Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bro. K.M. Joseph - The Beloved Cricket Brother of All Saints High School Heads to Rome

It was a pleasant surprise to hear from Denzil Balm, the committed coach of All Saints High School for so many years, a few days ago. The surprise got even better when Denzil told me the news. 'Bro. K. M. Joseph has become Assistant General in Rome,' said Denzil. A wonderful elevation for our 'Cricket Brother' from my alma mater All Saints High School. The first thought that struck me was one of sadness - oh God, I'll miss having Brother around I thought - in much the same way that one misses a dear friend.
Bro. K.M. Joseph being felicitated by Dhruvaraj sir, our geography teacher

But Bro. K.M. Joseph was not a dear friend really. He was our teacher - and one who encouraged sports and academics equally. Known famously all over Hyderabad's cricketing circles for his commitment and involvement in cricket and other sports, Bro. K. M. Joseph firmly believed that a child's character can only develop if there is development in all areas and not just academics. He was responsible for the building up of teams in All Saints, Boys Town and other Montfort Schools where he served all these years. All Saints, my alma mater, for example has benefited much from Bro. Joseph's presence and has built a wonderful history of sports and especially cricket, throwing up names such as Azharuddin, Venkatapathy Raju, Noel David, Abdul Azeem, Sultan Saleem and many more. Bro. Joseph involved himself actively in the administration of the game as well.
The cricketers who gathered with Bro. Joseph

But let me get to the beginning of the story. It was in 1978 or so when I first came to Hyderabad from Kazipet where I had studied in another Montfort school, St. Gabriel's Boys High School. My first condition to my father was that my school needed to have a cricket ground and we did the rounds of a few schools including Hyderabad Public School. But I fell in love with All Saints, one of the last schools we visited, at first sight. The sight of some disciplined young cricketers playing cricket with utmost seriousness in our little ground, dressed in whites, inspired me no end. Thankfully for me the Principal was Bro. Vincent who was also my Principal at St. Gabriel's at Kazipet and my admission was through as was my brother Ram's.
VVS Laxman, the Primary School Principal, Coach, Me and Bro. Saajan Anthony, Principal of All Saints High School

Hyderabad was a different cup of tea from Kazipet and I was intimidated by the boys (the language which I did not was one big factor) and I never summoned courage to go for the cricket selections for three years. I was happy playing table tennis. Many an hour passed by though, when after a round of table tennis, I would watch the cricketers practice from the ledge on top of the ground. I wished I could be playing with them too. But we heard rumours - they said our team was very strong. We heard of names like Azhar, Milton Balm and others who were our seniors, the members of our formidable cricket team. But mostly, we heard about the Cricket Brother and we saw him down there with his wards. For some reason, I missed Bro. K.M. Joseph totally in those four years I spent at All Saints. He never taught my class and I only played cricket in the final year in 1982 when he was not around. I am not too sure if he was around when he celebrated a famous win over Hyderabad Public School when we got them out for 70 chasing our own low score of121! Our school sponsored a celebration - a movie (we chose Jaws of all pictures) and dinner (biryani at Mohini and lots of ice cream!). Ehtesham was our captain, D. Suresh. Masood, Srinivas Chakravarthy, Iftekhar, Abdul Rub, Sanjay Bhatnagar who pulled off two brilliant catches, Michael, my new ball partner were all part of that team.
In the Rector's room with the Rector, me, Iftekhar and the President of ASOBA

I met Bro. Joseph finally when I was in my Engineering College at Osmania. I was called to play for an All Saints Old Boys XI vs Rest of Hyderabad XI in a one off game in Lal Bahadur stadium. And what a match it was. All Saints led by Azhar, had Khalid Abdul Quayyum, Venkatapathy Raju, Arshad (Little Flower), Vidyuth, Chakravarthy, Ehtesham, Masood, me and a small little boy named Noel David as well. Rest of Hyderabad was led by Narasimha Rao and had everyone from Vivek Jaisimha, Manohar, Anil Mittal. Sunil Phillips and almost the entire Ranji team. We won with two balls to spare when Vidyuth spanked a wonderful cover drive off his older brother Vivek in the last over when we needed nine to win. I got a couple of wickets and hit Anil Mittal for nine runs in the penultimate over which helped our team's cause. That was a wonderful win and I probably have the picture somewhere.
A moment's silence for Bro. Britto

