Skip to content

Pre-Biology Era

At the time when I joined Loyola as the Class Teacher of Standard 3 B in 1954, Mr. Blaise Khare was teaching an optional subject, Health Science, and General Science for upper Standards 7, 8, & 9. I handled all subjects, except Hindi, for my Standard 3 B class.  I moved up as the Class Teacher of the same class year by year in Standards 4 B, 5 B and 6 B! To improve my qualification, I took study leave in 1956 -57 for acquiring my B. Ed Degree from Andhra University. After my graduation, I took up my schedule again as the Class teacher of 6 B, 7 B, 8 B, and 9 B as the years rolled on!

Physics and Chemistry Laboratories were very well established under the matchless care of Rev. Fr. Simon Kirsch, S. J. The final year Senior Cambridge students were sent to St. Xavier’s School in Hazaribagh for writing their exams, since Loyola was not yet a center for it. 

The biology lab in the early daysSt. Xavier’s School, Hazaribagh is a Jesuit school. It is considered to be one of the best schools in eastern India. It was established in 1952 by an Australian Jesuit missionary, Rev Fr. John Moore. In its initial years, the school was linked to Loyola School, Jamshedpur. 

The first batch of pupils sat for the University of Cambridge (UK) Overseas School Certificate examination at Hazaribagh in 1955. Sirbans Singh, John Chirayath, Khattu De’Vitrie, Dipankar Sinha Roy, etc. were among the first batch of Loyola students, who appeared for this examination from the Hazaribagh center, if my memory is correct. There was jubilation when Loyola became the Center for conducting the Examinations soon after in 1956 or 57. 

Biology as an exclusive subject was not taught as such at that time, but was integrated into the General Science syllabus. Fr. Hess assigned me Mathematics, General Science, Health Science, Civics, World History and World Geography as my teaching schedule after I rejoined Loyola from my study leave. I complained to him that for a man of science, the schedule may not receive due justice. Fr. Hess said, “Arun! That is the way to learn.” How correct Fr. Hess was! Indeed, my knowledge expanded immensely in other fields by teaching these subjects.

The Dawn of the Biology Laboratory

Enthusiastic Loyola students in the lab

Loyola opened a new course, Biology, for its boys, in 1958 -59 particularly due to the tenacity of Dr.S.K. Ganguly, who contributed an incubator, initial furniture, advice and his mastery to the department. Rev. Fr. Hess put me in charge of this new venture and a class room near the cloister was allotted for the purpose. Dr. T. Swamy, Pathologist of the Tata Main Hospital, helped me with more resources to establish the Bio lab. He was a great friend, advisor and contributor to the Laboratory. Often, I visited his Pathological Labs to see how they work. He showed me his Museum, where several specimens of aborted fetuses, freak fetuses, and many other specimens of human body parts that were surgically removed and preserved in the jars. He noticed my keen interest in some of them and willingly gave them for our Loyola Museum. There they are! Still on the racks in the Museum!

The Biology Department started in a single Classroom on the first floor near the Cloister, a very modest and humble beginning with a few microscopes,  chemicals, such as Formaldehyde, Chloroform, etc. which were essential for the Lab work. Subsequently, Fr. Hess gave me a small room adjacent to it, which was the Office of Dr. Mrs. Rezzler, who was in charge of Student Guidance Program. Dr. Rezzler was from U S A and stayed in Jamshedpur for about a year or so. After she left for the States for good, the room became available for me and I used it for the purpose of conducting Biology Practical classes. I got the Cupboard in the common wall broken, in order to connect both rooms through the way thus formed and adorned it with a lacey green curtain. Here is picture of that room with the budding and enthusiastic Loyoleans.

Now, the actual work for building a great Laboratory began with my visits to Calcutta, St. Xavier’s, Vellore Medical College, National Institute of Nutrition in Secunderabad, etc., for studying the Laboratory management and techniques. This study helped me to incorporate the notable ideas in the Loyola laboratory.  All these visits to those well established laboratories were done at my own expense, but not from Loyola. It was my dream! It was my ambition to build a sophisticated Lab. It was my desire to fulfill my research-minded learning which I passed on to my students. 

Biology exhibition in 1964-65A couple of years later, Fr. Hess allotted another room just above the Portico. I used it exclusively for storing the specimens and chemicals. Thus, a modest Biological museum was born! We conducted many Biological exhibitions when we stayed on this wing. 

The first grand exhibition that we put on in 1964 - 65 was inaugurated by Dr. Xersis. J. Anklesaria of the Tata Main Hospital. A notable presentation of an exhibit, which Dr. Anklesaria admired, was about the chemical behavior of chlorophyll.

Seen in this picture are Amit Mukhaerjee [with back to the camera], Dr. Anklesaria, Percy Siganporia, Arun Narasimham and explaining the model was Subramanian Narayan, son of famous Doctors of Jamshedpur, Drs. Subramanian and Dharmambal.

