The present article is based on my talks with George John on different occasions. I hope the valued readers of The Roaming Post will find this article worth reading.
By LB THAPA FOR THE ROAMING POST
George John needs no introduction…he has become a household name in Pokhara. He is so much venerable, adored and eulogized that many contemporaries of his time might envy of him. But George John is unbelievably a very simple and unassuming person of wonderful character. He is a jaded pearl of Pokhara.
George John had his graduation from Bible College, India. Out of curiosity, he had visited Nepal and stayed in Kathmandu for some time. His real intention was to visit Kathmandu as a tourist and return to India. However, later he changed his mind and decided to stay in Nepal. In the mean time, he joined Shanker Dev campus to study MA English literature.
When he first arrived in Nepal in 1950, he was a 16-year-old boy. He spent nearly four years in teaching and studying in Kathmandu. After then he shifted to Pokhara. He fell in love with Pokhara at first sight. He found Pokhara amazing as it was rich in natural beauty beyond imagination. Meanwhile, George John was asked to lead a group of intellectuals to establish a campus in Pokhara. He gladly accepted the invitation.
George John recalls his memory about Pokhara airport and says that then it appeared less an airport but more a playground. The runway was not blacktopped. A bumpy landing would shake the passengers hard. It was a common scene when the airport workers would chase away domestic animals from the runway. There were no concrete houses until then except a few thatched huts found sporadically.
In 1960, the government decided to provide some land for the construction of the campus. Teachers and students worked together to build the first ever campus in Pokhara. The teachers asked the students to cut as many bamboos as they could, because in those days bamboos were available in abundance. When enough bamboos had been collected, the next job was to collect rocks for erecting four walls. It was yet a tedious job, but enthusiastic students and some local volunteers made it possible. Now bamboos had been collected and rocks were piled up, the next job was those of professionals. But the problem was that the college construction committee had very small budget. Finally, it was decided to organize a cultural show to raise the fund. The fund came handy as the construction work swung aggressively and the thatched roofed college building in ‘L’ shape stood firm in 1960. And soon the classes began to take place. Dorothy Mierow, a Peace Corps volunteer, came from Kathmandu to teach Geography. She started her class with six students. The college building was not fenced until then so that stray animals like buffalos, mules, donkeys, goats, and cows would graze freely around the college buildings. Anyway, the classes began. The school was running in the daytime and the campus in the morning or late evening.
When everything seemed all right, the Mother Nature turned furious. In a spring storm, the classroom building had been collapsed. Books in the library turned wet and many books were permanently damaged. Most of the roofs had been blown away. George John was advised to abandon his room quickly as it was about to collapse.
To avoid such damage in days to come, George John and his team replaced the whole roof with corrugated tin. The entire building then stood unshaken…next spring’s violent storm passed without damaging the college buildings. But, the tin roof made so much noise that all the teachers had to stop teaching until rain stopped. The noise would turn unbearable during the time of hailstone falling. George John and Dorothy Mierow opted to slate roof to avoid excessive noise problem.
The college was running but it was still grappling with financial crunches. There were not enough students in the college. On top, tuition fee was also low. As a result, the college was unable to function smoothly. To get rid of this problem, the college decided to organize a fair. To attract more people a cultural programme was organized, where local belles performed dance on popular songs. Such programmes became very popular among the local people. Throngs of people would flock at the fair to watch various programmes. Dorothy Mierow used a pressure lamp projector and showed color slides. It further pulled a huge crowd as many people of that time had never seen anything like that before. Later the college bought an Indian generator to produce electricity. The generator made so much sound that ground beneath the generator vibrated as if tremors of a violent earthquake. The sound of the generator could only be subdued by increasing the sound of the loudspeakers. The sound of the generator and the loudspeakers were enough to pull all Pokhareli from their houses. However, nobody made a complaint against the ear piercing sound…they liked it instead.
George John was leading the campus from the front as he was the principal of the college. During this time, he was sent to Baglung at Mahendra campus in the capacity of campus chief. After one year, he returned to Pokhara and continued his job in Prithvi Narayan campus (PN campus).
George John got married to Eliyama. The couple lived together and worked hard to rebuild the infrastructure necessary to run the college smoothly. In the beginning life was not that easy for Eliyama. She was born and raised in Kerala. Eliyama was not used to such hardship of rural Nepal. However, she was living with her husband in a house which was poorly built. But she never made a fuss of hardship she endured. At one time even a leopard entered the house, but the next moment he leapt out of the window and Eliyama was left unscathed.
Eliyama was teaching in Pokhara, but at the same time she continued her education and passed M.Sc from Tribhuvan University. She taught at PN campus until 2000. John took retirement from active teaching in 1996. Later, in the honor of George John ‘George John Education Foundation’ was established. Its main purpose was to provide logistic help to bright students and to honor those personalities who have made outstanding contribution in the field of education.
Sir George John is the most respected name in Pokhara. He is larger than life, and his contribution to enrich education in Pokhara is unsurpassable indeed. Sir George John is the proud name of Pokhara. We Pokhareli are proud of him. His reputation as a man of letters and his dedication to education are as tall as Mt. Fishtail. No other man can stand equal to Sir George John. He is truly a jaded Perl of Pokhara.
ABOUT THE BLOGGER
LB Thapa is a travel blogger. He is also the author of six books. His books have been published by Nirala Publications, New Delhi, India and Himalayan Maphouse, Kathmandu, Nepal. His book, POKHARA AND ANNAPURNAS has been translated into seven foreign languages. LB Thapa’s books are also available on www.amazon.com
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