As the years went by I met Bro. Joseph a couple more times - once in Boys Town where we played another game against a visiting English side. But I seriously met him only a few years ago when I wrote my first novel 'The Men Within' which carried many shades of the memories of my stay in All Saints. I was apprehensive of how a cricket novel would be received and wanted a testimonial from an academic who also understood the game and what it could do to school boys. I traced Bro. Joseph in Nagpur and called him up. I told him I wrote a novel and would be glad if he could read it and let me have a comment for the blurb. He was very encouraging and asked me to send it over to him and I did. In a couple of weeks I got a wonderful quote from him which I was proud to put on the back cover of the book.

His quote which was on the back cover read - The author has amply demonstrated through the pages of this fast paced novel that cricket - or any sport - for that matter, is played not only with hands and feet but also with the mind and heart. The skill with which the author has combined cricketing lessons and personnel management techniques is highly commendable. A very useful and effective handbook for every aspiring cricketer and coach. A must have for every school library. 
Now as I read it, I still wonder anew how perfectly he captured all I wanted to say through that book. When we released the book in Hyderabad, Bro. Joseph was one of my special invitees and I was glad to present both him and Baig saab a copy of the book. I was glad that he made it to a remote book store in Marredpally for the event - with Denzil for company.
Bro. Joseph at my book launch at Akshara Bookstore(March 2007)

My interactions with Bro. Joseph increased from then on and I spoke to him often over the phone. He was transferred to Hyderabad and I met him again when we were scouting for grounds for Golconda High School. He was kind enough to accompany us - Sashi Sudigala, Prasad and me - to Gannavaram in Vijayawada to check out grounds there. We had a wonderful conversation on the way where he shared much of how he could see the potential in Azhar even in middle school. But Bro. Joseph in all his modesty probably told me only a small part of the story.

A hint of how modest he was can be gauged from this story. I asked him during that conversation what the hierarchy of the Montfort Brothers was in India and how they managed such a large estate. He said that there were Provincials for each zone of the country and they administered the estate. I was curious to know who the Provincial was for South and when I asked him he was smiling. I was shocked - and I am sure Bro must have laughed at my expression. 'It's you Brother?' I asked. That is how modest he is. Journeying with us and sipping chai with us, chatting with us, while being the big boss of the institutions. He never ever lets you feel that he is the boss.
On stage: Principal of Primary School, Noel David, Venkatapathy Raju, Bro. Saajan Anthony, Rector, Bro. K.M. Joseph, Dr. M.V. Sridhar, V.V.S. Laxman and President of ASOBA

I asked Brother during that visit a question - what was your biggest learning in all your years as a teacher. What Brother told me is something I will always remember especially when dealing with people. He said when a child makes a mistake or fails, we should never condemn the child. We must only condemn the act and show the child how to rectify it. That was wonderful learning for me. It was wonderful to see how the school left the bottom three feet of the primary classes walls free for children to scribble what they want in that Gannavaram school. In little things like these, in the orderly way that the trees had been planted by Brother almost two decades ago, in the joy in his face and those of the people he met, we could see the difference Brother Joseph makes (and has made) wherever he goes.
All cricketers on stage

I took him along to the shooting of Golconda High School when we shot in All Saints - or rather he took me. And it was one of the best evenings we spent when Bro. Joseph joined a whole bunch of cricketers when we all went and watched Golconda High School at Prasad's IMax and hooted like hooligans. Iftekhar, Noel, CV Anand, Clement Michael, Vijay, Sanjay, Anil Kak, and many more cricketers joined us as we watched the movie and had a long long discussion afterwards in the coffee shop - almost until they shut shop. No one wanted to go it seemed and Bro Joseph was there till the end. My biggest disappointment of that evening was not having one picture of that wonderful get together. But I do carry the memory of Bro. Joseph smiling and enjoying every moment as he sat with all his wards.

