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From France With Love

Constructed in 1925 for the benefit of the underprivileged, St Teresa’s Convent in Chamarajpet has stood the test of time

Published: 06th January 2015 06:02 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th January 2015 06:02 AM   |  A+A-

FADING-LEGACY

BENGALURU: The Salesian Missionaries of Mary Immaculate is a branch of the society of the Daughters of St Francis De Sales of France. This society’s Bengaluru wing was started in 1914 with the aid of the legendary Fr Briand, and ever since, it has been doing exemplary service for the benefit of the poor and downtrodden members of the society.

Among the many institutes they run in Bengaluru are St Mary’s Convent and St Teresa’s School in Chamarajpet. The first sister to come to the city on July 12, 1914 was Sister Anastasie. She was appalled by the suffering and lack of education among the people. As a result, she decided to settle down here. In order to improve the living conditions of the girls of the locality, St Teresa’s School was started in 1925. Sister Pauline gave me a guided tour of the convent as well as the school building.

The magnificent school building has thick granite stone walls, a Madras terrace roof with iron girders, lofty arched windows and doors. The doors and windows are made of teak and are double panelled. The building, topped with a sloping Mangalore tiled roof on the upper floor, has withstood the vagaries of nature for over 90 years. In 2008, the structure was renovated and ever since then, it has been looking as good as new.

The only noticeable changes are that the worn out Cuddapah flooring has been replaced by modern tiles and chajjas have been added to protect the openings from rain. Taking a look at the architraves and entablature as well as the arches can take us back in time when elegance in architecture was a common feature in educational buildings.

Former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and former vice president B D Jatti have presided over the school functions in the past. Among the many prominent alumni of the school are actor B Saroja Devi and lawyer and activist Pramila Nesargi. Today, this iconic building houses just the senior section and the PUC section, while the lower classes are conducted in the newer annex. Sr Aline, who is the provincial superior of Karnataka, says that a few decades ago, even girls from the elite families used to attend the school. But unfortunately, only children from weaker sections of the society are in attendance now.

To the south of the school is St Mary’s Convent which was completed in 1914. This magnificent stone building houses the living quarters of the nuns who run this institution. This building has granite stone walls, Cuddapah slabs for flooring, broad winding granite stairs and a jack arch roof on the ground floor. The upper floor is covered partly by a Madras terrace roof and Mangalore tiles.

The sisters also run an orphanage where 300 girls are taken care of, and the school provides education to  4,500 students. The sisters are constructing a new orphanage to the east of the convent. I hope that the old students of the school contribute generously to this noble cause, as well as to the maintenance of these two  buildings.

 (Mansoor Ali is an architect)



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