Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everyone! We have a warm little Christmas post for you to add a dash of RV to your holiday celebrations. Ho ho ho!

In the aid of those of us who have forgotten, here’s what happens in RV over Christmas.

  • The 11thies, who are in charge of organising the prime event of Christmas at RV, carolling, start practising a week in advance. (Or rather, they start making plans to do so.  😉 ) One of them is elected (read: forced at gunpoint) to be Santa. The qualification? Be big, hearty and lovable. If the 11thies have engaged a good PR agent, false rumours about Santa’s identity should now be spreading like wildfire. If they haven’t, well,  false rumours about Santa’s identity should still be spreading like wildfire. Note to to-be 11thies: for a successful campaign, you absolutely must try to convince everyone that this year, finally, Rajan is going to be Santa. (It’s extremely helpful if a class has more than one real candidate up for the job. This, unfortunately, doesn’t happen any too often.)
  • Preparations for the other big event of Christmas, the touring of all the decked-up junior hostels (Why no 9th and above? Ask a 9thie: “Dude! We’re in 9th!”) are beginning in earnest. For much of the rest of the school, the real fun lies in watching the bustling juniors. Here’s what’s happening (don’t deny it!) at every boy-girl conversation.

– “So, I’m making you a card for Christmas.”
– “You are?” Makes a brave call on the spot. “Me too!”
– Uh-oh. Someone might have heard. Must. Make. Amends. “Except that it’s actually going to be a ‘Terrible Christmas’ card!” Desperate attempt at sneer.
– Cannot afford to be one-upped like this. “And yours is going to be a… be a… packet of shampoo! For your hair!” Pats self on back. She knows that was a good one.
– Oh dear, I hope I wasn’t too harsh. “I’m going to be visiting your house this Christmas.”
– Oh dear, I hope I wasn’t too harsh. “So am I!”
– But boys will be boys. “And I bet it’ll suck!” Runs off in triumph.

They know their lines well, the cute little buggers.

  • Christmas finally arrives. Final finishing touches (and, in some cases, the entire thing itself) are added to all the attractions. Boys Hostel has proudly crowned its windblown ‘Christmas tree’, the only one in RV that is within reach of human hands, with its glowing star. Miniature models of Christ in the stable adorn the landscape here and there. Streamers are up. Chalk art lands on the floors and walls. Woe betide the teacher of the last class of the day, who finds herself facing open rebellion from the restless students. The bell rings. Wear shoes. Bell rings. Games. Bell rings. Dinner. Gobbled in a flash. Now the real thing begins. Every hostel worth its salt has protested with shrill vehemence the the deadline for being back home after the Christmas touring. The girls generally get the best of it, and Boys Hostel the worst.
  • Everything is bustling now. The 11thies have begun their loud journey with Silver, Golden, Neem, Raavi and Palm. In time they will move on to Red, Green, and the rest of the palette, then to Boys Hostel, then to the senior girls’ hostels and thence to the abodes of the bearded wise, the senior boys’ hostels. The juniors are strutting around, pointedly reminding each other not to peep, and giggling. More than one super-voluble daredevil is chattering away with pride about his heroic adventures and daring escapades: “God knows what would’ve happened if Dhurga akka caught me!” At the conclusion of each carolling session, a winner-takes-all contest ensues as chocolates, dazzling in their wrappers of illegal, shiny plastic, are thrown around with gay abandon, the ultimate opportunity for boys to assert their ‘manliness’. “Aidan got eight eclairs, you know. Eight! I’m going to see if I can give him some Bangalore grub for one…”
  • Carolling is something all RVites will always remember. Everybody is hustled together in the chilly night, shouting hoarsely with but the faintest idea of rhyme and lyrics, the latter glimpsed from a battle-worn sheet of paper, one for each pocket of people. A curious feeling of longing, heartache and misty eyes attends the conclusion of carolling at all the senior hostels, especially for the 12thies and 10thies. Oh, RV. Heaven knows how much we miss it.

We leave you with a jolly video taken by Lindsey Adkisson, who spent a good bit of time at RV as a fellow of the American India Foundation. The sight of all the good old buildings and people and everything, even if you didn’t know the wonderful batch of ISC 2012, really does something to stir up some memories. Oh, and Satya Vaghela’s Santa, if you must know. A Merry, Merry Christmas to one and all! 🙂


A Tribute to Astha

Hues of Asthachal

Photograph by Megha Upadhyaya, ISC 2009

There are a lot of sharp little stones on Astha hill, so you’ve got to remove your sandals strategically as you climb up – because taking them off at the very top, would be disrespectful. Disrespectful to whom though, no one has any idea. One could say that Astha is a kind of wild temple – but again, to what? The wind, the rocks? All that unfocused contemplation we sink into? Or maybe it is the slow, dramatic plunge of the sun, alongside the pale glimmer of a few early stars. Whatever the incentives of getting to Astha may be, one cannot suppress the notion that silence here is somehow more concentrated, more ancient, than anywhere else. It is this inexplicable shelter of quiet, austerity like that of white clothes and still air that makes even the tinkle of a bell seem like a gunshot.

We present a tribute to Asthachal with poems from alumni who’ve felt the magic of the place, the time, that separate world.

Sunset at Asthachal

A drop of gold
in a stormy sea
of grey and purple and blue.

Splashes of blood
on the sacred, overarching sky,
behind the three kondas.

A sudden spin of the sky,
as I witness the earth rotating,
from my still seat on the ground.

What will the painter
paint today?

The infinite sky
her easel, the sun
her paint.

