which, under working conditions, he felt it necessary to hide under a forbidding exterior.
My father played tennis regularly on the school courts or at the Cosmopolitan Club. He cycled to school daily.
He had many friends among senior officers of the day and was staunchly loyal to the Maharaja. He was a member of the Committee that managed the Ursu Boarding School. He played on the Veena with great competence and was host to visiting musicians from the south. If any of them wished to perform in the Palace they had to please his ears first.
On this 150th anniversary of our beloved school, I, as one of its privileged alumni wish it a long and useful career as a centre of education, under the guidance of a succession of able and dedicated principals.