If these walls could talk... As Sophia celebrates 75, a trip down memory lane | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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If these walls could talk... As Sophia celebrates 75, a trip down memory lane

HT caught up with some of the most celebrated and long-serving faculty members at the iconic Mumbai college.

mumbai Updated: Jun 12, 2017 12:11 IST
Anubhuti Matta
(From left) Teachers Floyd Gracias, Margarida Colaco, Sr Ananda Amritmahal, Bina Gonsalves, Andrea Coutinho discuss their ‘favourite Sophia’ moments
(From left) Teachers Floyd Gracias, Margarida Colaco, Sr Ananda Amritmahal, Bina Gonsalves, Andrea Coutinho discuss their ‘favourite Sophia’ moments

Everyone has a Sophia College story. Growing up in Mumbai, you probably knew someone who attended Sophia’s, as it is popularly known, or stopped by during the annual inter-collegiate festival, Kaleidoscope, and chatted around the marble staircase.

This former palace off Peddar Road is a heritage structure. (Pratik Chorge/HT Photo)

Named after the Greek word for wisdom, this former palace off Peddar Road became a women’s college with no cut-offs and a city icon with a massive footprint. As it celebrates 75 years, we caught up with some of its most celebrated and long-serving faculty. From first batch of 25 students in 1941 it now has more than 3,000 women applying each year. On June 19, the college will conclude its year-long platinum jubilee celebration.

From first batch of 25 students in 1941 it now has more than 3,000 women applying each year (Pratik Chorge/HT Photo)

“Every women’s college in the country has a huge role to play in social development,” says author and visiting faculty Jerry Pinto. “For every daughter of a conservative parent, a woman’s college is a refuge of creative and academic freedom, a place where women are encouraged to push the boundaries.”

That’s a common view on campus — many of the longest-serving professors here are former students, or have taught there for 30, 40 and 50 years. (Pratik Chorge/HT Photo)

Or, as third-year psychology student Amanda Rodrigues, 20, puts it: “I just don’t want to be anywhere else.”

That’s a common view on campus — many of the longest-serving professors here are former students, or have taught there for 30, 40 and 50 years. “I’ve had students come to me with their mothers, whom I had also taught,” says Margarida Colaco, who held her first lecture here in 1964 and heads the mass media department. “That’s an overwhelming feeling, it’s not just an institution; it’s an environment that nurtures and supports its students.”

The college is named after the Greek word for wisdom. (Pratik Chorge/HT Photo)

Gail Carneiro has been a chemistry professor there for over 40 years. Psychology professor Jennie Mendes used to drop by as a little girl, to attend mass at the campus. “I graduated and then did a Masters from Sophia’s, with the hostel as my home. I have lived here all my adult life,” says Mendes, laughing.

Former principal Anila Verghese. (Pratik Chorge/HT Photo)

“It’s home,” says principal Sister Ananda Amritmahal. “We ensure students become a part of the family. Sometimes I take the girls out for a play after their hostel deadline, and when their parents find out, they can never believe that as the principal I took them out… but that’s the way of life here.”

Floyd Gracias has been here ‘only a decade’ and is a relative newbie. “I’m still learning new things every day,” says the visiting faculty for the mass media department.

On June 19, the college will conclude its year-long platinum jubilee celebration. (Pratik Chorge/HT Photo)

So, what’s it to be like among the few men on campus? “He’s blessed among women,” says Sr Ananda, with a twinkle.