My senses are awakened,
I am a part of all that surrounds me,
We celebrate the beauty,
of the golden ball,

at peace,
and content.

Jyotsna George, ISC 2008



Melodies ooze out of the horizon as that much scarlet and bronze
From the warping sun, rolling over hills,
shooting through clouds
to make latecomers point suddenly upwards, and hurry
To reach this mound of rock
where we watch the red ink spill, erupting almost into sound,
down the valley we almost listen to.

For to listen would be to care, reflect, to keep up the momentum of thought.
The motion of time is where melody is sound, and silver is moonlight;
A moment does not have space for separation, for streams of things:
just the mobius strip of song and colour, neatly knitting the many minutes together.

There is no relevance here
of our time, troubles, or judgment; but only the immensity of the sea
where everything, we feel, dissolves.

Mustafa Khanbhai, ISC 2011


Asthachal at Night

Photograph by Mustafa Khanbhai, ISC 2011


Conversations with Nature

The silent time in the day called Astha (based on the hill called Asthachal where it is held)
A daily twenty minute long conversation with Nature.
Words unspoke but showed by her elements-
On a day when she was in a good mood, she’d shower me with the rains,
On an energetic one, let the wind spoil my hair.
On rare occasions, a forest fire would be allowed by her,
Permitting her destruction to help the needy villager
In promise of a new life bestowed to her name.
The last one she showed was her rawest form,
Earth, with the wet soil, the uncut rocks, and the surrounding hills.

From the diary of Rohini Kejriwal, ISC 2009

Singing Assembly

Some eat their morning bread briskly and make their way to the Senior Audi before time, trickling into comfortable spots on the mat-covered floor. The juniors come in timely fashion, having had a class earlier in the morning. The assembly books on the benches stacked in zig-zag towers gradually disappear into their laps. Hindi or Telugu, they take or trade.

Some teachers take their places on the benches, some come down to sing with the students. The music students claim their prestigious places in the first concentric circle. The hall echoes with many, many “Shh!”s.  Gradual silence. Heads turn at the disturbing latecomers, seniors mostly, hastily taking off their footwear and finding a book to share. Silence.

The Sruthi box is turned on. “Page 48, Sundara Sheetala”. A collective ruffle of pages turning, and sir starts with the first perfect note in the hope that today everybody will sit straight. And sing loudly. Especially the boys. 300-odd baritones take off briefly after him, infusing the air with songs of Kabir and Surdas …

…melody and music have their place, but these are the sounds of community.

Here are a few recorded tracks from the Assembly book for you to bless your mornings with. Don’t forget the minute of silence afterwards!

Download All (rar archive, 67 MB) | Feel free to tell us if you have any trouble downloading the songs.

Alternatively, as before, for those who might find it useful, here’s our public Dropbox folder with the individual songs, instead of one single rar archive: Singing Assembly.

These songs were recorded live at the Rishi Valley morning assemblies and in music classes over the course of the year 2010-2011. We’re grateful to Seshadri Sir (teaching music at RV) and the school office for permission to share the songs here on The RV Storybook.

Learning & Unlearning

Rohini Kejriwal (ISC 2009) is an accomplished journalistblogger, and generally amazing person. This piece is taken with permission from Down The Road, an “exciting and eclectic collection of short stories that brings out all those memories – unforgettable, warm, thrilling, and at times embarrassing – of life in school and college campuses,” edited by Rohini and Ahmed Faiyaz, and published by Grey Oak Publishers. 


“Be quiet or Akka’ll come and catch us,” said Alisha, peeping out of the Box Room door and checking if our Houseparent’s light came on. Her light being on meant that our noise levels had risen beyond the permissible point and that she had been woken up from her beauty sleep and would now come to the source of the noise to scold the ruckus makers. Tonight was not one of those nights when it was only the noise that we could get into trouble for. A Maggi party was in session.

Making Maggi in a boarding school is an illegal but sacred act. You must know exactly what you are doing—who is going to cook it, who is heating the water, who is cleaning after the act of consumption takes place, and who keeps the deodorant at hand, the precautionary measure to get rid of the smell in case the houseparent comes to do her rounds. There are big bowls in which evening snack is given. Someone clears out the contents of one such bowl, washes it, and hands it to the cook. The cook crushes the ‘n’ number of cakes of noodles (‘n’ being a variable for the number of people present), and pours the proportionate amount of hot water which is brought from the solar water tap. The bowl is covered with another plate and left to semi-cook.

After ten minutes or so, the water is drained out, burning the hands of the one draining it, the masala is sprinkled over the prepared noodles, and after the cook mixes it with her hands, everyone digs in! The consumption is almost always done with the hands since spoons have to be flicked from the Dining Hall (DH) otherwise. The person who washes it usually gets to lick the bowl clean of its masala before washing. Quite a treat, I assure you! In the end, the deodorant is sprayed and the fan is left on and everyone returns to their rooms as though they were in no way associated with any illegal incidences that day. Sadly, too many people got caught keeping illegal foods and no one practises such nights anymore.

This Maggi Party was unlike others in the past. It was the last one as school students. A few hours back had been our Farewell Night. The Farewell Night, as always, was during the middle of the Board exams for some and almost towards the end for some of the Science students. It was on a Saturday so that no one was worried about an examination the next day. The girls were in beautiful sarees in varying hues of blues, greens, oranges…The boys were either wearing tucked in shirts or kurtas. In a few days, the 12thies would have to vacate the classroom we had gotten so fond of and head out into different parts of the world, pursuing our different dreams. Some knew which direction they were heading. Others could only hope that they would stumble upon their paths soon.

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