Dr Ahmed Mohiuddin Siddiqui for BeyondHeadlines
The Coronavirus is testing leadership qualities, humanity and human values across the world. A good leader who takes wise and timely decisions, draws up and executes plans with clinical precision in a crisis can be known by no other name but Dr. P C Thomas, Founder Principal of India’s prestigious Good Shepherd International School (GSIS) nestled in the eye-popping and beautifully stunning hill station in Ooty.
Dr P C Thomas shepherded the hundreds of students of GSIS to their homes safely. The Tamil Nadu government announced the closure of schools to contain Coronavirus. While some of the international schools were in a Hamletian dilemma of to be or not to be – to declare holidays or not, Dr. Thomas read the situation swiftly, engaged the think tank of the school – Mrs. Elsamma Thomas, Vice President, Mrs. Sheila Alexander, Senior Vice Principal (academics), Mrs Julie Pradheesh, Vice Principal and Brigadier Suresh Kumar, Vice Principal (administration) who fought many battles before, decided to fight the Corona War and announced the closure of the school.
Communication is power. Dr. Thomas marshaled his troops well to communicate with parents through email. The timing was significant. It was just a day before the energetic Collector of Nilgiris, Ms. J Innocent Divya announced lockdown in Ooty to stop spread of Coronavirus in Ooty. The smart collector’s decision saved many lives. Hotels were asked not to take in any new tourists. They were shut down. More about Innocent Divya will need another column from me.
Dr. Thomas’ out of the box thinking allowed parents to swing into action to get their children home before the Ooty lockdown and the stoppage of airlines and other forms of transport. His enamoured students vouch for his smart thinking to surmount challenges easily.
Whether it is Abdul Malik or Teerth Agarwal, Class X students, they are inspired by his leadership skills in trying circumstances. Abdul Malik considered as ‘fiercely loyal’ to GSIS paid encomiums to Dr. Thomas thus: ‘Our 77-year young Principal Dr. P C Thomas has rubbed on to us — his passion to excel at all times including a crisis. Quoting H. G Wells, Abdul Malik reminded that ‘No passion in the world is equal to alter someone else’s draft’. Malik swelled with pride and admiration when he disclosed that ‘but for PC Sir (as Dr. Tomas is fondly called by his students) the students would have been stranded either at school or midway through the journey to reach homes.’ Talking about GSIS’ commitment to health and safety, Malik felt relieved that GSIS had rightly asked students not to join the school after winter vacation without taking influenza vaccine. He thinks that this thoughtful move has boosted the students’ immunity to fight the virus. Talking about the High School Coordinator Mr. Kalyan Ram, Malik admiring remarked that since he is ‘Ram’ he thinks about the ‘Kalyan’ (welfare) of his students all the time, checking on students even after the school hours.
Malik was grateful to his uncle S Manzoor Hussain, a dashing policeman, for picking him up from school in a matter of hours in the absence of his parents who are beyond the shores of India. Malik’s intuitive thinking to call his parents to ask for travel arrangements for his best friend Teerth Agarwal also reflects the brotherhood and a sense of cooperation instilled by Dr. P C Thomas. Teerth was overjoyed to be in Malik’s witty and safe company from Ooty to Coimbatore Airport before proceeding to his city of gardens destination – Bengaluru.
I could not agree more with Malik’s observation that Dr P C Thomas is altering someone else’s drafts (students). When students join GSIS, they are like rough drafts where Dr. Thomas and his efficient team chisel and polish them into finished products of international value. Among GSIS’ alumni count reputed doctors, scientists, engineers, information technology experts who are making our country proud in the West too. The state-of-the-art GSIS is India’s number one school in infrastructure and number fourth in faculty. The school has a 3D Design studio, well-equipped libraries, sciences and computer labs apart from huge grounds in the sprawling 188 hectare campus. A brand new swanky 4 lakh sq.ft construction with cubicle-hostel, hospital and other facilities is almost ready for inauguration.
Dr. Thomas’ biography An Event Called Life gives glimpses of his extraordinary vision from an early age. He decided to start an international school imparting quality education when he was just a teenager! His love and regard for his mother and the moment after his exams when he reached his home on her demise will make you cry when you read the biography. You should dream for dreams do come true if you have a vision and passion. Now, Dr. P C Thomas is busy giving wings to his students’ imagination! Kottayam – a small town in Kerala has produced many stalwarts and one can say that the tallest among them is Dr P C Thomas. He turns out to be a good samaritan during the Coronavirus crisis.