The best years of my school life were spent in Clarence High School, Bangalore. This is a Christian school affiliated to Bethesda (Brethren) Church. Scripture was compulsory as a subject, and many of the scripture passages I know from memory were learnt during my scripture classes there.
The school principal was Mr. A.C.Flack, an Australian. He seemed to know everyone of his students and even where they lived.
One day, I lost my cycle key in school and was trying to find a locksmith, when I very nearly collided into Mr. Flack outside the small gate near the peepul tree.
“What are you doing outside the school?”
“I am looking for the locksmith who sometimes sits here, Sir. I lost my cycle key and never found it, Sir.”
“Did not find it.”
“I lost my cycle key and did not find it, Sir.”
With the help of a friend, I carried my cycle all the way home. In the evening, my mother and I were surprised to see Mr. Flack at our door with the key, which he had found somewhere in the school premises.
Another time, just shortly before I took my board exams, he came home and advised me to get up from my books every hour or so and do a bit of skipping to improve circulation.
I am sure he did not single me out for such kindness. All his students have wonderful stories to relate about this man, and the naughty ones certainly remember the caning sessions as well. Whether it was obvious to others or not, I do not know, but I was keenly aware that although he did not thrust religion down anyone’s throat, but only shared the gospel when it was his turn at morning assembly, he had a heart that was on fire for the Lord. This conviction was once put to the test.
One time, I found myself in the middle of a discussion with my Geography teacher, who was Hindu, about my faith. I said that Jesus claimed to be the only Way to reach heaven, and that there was no other way according to Him. She was incredulous and said that it sounded so narrow minded. Hinduism is accepting of all faiths, holding to the belief that God is one and all religions teach the same basic principles of love and good works and lead people to God. Christianity preached in its pure form must naturally seem very bigoted and wrong, unless God Himself condescended to shed His light. I assured her that this was what the Bible said, and we could accept it or reject it. However, I pointed out, there was so much of evidence that the Bible was the word of God Himself, and so we must give the matter a lot of thought before rejecting it. She was a wonderful person and her horrified reaction was legitimate. She felt that I was mistaken and that Mr. Flack, who was so reasonable, would certainly not agree with me. I said that we could go and ask him.
Soon we were outside Mr. Flack’s office, and he beckoned us in. After I explained the matter to him, he welcomed her to sit down. Finding myself in a room with two faculty members, and being just a student myself, I excused myself and left. I have no doubt that he would have handled the matter ably.
He died a few years later in Australia. The old school hall was brought down. I remember that hall so well, with its dark floor of kadappa stone slabs, wooden benches, simple wooden tiers for the choir, school gong (whose regular use had already been replaced by the siren), and a picture of Shakespeare to whom, apparently, I bore a physical likeness, if my friends are to be believed. At the back of the stage was the bookshelf that was the Sunday school library with its quaint collection of the loveliest old books. Only the Sunday school children would have known of its existence. In place of the old hall, a modern hall, Flack Memorial Auditorium, was built that, with its gallery, had a larger seating capacity. It was the end of an era.
My husband Philip and I were married in Flack Memorial Auditorium in 1986. Another spiritual mentor from those school years, Miss Horton, was an honoured guest at our wedding. More about her next.
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