In 1958, when Y.G. Rajalakshmi Parthasarathy wanted to get her second son some Indian/Hindu education, she found that Chennai only had missionary schools "which did not let children even celebrate Ganesh puja". So she, with friends from the Nungambakkam Ladies Recreation Club, set up Bala Bhavan, a thatched-roof school that imparted students "Hindu values". This went on to become the Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan which today has three branches in Chennai. Of these, the PSBB Senior Secondary School is the most sought-after. Most admissions happen at the KG level; students invariably continue up to Class 12. Initially affiliated to the state board, PSBB shifted loyalties to CBSE in the ’80s. On the surface, the senior secondary school at Nungambakkam—with its cramped atmosphere, a playground five minutes away and a bunk-shop for a canteen—hardly comes across as Chennai’s most wanted school but "appearances are deceptive", as Harish Anand, a proud Class 12 PSBBian puts it. For want of space, students who study up to Class 8 at the Thirumalai Pillai Road branch move over to the Nungambakkam school from Class 9 onwards. There are 484 students at this higher level, otherwise there are 45 students per class.
"We do stress academic achievement but we focus on all-round personality development," says YGP, as the dean-director of psbb schools is also known. Following the CBSE model, there are no ranks awarded, only grades; and the students learn to appreciate slokas, Bharatanatyam, Carnatic music, tai chi and pranayam. Appropriately, the theme of last year’s annual day was Vedic India. Students greet their teacher with a ‘Gurubhyo Namaha’ and in turn are blessed with a ‘Sukhi Bhava’.
Seventy per cent of PSBB’s teachers have been parents of one-time students. "I introduced the concept of parent centres and absorbed many parents as teachers. Many go on to get their BEds," says YGP. Some are even sent abroad for training. Teaching here is indeed a pleasure, as most teachers testify.