When I walked into All Saints a couple of days ago alongwith many other cricketers Venkatapathy Raju, Noel David, Dr. M.V. Sridhar, V.V.S. Laxman (Little Flowers), Yuvraj Singh, Iftekhar, Abu Backar and new cricketers like Ahmed Quadri and Akshat Reddy along with many others to felicitate Bro. Joseph, I recalled a picture from the Sportstar in the early 80s that I kept with me under my bed for many years. Of an Under 15 Hyderabad team which won the inaugural tournament in Madras. Hyderabad led by Hariprasad had Sridhar, Subba Rao Abhijit Chatterjee, Bhatnagar and had won the final against a formidable Tamil Nadu side that had L. Siva, W.V. Raman and others. Sitting in the midst of this team with the Cup was their manager Bro. Joseph.
Me sharing my two bits

Memories of the years flooded me as we sat in the Rector's room chatting with one another, making fun and recalling the old days. Bro. Joseph hugged us all warmly as we came and we finally made it to the stage. All cricketers accompanied Bro. Joseph after which he was invited along with Bro.Saajan Anthony, Laxman. Venkatapathy, Noel. The rest of us watched from the audience along with the whole school as everyone spoke in glowing terms about Bro. Joseph and their interactions with him - none more emphatically than our teacher Martina who gave a dramatic speech laced with lots of anecdotes. I was asked to speak a few words and I kept it a few words literally as the kids were sitting a bit too patiently for All Saints standards.  As expected Bro. Joseph in his speech exhorted the children to not merely excel at studies because that is only one part of their growth but to play as well and play for the country.

We wound off the day with a small cricket game in the grounds. True to his spirit Bro. Joseph quickly changed and went to open the innings. He held me by the hand and dragged me down to the ground saying 'when will we get this chance again?'. I stayed for a while and watched the game before leaving the ground, shooting backward glances as Bro. Joseph effortlessly cleared the ground with straight sixes. To be the legend of the Cricket Brother is no mean achievement and one knows why Bro. Joseph rose so high and so quickly up the order. As Assistant General he becomes one of the five, who are third in the Montfort Brothers hierarchy, who administer estates in over 33 countries. For someone who had the vision to see how important sports is to the development of  a child, who never shied away from responsibility as shown in his taking up the challenging manager's role for the first tournament in Madras and his immense love for children which is exemplified in all that he has done, Bro. Joseph truly is deserving of his elevation and more.
Some more from me as Bro. K.M. Joseph looks on from behind

For me he always passes the gold standard of greatness as I read in a quote somewhere - that a great man is one who makes one who is lesser than him feel like an equal. If there is one thing about Bro. Joseph that defines him, it is this quality, this humility, modesty and complete security of knowing his place in the scheme of things. We can talk to him with the comfort of being his friend, but we all will always respect him from the deepest parts of our souls. From Azhar down to the youngest child in the school.

Bro. Joseph and I had planned to write some stories for children based on certain ideas he had,, and that was the first thing he mentioned when I called to congratulate him. I told him that we should write those stories - he could send me the themes and I will develop the stories even now. And that I will. Meanwhile wishing Bro. Joseph a wonderful tenure in Rome and wishing him many more years of wonderful work, where he touches many more people's lives in the only way he does - with great love. Thank you Brother for everything and it shall be my honour to write those stories we had planned to! Also, I hope to always access your wisdom, guidance and affection which you had so generously given me.


Unknown said...

Harry,you are developing into a very articulate writer/Author.
Beautifully written,made me feel as if i was a participant.
Will look forward many more write ups from you pal.
best wishes,

Harimohan said...

Hey Ehtu, Thanks skipper. Always good to hear from you.

Unknown said...

Dear Hari,

Geetings. Today, again, I read your article.The more Iread, the more I admire your facility with the English language.
You must get to write those stories we spoke about.
I am waiting for your next book.

Brother K.M.

Harimohan said...

