The Towns Mirror Special: The school with the gazebo

By Sudeshna Dutta

Dolores Arulappan runs a school, bakes, writes poems, embroiders and keeps a manicured garden. FYI – she’s just 83

Residents of Pottery Town are quite familiar with Jack and Jill School, which was established in 1981. But for someone who sees the huge compound for the first time, it is a sight to behold. Starting with a friendly bark from Jackie at the gate, your eyes will immediately catch the pretty gazebo in front — situated on one side of the garden full of plants — with an artificial waterfall mesmerising you from the other end with the sound of ripples. In no way does it look like a normal school building, rather, the place sends the vibe of a warm, welcoming home. Indeed, it is also the home of Dolores Arulappan, the 83-year-old Principal and founder, who runs the school and teaches English to children while residing at its premises.

“In the initial days, there were just one or two classrooms where I would teach nursery and lower primary children. Over the years, we have grown into a full-fledged primary school till Class 4, with around 10 teaching staff. Children from different strata of the society, including the physically disabled ones, find this a safe haven to learn their lessons,” she says.

A former resident of Cockburn Road, Arulappan had an extensive travel history after she got married in 1957. “My husband and I used to live in Lavelle Road before moving to Bihar, followed by Andhra Pradesh and in 1974, we settled back in Bengaluru,” she says, adding that she got her teacher’s certificate soon after, since she “did not want to be a burden on her husband”. Adds Arulappan, “Back in those days, a haircut cost Rs 10, which was a lot.

We were also going through financial troubles during that period, which is why I thought of doing something on my own and earning some money,” she says. Arulappan is glad of her decision to open a school. “Even now, my students and their parents come to me and say how grateful they are for giving them a strong foundation. Most of them who came from economically backward backgrounds are now doing well. This gives me immense satisfaction,” she says.


The premises of Jack and Jill School

A mother of four, Arulappan wiped her tears while talking about her second child, who passed away in 2007. “She was mentally challenged and had health complications all her life. With her death, she taught us so many lessons about life than anyone ever could,” she smiles. Arulappan says this tragedy is one of the many reasons why she started writing poems and now has over 500 of them in her collection.

“Most of them are about appreciation for life, death, children and nature, with underlying references to religion. I feel the world is turning harsh every day, so sitting here at the gazebo and jotting something down gives me temporary relief,” she says, adding that most of her poems are included in the school text books for different classes. Some of them are converted into songs that are sung by the children at various school functions.

Her skills also include embroidery, baking cakes and cookies and painting during her free time.

During the course of conversation with Towns Mirror at the beautiful gazebo, Jackie, the Indie dog, came and jumped on his pet parent’s lap for his afternoon nap. “We found him injured one day and rescued him from the streets. He has been my baby ever since,” says Arulappan.

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