In 1966, a super grand exhibition was hosted by Loyola and involved all the Schools and Colleges in Jamshedpur. Dr. Mahadeva of the Cooperative College, Mr. Upadhyaya of Cooperative College, Mr R. S. Mani of R. D. Tata High School, Mr. Seth of the Saradamoni High School and I were the directors of this exhibition. It was inaugurated by Dr. P. B. Bharucha, who was the Superintendent of The Tata Main Hospital and was visited by a huge multitude of Jamshedpur citizens. 

Biology exhibition in 1974In 1974, we organized a final exhibition on this wing near the cloister.

A memorable picture of that exhibition shows Dr. Pesy Bharucha, Superintendent of The Tata Main Hospital, cutting the ribbon, while Rev. Fr. M. Love S. J. looks on with beaming pleasure.

An admirable attraction in this event was the model of Heart Transplantation, which was designed by Anurag Kumar of 1975 Batch of Loyola. Seen here in the picture are Anurag Kumar and his working model, with me and visitors, who took keen interest in the exhibit.

Another dream that haunted me always for a long time was to create a departmental library. 

Biology Library with Deb Kumar GanguliFr. Hess gave me permission to buy a decent cabinet for that purpose. I filled it with books such as Thomson’s Text Book of Zoology, two volumes of Parker and Hasewell’s Zoology, A text Book of Botany, by Mridula Dutta, and many more, for advanced study for students during their free time in school. They were meant for reference only and not for borrowing them.  Here is a picture of the Departmental Library taken with Deb Kumar Ganguli, who was attentively seeking information about the books it contained.

The Department of Biology started growing well. There was a need felt by the Administration, that there should be another person to join it. Mrs. Roufa Abedin joined Loyola in 1967 to fill up that position. It was very pleasant experience for me to work with her for many years that followed it.

Anurag Kumar with his working model of a heart.1976! A big change occurred in the configuration of the Library and the Biology department! 

Rev Fr. Richard Periera S. J. became the Principal of Loyola School. He made a notable change in moving the Biology department to a new location. The famous library, of which Mrs. F. Irani was the vigilant librarian, moved to the Hostel shower rooms, which were superbly converted into a highly sophisticated dwelling for a treasury of books. This was done to accommodate the Biology Lab in its place. The former Library became a permanent abode of The Department of Biology, Loyola School, Jamshedpur!   I am actually, a Chemistry graduate. So, with that background, I designed laboratory benches with Cooking Gas connections and Bunsen Burners, at the far end of the hall. I did it in order to give the students some projects on Biochemistry, which are beyond the prescribed syllabus. The end wall of this room adorned the head of a Bison. This precious specimen happens to be one of the great collections of Bro. William Braganza, who got it fixed to the wall, if I remember it correctly. I do not know how he acquired it and from whom! When I visited the Laboratory in December 2012, I was surprised to find that these Biochemical Lab benches and gas connections were removed completely and a partition stood in their place!

The head of a bison, from library to the labThe Head of the Bison – adorns the wall of the past Library and present Biology Lab:

Collecting specimensThe Departmental work of collecting the Biological specimens and arranging the Lab for Practical classes was done by an ever smiling Specimen collector, N. Kumar, who was an employee of The Jamshedpur Cooperative College, at that time. Kumar worked as a part time worker in Loyola. However, the major job of keeping the Laboratory in a very neat, sparkling condition was done by Massie Das, whom I used to call him as Jimmy Boy. Jimmy knew precisely what I wanted him to do and showed his capability as a very studious, brilliant and sincere Laboratory attendant, which made me feel extremely proud of him!

Under the steps of the Biological Museum, there is a neatly built cabinet, which contained several curios, which were collected by our Museum Club members. Bro. W. Braganza was the chief moderator. His fascination for Cactus garden and Butterfly collection will be remembered by all those who were associated with him. His devotion to work for the improvement of the Museum was superb! Pursued by nostalgic feelings about Loyola and their student days, some former students, like Dennis Norman and Hartmut Feige, recalled the beauty of this Cactus garden on social medium, the popular Face Book.

The Biology Lab showcaseThe Showcase housed a rare specimen of the egg shell of an Ostrich, which is one of the prized collections of the Museum club. He told me one day that it was the collection of Loyola boy, Albino D’Souza, who was a student in Standard X in c 1955. I faintly remember Brother Braganza mentioning to me that Albino obtained it from Egypt, when he visited that country. I cannot, however, definitely say that it is a fact!  Later I placed it in the cabinet containing the Departmental Library Books.

Jeevan with specimensSeen here is the current Laboratory Attendant, Jeevan, who displayed the specimens proudly. Note the shell of a Hen’s egg placed before it for comparing their sizes.  The model of human skull above the box was brought by Rev. Fr. Graham from the U S A, during his visit to that country. The spring-controlled lower jaw of the skull is movable up and down. One day a student inserted a piece of chalk in its mouth to make it appear as if it was smoking a cigarette. I felt annoyingly amused seeing it, but removed it quickly!

