Have you ever wondered why it is that our alma mater rouses more nostalgic feelings in us than anything else? What makes them more close to our heart that you pine to go back to those days and relive those moments even if it were only for a day? Surely we realise that there is no going back. Hearts are burdened by the memories of an irrevocable past, the unfastening of which emanates petrichor. I am not going to open my chest of memories but would love to take you on a tour along those long corridors where I once thrived.
‘Aluva puzhayude theerath..’ goes the song from the Malayalam cult classic movie Premam. Wonder why I mention it? The line can be roughly translated as ‘On the bank of the Aluva River’ and I am not overdoing it when I say my Alma mater Union Christian College is situated on the banks of River Periyar. It is the same college where George from the movie meets his Malar. You cannot fathom the depth of my nostalgia when I watched the movie in the cinema.
Founders of Union Christian College
The founders Prof. K.C Chacko, Prof. C.P. Mathew, Prof V.M. Ittiyerah and Prof. A.M Varki decided to establish a college as an attempt to unite the different churches in Travancore which were at loggerheads regarding various property disputes. They were all alumni of Madras Christian College and they wanted to establish an institution that was akin to their alma mater in its spirit and mission – national reconstruction.
Thus the Union Christian College was founded in 1921 and it is one of the earliest colleges in India managed by Indian Christians. When Mahatma Gandhi visited the college in 1925 on his way to take part in the Vaikom Satyagraha he wrote that he was ‘delighted with the ideal situation’ at the college. He even planted a mango sapling which is endearingly called even now as ‘Gandhi Maavu’.
The college was also honoured by the visit of Rabindranath Tagore in 1922 who expressed his genuine happiness at seeing a campus that was so close to his own Shantiniketan in its quintessential spirit. U C College also has so many other unique features as we will see now.
Kacheri Malika – The Court Palace
As mentioned earlier the UC College is situated on the banks of the river Periyar. The 18 acres of land where it was first started was donated by Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma, the then Maharaja of Travancore. Kacheri Malika is a three-storey building that used to be a European Bungalow. During the early nineties, it used to be a zilla court until it was gifted to the college.
In the initial days, the only way to reach the campus was by ferry which would be anchored at ‘Kacheri Kadavu’. Built on the Kacheri Kunnu, Kacheri Maika is a union of three types of architecture-Dutch, British and Indian. As you enter the campus what attracts your eyes first is definitely this monument which instantly transports you into the glories of a past era. I still remember how awestruck I was when I beheld it for the first time.
The Chapel- Where faith meets beauty
The chapel used to be our most favourite spot inside the campus. It simulated in us the feeling of being in the English countryside. Many afternoons had been spent on the flight of stairs beside the Chapel and I wonder how many writers might have been born at its threshold. The chapel which is situated behind the Kacheri Malika was designed by Rev George Edward Hubbard in 1940. It reflects the ecumenical worship that the college believes in. A lot of pigeons could be seen flocking over the tiled roof of the chapel. On a cloudy afternoon, with the throbbing greenery around, the Chapel would conjure up in us a sense of oneness with nature and all its bounties.
Mahaganitham-A mathematical wonder
Mahaganitham is sculpted out of the Mahogany tree, which stood in front of the Kacheri Malika and which was struck by a lightning in 2002. ‘Maha’ stands for the Mahogany tree and ‘ganitham’ stands for mathematics. Mathematical concepts like the Golden ratio and the Fibonacci numbers are all part of this sculpture. Thousands of mathematical structures and geometrical shapes are said to be engraved on it.
Besides these notable landmarks, there are also the canteen, the library, the auditoriums and playgrounds which are the heart and soul of any campus. And how can I not sing praises of the greenery around? From a residential college of only 63 students, it is now a sprawling green campus spread over 40 acres of land with about 1900 students and 160 faculty members.
Though there were serious talks about turning it into an autonomous college, the idea was shelved due to protests from various sides and it is still affiliated with the Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam. The college completed 100 years this year and the centenary celebrations were conducted at the Kacheri Malika on 29th March 2021 with Honourable Governor of Kerala Shri. Arif Mohammed Khan as the chief guest.
Saying that I consider myself fortunate enough to have studied there may sound clichéd, but sometimes truth is that our alma mater becomes a part of our personality and our conscience. U C College is that part of my being that forever reminds me of the simplicity of life, of the happiness in being in close proximity to nature and of the dreams that inspired individuals to achieve. It is a constant sweet memory that is never cloying.
Contributor: Sheema Shireen
About our Writing Program Student
Hailing from God’s own country, I am a teacher by profession. Apart from reading and gardening, I try a hand at writing poetry when inspired. I believe that an independent woman is a happy and content one, and I am on my route to achieve that.