Once you venture up La Pique Hill, it's hard to miss the tamarind tree, standing majestically at the foot of the Naparima Girls' High School, where it was planted in 1917 by Amelia Doon-Adolphus, five years after the school was built.Under its shady branches, the lives of many students, past and present, have been shaped and characterised.
It is no wonder then, that when Naparima Girls decided to publish a collection of poems, writings and art pieces in commemoration of its centenary celebrations, that the Tamarind Tree Blossoms was the name chosen to encapsulate the many achievements of its students.The Blossoms, in the title, refers to members of the Alumnae Association, who can be found across the globe in all spheres of life.
The book was launched on October 8 on the school's compound, and the event was attended by past students, Her Excellency Dr Jean Ramjohn-Richards, Zalayhar Hassanali, minister of Public Administration Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, Dr Jennifer Yamin-Ali, Justice Gladys Gafoor and former San Fernando West MP Diane Seukeran. The collection, which is on sale, reflects the memories of past students, among them Angela Cropper of the Cropper Foundation, attorney Gillian Lucky, author Rambai Espinet, Dr Clara Foueault, Lara Quentrall-Thomas, Shakuntala Harracksingh and Dr Patricia Mohammed.
Seepersad-Bachan recalled her memories of the tree, where some students were sent as a form of discipline, where classes were held when the classrooms became too warm, where students became friends and most importantly, where they enjoyed cool and relaxing lunch breaks when catching up with gossip and old talk."This tree grew over the years, almost in tandem with the way in which the school grew, and expanded and built a rich history filled with students from all walks of life who learned and grew and achieved together. That my friends, is a very powerful symbol, indeed, and it is what makes it an iconic historical symbol," Seepersad-Bachan commented.
Chairman of the book committee and president of the alumnae, Mintee Ishmael, said the book was the brainchild of the first local principal of Naparima Girls' High School, the late Beulah Meghu, to whom tribute was paid."Miss Meghu had intimated to me that the Alumnae should compile a book of past students' writings in order to highlight their achievements."As we embarked on celebrating the centenary of the school, the executive of the NGHS Alumnae Association decided that it would be most appropriate to produce the book and make Miss Meghu's dream a reality," Ishmael enunciated.
She said the name was arrived at during their deliberations on how meaningful the tamarind tree was to students, many of whom now hold prestigious and influential positions in various disciplines all over the world."Right here in Trinidad, we can boast of having produced two first ladies of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, one of whom, Zalayhar Hassanali, together with another past student, Justice Gladys Gafoor, have recently received the nation's highest award, the Order of Trinidad and Tobago. They have made us indeed extremely proud," she added.
Dr Ramjohn Richards, in her remarks, said while the spoken word was powerful and beyond doubt, very important, "sadly, it can be forgotten, lost to the hearer who received it with gladness, but who, over time, does not retain what was heard."The written word, however, stands as a living monument, a tangible point of reference to which one may return, from time to time, as the need arises," she expressed.She said the Tamarind Tree will serve to some extent, "as a history of this great institution of learning and as a compass to current and future students. In addition, as we bring this publication to the notice outside the Naps sorority, it will speak to the nation and even persons beyond, of the legacy of excellence that this school has adopted from its inception."
Seepersad-Bachan agreed that the Tamarind Tree Blossoms must serve as more than just a reflection of the past, but must stand as a model for the beginnings of the future."Remember, we stand here today representing the future that students of the past dreamed about. We must accept the responsibility for ensuring that we continue giving life to the future that NGHS has prepared all of us for."It is therefore for us to do our school proud, our city proud and our nation proud. In fact, I hope that this might even motivate us in San Fernando to return to some of the old values that we treasured in the years past."