For someone who has served St. Xavier’s, Jaipur for over 16 years as Principal, the school certainly holds a close connect with him. Fr.N.V.Mani S.J., whose first tenure was from 1973 – 1983, made a second comeback during in his next innings from 1988- 1994. He has probably witnessed countless alumni passing out during his regime and more so even recollects their names.
Xavier’s has changed drastically over the past few decades and Fr. Mani is one man who has witnessed the school’s golden and platinum jubilee. His deep persona and stern administrative skills has made him an icon synonymous to this 78 year old Jesuit institution.
Though he finds himself and the school in the middle of drastically changing times, he says all have to keep pace with innovative and modern times. Carrying a smart phone, Fr. Mani can be traced on Facebook as well. The digital world has brought about a revolution but he strongly feels it has also impacted the student teacher bonding.
Pleasantly alarmed at the number of co-curricular activities that buzz round the year keeping kids involved all the time, Fr. Mani feels that more participation encourages students towards healthy exposure and spirited competition. If students are trained to organize themselves responsibly and being able to allot proper time for study, relaxation, sports, prayer, friends, family and internet, then we can be sure that we are discharging our duty as able parents and teachers. “In a world governed grossly by speed, technology and selfishness, one should develop the art of sensitivity towards the needs of others, be more compassionate and helpful to one another,” suggests Fr. Mani.
Recalling the bygone era, Fr. Mani cherishes the good times spent with Fr. Wilzbacher – the cycling missionary Jesuit; Mr. Anand Singh Junia, who devoted 24 hours tirelessly when the hostel was launched, Fr. J.Wilmes, who painstakingly clicked monochrome class stills, framed them with names and even had them mounted on the walls, Fr. Grace – whose charming smile and personality was captivating, and the benevolent, Mr. Rashmikant Durlabhji.
Fr. Mani’s day begins with attending the morning school assembly followed by counselling sessions on all working days. He finds time to respond to emails, general reading, catching up with national news on TV and of course spending time in private prayer. His evenings are bright with regular walks in cute shorts, a Tee shirt and a cap as he bumps into little kids found skating or chatting with those who come for evening games. You can tell winter is fast approaching as Fr. Mani is the first to draw out his warm jackets and mufflers out of his closet.
The man may look fragile as he hops around the Jaipur Xavier’s campus at a ripe age of 83, but he is as active and agile as any school boy, involved, enthused and vibrant. His History lessons in Class VIII still echo in my ears and so do his announcements over the intercom just before the interval or even his prayer at the morning assembly over the retro microphone in a crisp voice, “O God, who are truth and the origin of all knowledge, bless our studies which we consecrate to you, enlighten our minds, strengthen our memories and guide us to speak truth always…..”
In the words of the Late President of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Fr. Mani smilingly leaves a message for all of us – ‘Be good and do good’.