Thank you so much for your kind words Brother Joseph. You wouldn't know how proud we feel when the teachers we admire and respect have a good word for us (even when we are 45). I hope to get one book out this year and will certainly hope to have you at the launch. And Brother, it would be my greatest pleasure to write those stories for children we thought about. Let us discuss them when we meet. I must also tell you that it is such a pleasant surprise to see you post a comment on my blog. Thank you so much once again.

Ali Nawaz Juddy said...


I keep going back to your blog whenever I feel nostalgic (which is most of the time!!) but have never sent in my comments. But I had to this time since I went back in time and wanted to read about Bro. Joseph and found that he had responded to you here. What can I say about Bro. Joseph? I had the privilege to be taught by him (maths) in the 8th grade and play (actually practice) cricket with him. Although I was selected for the high school team, I never got a chance to play any matche, but that did not stop me from going to the practice sessions we used to have!! This was 1973 and we had Khalid as captain and the (late) Shahid Akbar and many more brilliant players and just being with them and practicing was an honor! And Bro. Joseph was always there, playing with us, encouraging us and yes, hitting those long sixes you mentioned here. Azhar, I remember was in the primary school team and once while the primary school team was playing a match at the Nizam College ground (Brother was watching this match) we , the high school team had a match against another team somewhere else. We lost badly and landed up at Nizam College ground just after lunch. I had never seen Bro. Joseph so upset when told that we had lost the match!! He kept saying, "how could you?" "Look at these kids (pointing to the primary school children, who were winning, by the way!) and see how good they are playing". That was one tough time! Oh, how I miss those days! Thanks for all the memories. May God give more power to your writing. Amen!!

Harimohan said...

Ali, thank you so much for your warm wishes. Bro Joseph was special and remains just the same - warm, affectionate and supportive. I can identify with your story - he was so passionate about the game, about us and our growth.

Nagendra said...

Hello ... myself Nagendra here ... I will be thankful to bro Jospeh life long bcz I got admission in St Gabriel’s ( Kazipet ) bcz of this brother ... if I wouldn’t get the admission I wouldn’t get a good education and I wouldn’t read this article ... thank u once again brother ... if ur not there am not a Gabriel student ... thank uuu ...

RED CHILLI said...

I am from Milton Balm's batch. Azhar was a year senior. There were other budding cricketers then. Percy, Nizam. In our annual sports day, Azhar would throw the ball into Rosary convent from our ground. He always won that event. Milton had the knack of despatching any ball to the same part of the boundary. I was a studious chap but played cricket in the colony. Those days we would play with a cricket ball at stake. Games would seldom end amicably. There would be a fight and the teams would disperse. So I asked Milton to let me play in a match between classes I guess. I failed both with bat and ball. I remember Milton saying, 'ye padne wale bachon ke bas ki baath nahi hai' I neither excelled in studies or sports finally. Just an average guy. I remember Bro Joseph too. Ours was the Bro Brittp, Bro Celestian era. I understand that Bro Britto is no more. So sad. All seem from some other era.

Harimohan said...

So good to hear from you Red Chilli. Yes, Milton is very much around and so is Azhar, who is now the President of the HCA. Percy is back in town after a stint in the Navy. I could connect you to him if you're keen. It was another era - and a brilliant one at that. You must have had loads of fun with that batch, just as we all did a couple of years later. In the end all that matters I think is how much fun we had...and it has nothing to do with whether we excelled in anything or not! Great hearing from you though. Very heartfelt post. Loved it.

Anonymous said...

Brother Joseph was also an awesome story teller in the classroom of Alistair McClean novels like "Where Eagles Dare". Didn't know the author or the title at the. time but looked forward teacher sick days when Brother Joseph would sub with story telling. Also chatting with him in his room in the front with other students after school. Such a dynamic presence! Love and respect Brother Joseph. And thanks for the article.

Remember watching Khalid (he hit the ball to the top of the church steeple on demand during a lunch match), Zahid, Azhar, and others during lunch breaks and after school being coached by Brother Joseph.

Harimohan said...

Thanks Anon. That is a wonderful piece of information about Brother Joseph being an awesome storyteller. I shared your comment with Brother and he was happy to hear that.