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   Yesterday, after 50 years... (November 9, 1996)

Yesterday, after 50 years, more, I visited St. Xavier's College. I was called to judge an anti-spitting poster competition, one of some half-dozen judges. The posters are all right, good in parts, one of them compares the city's red spit spattered walls to the United Colours Of Benetton. Benetton could use the idea, it has used more horrendous ones than this.

But to return to the college, I found that some things had changed since I was there as a student. The college was filled with girls, there were no boys, at least, I did not see any. I wonder if they have made it into a branch of Sophia, an all-girl college.

And the students looked like they were school students, not college students. I mean, compared to my days, when the students were large hulking men like Pallonji Umrigar and Mehelasha (Mehli) Irani, already playing for the combined universities against the West Indies. I was also introduced to a few professors, or I realised they were professors because the students called sirs. They looked like college students.

The usual Xavier's priests were there, the Jesuits. But they were all local, from Manglore and Banglore, no Spaniards, Italians, Belgians, as in my days. Another thing, none of them seemed to be wearing cassocks, they were in bush-shirts and trousers and scandals.

However, whatever they wear, it is easy to spot a priest. They are all jolly fellows, one with the students, joking and smiling and planning to go on picnics, and they all plant gentle fatherly kisses on their girl students.

There were other changes, the canteen had moved from under the chapel to I do not know where. Instead of the Xavier's Institute of Wireless and Telegraphy, there was the Xavier's Institute of Journalism. I regret to say that for all the reputation of its parent college, this institure of journalism has not produced many useful journalists. The most useful come form Sophia, next K.C.

The woman's common room had shifted from the ground floor to an upper floor, and the Father Heras Museum had come there. The courtyard was as it always was, though, I believe, instead of tennis, they play basketball on it. And the main entrance was kept partly closed, probably to keep undesirables out.

But these are cosmetic changes. What is important is the change in the attitude of the students. Though I should not judge after one brief visit, there seemed to be a new spirit of independence among the students. They dressed as they liked, they talked freely, they sat on steps, they looked a great deal more evolved than we had ever been.

On the whole, St. Xavier's seems to have improved in 50 years. Or, at least, it has maintained its standards, when its biggest rival, Elphinistone, has gone down. Three cheers for Xavier's. And if there are any more competitions to be judged, I am available.

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