Some years ago, in the late Forties, a whale was found grounded in the shallow waters, off the beach of Visakhapatnam, in Andhra Pradesh. It was a hearsay that it happened during cyclonic weather. People tried their best to haul it back into the deep sea, but failed badly in their attempts. Ultimately, it died of starvation. Its blubber was marketed and its refined skeleton became the property of The Erskine College of Natural Sciences, a wing of The Andhra University.

The whale skeletonEver since, Loyola started Biology as a major subject in 1959, I had a strong desire of acquiring at least a part of the skeleton of this whale. I made some attempts during the course of a decade, but not with success, because the department of Erskine College wished to have its complete skeleton unbroken. Finally in 1984 on my way back to Jamshedpur from Madras, I broke my journey at Visakhapatnam and visited the University. After all, it was my University from where I was graduated! Fortunately for me, the Head of the Department of Erskine College, was my distant relative, Dr. Karra Sreenivasa Rao. I asked him to give me a bone of the whale. To my surprise he said, “Choose one and take it with you right away!” I was not ready to carry it with me at that time. So I asked him to keep the vertebra I chose for some time until I could manage to pick it up. I reached Jamshedpur the next morning. A couple of days later, a Loyola student, Vikas Rao, who graduated in 1983, wanted a recommendation letter from me for his admission in Andhra University. While giving it I asked him if it is possible for him to bring the vertebra from there to which he gladly agreed and brought it with him. Vikas Rao reluctantly mentioned to me, that a Security Staff member challenged him while bringing it in the train. He thought that Vikas was suspiciously carrying something valuable with him, but was convinced that the cargo was legal when he showed our correspondence about the specimen to the officer. So! It is there now through the effort of Vikas Rao.

Recording plant emotions with occilloscopesI designed the new Laboratory in such a way that in a moment’s notice it could take the shape of a conference Hall. We conducted many exhibitions and lectures here. The highlight of one of these exhibitions was an experiment on Plant Emotions in 1984.

The students, who contributed enormously and painstakingly and to whom I give the fullest credit in designing it, were Manish Srivatsava, Biswaroop Chatterjee and Singh (?).  I am unable to remember Singh's name. A potted plant, Dracena, was hooked to very sensitive oscilloscopes with micro electrodes. Rev Fr Simon Kirsch, a notable physicist himself, loaned them to us for that purpose. When we touched the plant with a stick, a short wavelength curve with sharp peaks was displayed, as if it was annoyed at the action and when we gently watered the pot, the curve was very smooth, almost  a sinusoidal curve, showing that it was happy. A skeptical parent challenged that the responses were not coming from the plant, but from the people, who became the conductors of electricity. So, to disprove it, we made him wear rubberized shoes and asked him to touch the plant with the stick and afterwards water it too. No change in its responses! He was surprised by this amazing result!  Herewith a picture

Science Activity Centre with Dr BhattacharyaIn about 1987 or so, we invited a very famous Indian scientist, Dr. A. Bhattacharya, who was one of the members of the team for expedition to the Antarctica.  He enlightened us with his experiences of this vast and cold continent with a slide show and inspiring lecture. It was a very beneficial talk which many Loyola students and other invitees of the Science Activity Center admired greatly. This event was organized by the Science Activity Center of Jamshedpur, of which I was one of the Directors. Seen here in the picture are the Science Activity organizers with Dr. Bhattacharya. The reception in his honor took place in this Laboratory, after his lecture in the Fasy Auditorium. The photo credit goes to Mrs. A. K. Devi.

The Museum

Jeevan and the specimen rackThe room above the portico is a great store house of many valuable plant and animal specimens which I bought from some Biological Companies, like Biosco, Bionartium, etc. located in Calcutta and in Madras. Since hazardous chemicals like Chloroform, Formaldehyde, Acetone, Xylene, Benzene, etc. are also stored in this room, I requested Bro. Bonello to get two wall fans installed in order to waft away any volatile organic compounds from the room for clean environment. Students did research in this room under our supervision. No one was allowed to enter this room as precaution, unless accompanied by me or Mrs. Abedin. Bro. Bonello immediately complied with my request and the fans were installed almost immediately! You can see one of the fans in the picture with the attendant, Jeevan, in this room. 

The museum contains Biological models, various sea shells which we collected during our excursions and Art Work from Nagaland in the shape of spears and arrows, etc. One of my favorite specimens is the Horned Helmet, the Sea Shell [Cassis cornuta] which is the second largest by weight in India, the first one being in the possession of Bombay Natural History Museum, Bombay. This fact makes us feel very proud indeed!

Working in this atmosphere was very rewarding for me and Mrs. R. Abedin for many years. The students supplied us with stimulating and disciplined environment, a factor that kept us young at heart. I sincerely wish that the current teachers also will experience the same!

Jai Loyola

Mr. Narasimham Ayalasomayajula, more polularly known as Mr. Arun, and Mrs. Devi now live in Sacramento, CA, USA. Contact them.