‘He always stayed in touch’: Former school principal remembers ex-FM Arun Jaitley
Kunnunkal’s fondest memories is from an annual alumni dinner event five years ago—long after Jaitley had graduated school, soon after he was appointed the finance minister of the country.Updated: Aug 27, 2019 07:42 IST
Ninety-four-year-old Thomas Kunnunkal, former principal of St Xavier’s Senior Secondary School in Delhi’s Civil Lines, has fond memories of the batch of 1969. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stalwart Arun Jaitley, who died on Saturday at the age of 66, was a student in that batch.
But one of Kunnunkal’s fondest memories is from an annual alumni dinner event five years ago—long after Jaitley had graduated school, soon after he was appointed the finance minister of the country.
“The event is known as the Old Boys Dinner and one has to pay for a pass. Usually, those attending the event are not allowed to get their vehicles inside the school premises or to park them right outside the gate,” Kunnunkal, who was the principal of the school between 1962 and 1974, says.
“Arun [Jaitley], then the finance minister, was a guest of honour so he was exempted from the parking prohibitions. But, he had attended the event several times, for which he was used to parking his car on Raj Niwas Marg and walking to the school to attend the event. He did that again,” he says.
“As he walked in, a group of school students who were waiting to receive him immediately inside the main gate failed to recognise him and ended up charging him Rs. 500 for the pass, which, as the guest of honour, he was supposed to be exempted from. He [Jaitley] sensed the confusion but paid the money. He mentioned the incident during the event and laughed about it,” Kunnunkal recalls with a baritone laugh.
In 2013, Jaitley had shared a photograph of himself from his school days on one of his Facebook posts and written, “My days at St Xavier’s are the most memorable; because here I moulded my thoughts, which later on shaped my political vision.”
Kunnunkal could not attend Jaitley’s cremation on Sunday, but says that he hopes he can be part of a condolence meet for his former student that the alumni association, comprising several persons from the batch of 1969, has organised later on Sunday evening in the school premises. Kunnunkal says that he identified Jaitley as a “moderate voice in the BJP”.
While Jaitley went to the University of Delhi and later went on to become a student union leader, Kunnunkal later went on to become the chairperson of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE).
Kunnunkal also remembers Jaitley’s skills in cricket and as an orator. “It is not too difficult to recall in his case because he always stayed in touch with me, with the school, as well as several of his teachers and batchmates.”