By I. Ramamohan Rao New Delhi [India], Sept. 7 : St. Aloysius College in Mangaluru in coastal Karnataka is in the news for promulgating rules and regulations which restricts interaction between boys and girls in the college premises or in the town, besides restricting girls to leave the campus for afternoon food.
The new rule lays down that during breaks the girls should not visit the boys of other classes, and not apply mehendi except on the palm and not tie their hair in a high bun or low bun in the college premises.
Most of the girls in the area have 'pigtails' which in Kannada is called 'Jaday'. So, there is restriction on their hairstyle too. The rule also says 'no-no' as far interaction between a single girl and a group of boys or a single boy and group of girls.
It amuses me to read about these new restrictions introduced in St. Aloysius College where I had done my intermediate course between 1947 and 1949. I was a little over 14 years old when I joined the college to attend what is now called 'plus two'. Of course, during those days St. Aloysius College did not admit girls. St. Aloysius College is managed by the Mangalore Jesuit Educational Society. The college boasts of admitting students without discriminating against religion, caste, creed or gender.
Located on top of the Light House Hill in Mangalore, the college in the forties used to attract students from the present coastal Karnataka as also present coastal Kerala like Cannanore and Calicut which were, like Mangalore, part of old Madras Presidency.
We used to be fluent in Kannada, Tulu and Konkani. Once we joined the college, we had to learn English as it was the medium of instruction. For intermediate course, we had papers in English, Kannada, Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry. The classes were from ten in the morning till 1 and from 2.30 pm to 5.30 pm. I remember that English was taught by V.N. Cyril and Algebra by Mr. Rasquinah and Geometry by Belle Bhujanga Rao. We also learnt Physics and Chemistry. My classes used to be located on the second floor of the building, open to excellent breeze from the Arabian Sea shore.
The seating used to be in alphabetical order and my seat was towards the end of the class. One day I managed to slip away from the class. In the next class, Mr. Cyril asked me to sit in the front row and on my either side two each of my classmates were accommodated.
He challenged me to try and slip away from my class. That seating arrangement continued for succeeding English classes. There was no getting away from the strict discipline of the college. Mr. Cyril later joined the Indian Postal Service and I used to interact with him when I was the Principal Information Officer and he was located in the Home Ministry.
His son is now in the Doordarshan news. The boys and girls rarely used to mingle those days in colleges or outside classes. Girls used to attend the St. Ann's Convent. The Government College in Mangaluru used to admit girls, but they sat in separate desks on one side of the room.
Even libraries had separate sections. When dramas were staged, the boys used to dress as girls. During my graduation in Government Arts College, where co-education was allowed, the girls had separate desks and did not mix with the boys.
Our Principal, Prof Hashmi, chose me to play the part of Ophelia and Lady Macbeth in Shakespearean dramas.
The only role that my girl college-mates were allowed was to give suggestions on my outfits including the requisite 'stuffing' I needed to give me a curvaceous female body! Things have changed now; college going boys and girls intermingle both in the college and outside.
Today there are many colleges in the district --- each taluka has one or two colleges. Even St. Aloysius College began admitting girls, but there are restrictions which have to be observed on interactions.
The Principal of Aloysius College, Fr Melvin M. Mendonca, has revealed this week that the restrictions against free interaction between girls and boys were announced during orientation programmes though not officially recorded in the college prospectus.
When asked for their reaction, some female students commented that they are okay "with the rules over make up as it does not go well with uniform" but "not allowing us for lunch in the afternoon is unfair.
If boys can, why can't we" questioned a female student. A Jesuit Roman Catholic Institution, St. Aloysius College, I feel will make efforts to continue with the restrictions. The last time I visited the college was about a decade ago, when I attended the annual get together along with another alumni of the institution, Mr.
George Fernandes, who was the Defence Minister of India. Looking back, the society in coastal district of South Kanara was considered cosmopolitan in outlook even in the forties.
Some famous women scholars, social scientists and people who contributed to society from Mangalore include Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, Dr Lalita Shastri and Padmavati Belle.
Mangalore is at once traditional and modern. St. Aloysius College will have to learn to change with the times. [Mr. I. Ramamohan Rao is a former Principal Information Officer of the Government of India. He can be reached at email@example.com].