'Sair e Virasat'

A Heritage Walk at Modern School, Barakhamba Road, to commemorate the centenary celebrations.

My Alma Mater, a rich confluence of multiple cultures, set in the pre colonial era.

‘Men make history, not under circumstances chosen by them, but in the ones they are put through’.

And while the entire population of the pre independence Hindustan was grappling with the wave of the nationalistic sentiment, Lala Raghubir Singh’s Indic esoteric pragmatism envisioned Modern School. An avantgarde institution. An institution, which was nationalistic in its roots, it’s propensity and it’s thought process. It was time to raise a generation of thinkers who would be able to dream, to believe, to adapt and to fly.

At a celebratory junction of thought of Lala Raghubir and think tanks like Gandhi, Tagore, CF Andrews, S K Rudra who were his closest confidantes, the school amalgamated the finest modernist traditions into the ethos of the school.

The walk around the Barakhamba campus on the cold, chilly winter morning on Dec 15,7:00am, transcended time, space and era with a guided tour by historian and much revered history teacher, Ms Beeba Sobti. The engaging discourse led us through the warps and wefts of the socio economic fabric of the decades when the school developed, to dissecting the sprawling 25 acres, building by building. The school has been accorded a heritage status.

Modernites ranging from the batch of 1957 (he was the oldest one in the group) to most recent ones were gathered at the tea and coffee spread laid out in front of the M.N.Kapur Hall.

The heritage walk began with a round of the M.N.Kapur hall itself, which was the assembly point. The very period hall, characterised by neo classical architecture, lined with roman arches and delicate mouldings was finished at the top with a white abacus. A style which preserved the antiquity of India, yet at the same time deemed social validity of the city developing around it. It was the hall which hosted the first General Elections of the country. It served as an examination hall at a point of time, later a gymnasium, and even an assembly hall before the Sir Shankar Lal Hall was constructed.

Modern Barakhamba, was famously referred to as the School of Five Gates. Though it was founded in the year 1920 at Daryaganj, the foundation stone of Barakhamba campus was laid in the year 1935 and it stood completed in the year 1937. Barakhamba during those decades was the summer gazebo, the residence of high ranking officials, the heart of the city. On one side of the school was the Agrasen ki Baoli, on another the outer Qutab Road beside three big villages which had been evacuated and relocated to Karol Bagh. The area was quite thickly forested and also famous for the shikaar of wild foxes and pigs.

Modern school had applied for the grant of land in the year 1923 but the land sanctioned was in Delhi Cantonment area, which was dismally far from the rubaru or the heart of Modern, in Daryaganj.

The 2 brothers, C.G. and F.B. Blomfield, were the architects of the school. The repertoire of their work included the NGMA building.

The architectural style of Modern School was a potpourri of a style mnemonic of Saanchi, Shahjahani references, the Gothic. All these divergences converged at the core of social validity. The soft arches were very international. The rectangular structure of the school, was in sync with the rest of the city. The campus of the school wasn't landscaped into the city, but landscape was a part of it.

Foraying towards the main building along the path lining the front lawn, one comes across the point which is a reminder of the two times that Mahatma Gandhi visited the school, in November 1924 and January 1935. The time post the non cooperation movement, when he had been hailed an international celebrity by the Times Magazine. An Indian hero, a crusader for the freedom movement, an activist for nationilstic pathways for educating young indian minds for the future of India.

Raghubir had grown up with these ethos. His mother Sushila Pratap Singh, an activist and pioneer in the field of women’s education was this strongest influence. Ameer Chand, another radical, was a prominent influence on him. Syeda Saiyidain Hameed, Indian social and women's rights activist, educationist, writer and a former member of the Planning Commission of India, was amongst the first few batches of the school, so was Sardar Khushwant Singh, an Indian author, lawyer, diplomat, journalist and politician, who invariably brought in the eclecticism.

The other land marks which we saw were:

  • Sir Shankar Lal Hall: architecture, inaugurated by VV Giri

  • Hall of Religions (master piece by Nand Lal Bose)

  • Platinum Jubilee Hall (with the expansive view), inaugurated by Shankar Dayal Sharma

  • Golden Jubilee Hostel

  • Tech Block (previously KG Block and Zoo

  • Amphitheatre

  • Tank and MIG fighter jet

  • The Original Archives

  • Color of school uniform called German Blue (it was selected after considering 394 shades), the handloom tactile feel fabric connotation

  • Original archives: handwritten notes of Rabindranath Tagore, Gandhi, rare pictures with M N Kapur, Maria Montessori, Nehru amongst others.

  • Kamala Nehru and her two nieces: her nonchalant missionary zeal got the edifice on.

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