All of us have gone through the intimidating process of stepping into a school for the first time. But 15-year-old Ava Mistry, currently in Class X, says that for her, it felt like coming home. Ava represents the fourth generation of her family to study at the JB Vachha (JBV) School for Parsi Girls and the CJ Primary and Infant School, which will mark its hundredth year of existence on June 24, 2024.

Like Ava, her mother, grandparents, and even her great-grandparents all share a connection to JBV, having attended the institution in their own time. As the school approaches its centennial year celebration, Ava, her mother Diana Mistry, 44, and grandmother Nellie Gandhi, 72, reflect on their cherished memories of the school and share why it holds such a special place in their hearts. They also highlight the remarkable journey the school has undertaken since their own school days.

Nellie Gandhi and her daughter Diana Mistry have studied at JB Vachha, and the tradition is now taken forward by Mistry’s daughter, Ava. Pics/Sameer Markande

The JB Vachha School for Parsi girls stands as one of the oldest girls’ schools in the city. Founded on June 24, 1924, under the auspices of the Parsi Central Association Co-operative Housing Society Limited, Parsi Colony, Dadar, the school initially had just 25 students. Fast forward to the academic year 2023-24, and it proudly boasts an enrollment of 2,044.

Speaking with mid-day, Gandhi, who passed from JBV in 1968, emphasises that even as the school has embraced modernised methods and contemporary learning approaches, the legacy still endures. “We are what we are because of the school. Four generations from my family have attended JVB. In older times, boys were allowed up to Class IV. So my parents, me and my husband attended the school. I have heard stories from my mother, saw it myself and then through my daughter.  Now, I hear them from my granddaughter,” recalls Gandhi, who taught at HR College, Churchgate for 32 years, heading the institute’s English and French departments, and steering the junior college.

The school was established in 1924 with just 25 students, and now has over 2,000

Mistry, on the other hand, fondly remembers her teachers, some of whom had also taught her mother. They would frequently recount her mother’s academic accomplishments, which filled her with pride. “It had its merits in some ways, but had its drawbacks in others. My mother was a top ranker. Some of her teachers taught me too, and they all remembered her. Just as they lauded my mother for her academic accomplishments, they also occasionally made comparisons between hers and mine,” Mistry chuckles.

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“When my daughter joined the school, she was welcomed with such warmth that it felt like she was at home. The school’s proximity to my residence was a significant advantage. Besides enrolling my daughter in JBV gave us a strong sense of security, safety and comfort, as we are familiar with the staff and management, having experienced the same environment ourselves. For instance, the current principal of the school was my teacher. Of course, many things have evolved, including the curriculum, but the unwavering support we received from the staff and the school’s essence remain the same,” she adds.

For over eight decades, or as far back as anyone can recall, the school’s houses are named after Persian princes of yore: Shernaaz, Faranakh, Purandokth 
and Godafarid. “The houses bore the same names even during my grandmother’s time, back in the 1930s or 1940s. Although I can’t quite recall why they were named this way or what they symbolise, we continue to uphold the tradition with the same enthusiasm and fight for them with the same fervour. My mother belonged to Faranakh house, I was in Purandokth, and my daughter proudly represents Godafarid,” says the HR professional.

The school is all set to celebrate its centennial year through a series of programmes spread throughout the year. One of them, Memories—Yaadein, was the ex-students onOctober 21.

Food and extra-curricular activities, including cooking lessons, go hand in hand in the school’s focus towards personality development

“The fact that many alumni, like me, have pursued creative careers is a testament to the creative freedom we enjoyed at the school.  My school has given me so much; it has shaped me into the person I am today. Moreover, it blessed me with my closest friends; indeed, my dearest friends to this day are the ones from school. It was conveniently located just five minutes away from home, and I would even go home for lunch. Although it was a small school, it meticulously attended to every aspect of our academic lives. I still remember all my teachers vividly,” says actress and model Nauheed Cyrusi.

She harks back to 1998-99, when she finished school. “At that time, convent schools were all the rage, and people often boasted about their schools. We took pride in being an all-girls school; we had some of the prettiest girls, and we still do!” The school began under the leadership of Goolan Bulsara, while the current principal, Banoo Makoojina, is the tenth principal in the school’s history. The school was envisioned and established by the late Mancherji Edulji Joshi in 1924.

Banoo Makoojina, the tenth principal, first came to the school as a student

“The School was established during the time of British India with 25 young girls. My association with this historic institution started as a four-year-old student. I nervously entered the school, only to be lovingly nurtured by the stalwarts of yesteryears. My association with the school strengthened when I happily joined as a teacher in 1989. Later, I had the good fortune of being appointed as the principal in 2005. In its endeavour to provide a richer curriculum the school sought affiliation with the CISCE Board (ICSE Curriculum) in May 2020, after facing great challenges; the transition being in the COVID-19 period.”

She adds that the school now mentors over 2,000 students and was ranked as the fourth Best Vintage Girls School in Mumbai, according to the 2023 rankings of the Education World, a magazine that rates vintage educational instititions annually.  

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