History captured in images & words


By Chandreyee Ghose
  • Published 7.05.15

Shashibhusan Ghosh joined The Oriental Seminary as a teacher in 1907 with a salary of just Rs 20. When he retired in 1942, he was earning Rs 94. His name is the first entry in a big fat service record of teachers still preserved at the school.

The service book with its treasure trove of historical evidence - all written in a neat hand - has made its way to a recently built archive at the 186-year-old school.

Gourmohan Auddy Memorial Archive, named after the school's founder, will be formally inaugurated on May 9 to mark the birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore, who had been a student of the school. A rare picture of Tagore when he was seven or eight is also part of the archive.

It took C.P. Ghoshal, who teaches English at the school, almost 15 years of research and hard work to build the archive. He was assisted by colleague Payel Dey. A classroom on the first floor of the school at Chitpore has been remodelled to house the archive.

On entering the room, one is greeted by an ancient slide projector. "This was used in the science laboratory and dates back to around 1926," Ghoshal said. A scale, a timer and some beakers, all from the early 20th century, are also on display.

A silver-coloured seal of the school's old address (336 Upper Chitpore Road) finds pride of place, along with a pure silver lantern, shields and trophies won by students and other collectibles.

The archive is divided into four sections. The first wall has pictures of eminent alumni such as W.C. Bonnerjee, the first president of the Indian National Congress, Swami Abhedananda, a disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, poet Jatindranath Sengupta and more recently actor Mithun Chakraborty.

The second wall boast articles and records dating between 1829 and 1900, including an advertisement for The Merchant of Venice, one of the three plays staged by the school's theatre group Hindu Amateurs of the Oriental Theatre started by Bonnerjee. The announcement says the play was to be staged on March 2, 1854. The group had staged Othello in 1853 and Henry IV in 1855, all under Bonnerjee's guidance.

An obituary of the founder, published in The Friend of India on March 5, 1846, to a list of all those who had contributed towards a school building (Bonnerjee had donated Rs 500), school records, magazines and even a diet chart for boys living in the hostel - the wall is full of interesting stories.

The third wall boasts pictures and articles dating between 1901 and 1950. An interesting one is of girl students engaged in a drill in 1936 and another in a cooking class.

The fourth wall is dedicated to pictures, newspaper cuttings and exhibits post 1950. The cost of setting up the archive has crossed a lakh and there are plans to digitise the content.