I am so happy and proud that I was involved in the writing of an informal history of my Alma Mater, The Lawrence School, Lovedale. It was Wing Commander Joseph Thomas, VM, IAF retired, 10 years my senior at School, who first spoke to me about this endeavor. He introduced me to Nitya Cherian Matthai and Thomas George, both then on the School Staff who had access to the rich treasures of the School archives.
Nitya Cherian Matthai ( Class of 1977) flanked by Wg Cdr Joseph Thomas VM IAF (Retd ) Class of 1957) and Prem Rao ( Class of 1967). Picture by Beena Belliappa (Class of 1970).
The project got off the ground in 2014-15, encouraged largely by Beena Belliappa, a senior office bearer of the Old Lawrencians Association. After many ups and downs, typical of any complex project, during Founder’s of 2017, Mrs Rukmini Krishnan, President of the OLA released the book – aptly called, “Glimpses of A Glorious Past.” This web-based book is in three volumes and through their kind generosity resides in the OLA website. They cover the periods from 1858-1908; from 1908- 1958; and from 1959-2009.
I began the book with an introduction in which a new parent , understandably anxious about his son, talks to a member of the Staff about the School and it’s history. To my mind, two men whose lives are closely associated with the School would best fit the part. Denzil Prince and Nitya Matthai.
I chose Denzil Prince, and here let me explain why.
Denzil Arthur Vernon Prince, joined the School as a toddler way back in February 1944, and passed his Senior Cambridge in 1954. He studied at the Military Music Wing of the Army Education Corps Training College at Panchmarhi. Returning to Lovedale in 1958 , he took over as Band Master from his father, Mr Harold Victor Prince. This was an important role in an institution with its many ceremonies and heritage as a military school. The senior Mr Prince was a World War I veteran who walked with a limp. School legend had it that a German bullet caused that war wound.
The School Band 1958 with Mr Prince Senior and Mr Prince Junior as Band Masters.
Denzil was in Lovedale for long years till the 70’s I believe. He then left to do stints in other Schools in Darjeeling, Trivandrum and so on, till “The Prince of Lovedale” ( as he was fondly called by his many fans) returned to School like the proverbial homing pigeon. He continued there till he, so I am told, formally retired in 2018! That’s nearly 75 years after 1944!
His career spanned the pre- and post Independence Days, a rarity in itself, in this day and age. He saw The Lawrence Memorial Royal Military School during the British Raj transform over time to become and grow as The Lawrence School, Lovedale in independent India. As an individual, Denzil was handsome, gregarious and a master musician. Picture below is from Founder’s 2013. He must have been nearly 75 then! Also in the picture is another Lovedale veteran, Mrs M Enos who taught there from 1948 to 1981!!
In my experience, our collaborator in Glimpses, Nitya Cherian Matthai – more commonly known as NCM- is somewhat reticent. It takes time for most people to warm to him, and for him to open up to others. He comes from an extremely distinguished lineage though he will be the last person to talk about this. His grandfather, John Matthai was the Finance Minister in Pandit Nehru’s first cabinet in Independent India. His father, Ravi J. Matthai was the Founding Director of the prestigious Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.
NCM!! With Nitya Cherian Matthai, Bangalore, 2017.
Nitya too has a long association with the School, first as a student from 1970 till he passed out in 1977. He studied in Mumbai, and on completion of his Masters, came to Lovedale in 1983. When Headmaster L A Vyas offered him a teacher’s post little did either of them think he would spend the rest of his working life there. But that’s exactly what Nitya did!
Till his retirement in 2016 after teaching for 33 years, he was a popular figure with the students. Many talk of the positive impact he had on them during the formative years of their lives. He has settled down to a richly deserved peaceful retired life in Coimbatore. This is not too far off from the beautiful Nilgiris where he spent over 40 years of his life!
It has been my privilege to know Denzil and Nitya. People like them have contributed immensely over the decades to make our School one of the finest in the country.