The Flag Green

From The Principal

Dear Kodai Community, Near and Far,

A big and warm KIS welcome to the latest addition of The Flag Green! We’re headed into the stretch run of the school year and we’ve had a semester replete with grand accomplishments, new initiatives, and compelling programs. The Flag Green articles herein share some of these school, student, and alumni happenings, along with a number of memorable events and moments that we’ve done our best to capture with photos and write-ups.

As an alumni of KIS (from a time way before the Internet, and even before the prevalence of TVs in Kodai) I’m often asked to share my perspective on the major differences between Then and Now. One change I’ve noticed in recent semesters relates to the relative busyness and speed of life in a contemporary boarding school, and what it means for the ability of KIS students to really get to know Kodaikanal. Whether it’s the academic demands of the IB curriculum, the ubiquity of technology in our lives, the frenetic bustle outside the school gates, or the abundance of choices available with regard to how students spend their free time, there is little doubt that the pace of living and learning has increased several fold from “the old days,” sometimes at the expense of a sense of connection with Kodai. Long and carefree days I recall spending exploring the environs of the town and the hills seem distant, and no longer within the realm of experience of recent Kodai students.

And yet, in new and often exciting ways, the reach and involvement of KIS students in the lives of those around them has never had more potential.

Whether it’s through work done through our Social and Environmental Experience Department (SEED); our initiative to help bring responsible recycling and waste management practices to schools, hotels, and other institutions in Kodai; or a new wave of student innovation and social entrepreneurism that is taking shape and yielding results (see Rehan Balsara’s article, below), I’m delighted to see what I sense is a renaissance of student understanding and involvement in the community. More than this, I believe that, as educators, our role is to help our students succeed in the classroom and in life by connecting them to authentic community issues, organizations, and people.

Recently, KIS Drama teacher Robert Wood took his IB Diploma Programme Theatre students (the first IBDP Theatre class in KIS history) to several local villages, including a Tamil repatriate community and a tribal Adivasi village. The purpose was simple: to listen to the villagers’ stories. To learn from their cultures and to hear their almost completely untold histories and cultural narratives. The visits were transformative for everyone.

At first the Adivasi were taken aback; they had certainly received visitors before, but seldom ones that had come only to listen and be taught. Initial reservations led to a sense of joy. In sharing one particular legend, the Adivasi children began to dance, weaving movement into narrative. “They were so excited to have this opportunity,” recalls Robert, “that they could have danced all night.”

Based on this experience, the KIS Theatre students are now developing a range of pieces: monologues and other forms of spoken word and performance to relate these stories, with insight and honesty, to the world. “Our students just want to go back,” Roberts says.

I’ll close by sharing some student work. Earlier this semester KIS held a day-long Writing Festival for all students and staff. The idea was to give students an opportunity to focus on writing in a relatively non-academic setting, and to interact with the campus, the town, and some of the wonderful people in Kodai, inside and outside the school. The staff and student writing that emerged from this experience was wonderful. I’m proud to share one such result: Grade 12 student Letay Silveira’s poem, “The Lake.”

The Lake
A circular flow of water like
Blood which personifies the lake.
This is no ordinary lake
For different trees are tucked into the lake like a blanket
Along with the aroma of surrealism.
The beauty of a body of water is the smiles and ethereal emotions brought to life
By curious and hyper tourists.
Amidst this beauty a lurking darkness emerges in the form of plastic.
It is humorous and peculiar how such happy faces can be the cause of destruction
Of what they supposedly love.

Letay Mikhaila Silveira

– Corey Stixrud, Principal

Photo Albums

We had a busy semester so far with many exciting events for our students and staff. We are happy to share with you some our favorite photographs.

Holi Celebration

Spirit Week

Field Day

Dance Competition



Class of 2008 Alumni Reunion

On the weekend of March 3rd the Class of 2008 held their 10 year anniversary reunion at Kodai School. More than 25 graduates of 2008 and their significant others joined us at KIS for a weekend packed with activities. Field Day was in full swing that Friday with the opening pep rally starting on the Covered Courts bright and early in the morning. Many alumni were still streaming in through the alumni office, but they managed to don their house colors and make it over to the rally to show off their competitive spirit.

Later in the afternoon, Mr. Ashwin Fernandes, the School’s Executive Administrative Manager, led the group in a tree planting ceremony on campus, in honor of the class of 2008.  Class members were also offered the opportunity to do a tree planting individually. The tree plantings are helping to beautify the campus and the ceremony has been a great way for KIS to honor graduates when they return.

The highlight of the evening was dinner at the Principal’s house. The class of 2008 shared a special meal of tandoori chicken, paneer skewers, chicken curry and malia kofta with the graduating class of 2018. It was like an intimate fine-dining experience at an outdoor cafe, only with seating for over 150 guests, stretched out on somber tables holding up yellow-carnation centerpieces all across the lawn, with a moonlit evening laying witness over the lake.

Several members of the class of 2008 spoke including Shafquat Azad, Rohit Pothukuchi, and Palle John Prashanth Prasadarao. They reminisced fondly of their times at Kodai, how quickly it had come and gone, and how no matter where they had gone in the world, Kodai held a special place in their heart. The evening was punctuated with rousing song performances by Mary Kurian, and student speakers Krishang Nadgauda and Samantha Mithra, all members of the Class of 2018.

Field Day continued on Saturday with many alumni joining the crowds to cheer on the races. The Class of 2008 even joined in the competition running a couple of teams of their own. Vendors selling watermelon, sliced mangoes, ice cream and all types of other refreshments decorated the Bendy sidelines. For lunch, a sumptuous biriyani feast with papadum and raita was served up on banana leaves to the throng of students, staff and alumni. People seated themselves around the track, the remaining crowd spilling on to the bleachers and other parts of the field.

After what most would agree was already an eventful day, more activity was in store for the evening. Students of all ages performed in a dance competition at Alumni Hall with several alumni stopping in to watch the show of talent marching across the stage for a couple of hours that evening. Most agreed, it set quite a different standard for an evening compared to a typical canteen night, that was for sure.

Sunday rolled around and it was time for many visiting alumni to pack up and get ready for the trip home. A few stopped in at the alumni office, browsed the store and picked up a few items to take home. KIS mugs, jackets, umbrellas and t-shirts were top on the list of purchases that day. They were sad to leave and many pledged to not let another ten years go by before another trip back.

We enjoyed having you on campus, thanks for coming and you’re welcome back any time!

– Stan Kuruvilla, Class of  ’93

National Science Festival

A group of students from KIS participated in the 7th NES National Science Festival that took place in Mumbai in late February. This year’s theme was “Science for All” and more than 30 international schools from all over India took part in this event. Our students had the opportunity to participate in 12 competitions. They made us proud as they won a total of seven prizes in various categories:

  • First place in Essay Writing (senior category), Arya Lunagaria
  • First place in Science Storytelling (senior category), Mohamadali Lakhani
  • Second place in Working Model (senior category), Mohamadali Lakhani and Arya Lunagaria
  • Second in Scientific Art and Drawing (junior category), Anika Tavethia
  • Second place in Skit (junior category), Rehan Sahu, Siddharth Chamoli, Ivan Kurian, Dharma Arun and Nivedita Bosman
  • Third place in Science Fiction Writing (junior category), Ivan Kurian
  • Third place in JAM (Just A Minute) (junior category), Siddharth Chamoli

After the competition, three of our students also participated in the designing of a laboratory, which they truly enjoyed.

Participating in competitions away from Kodaikanal is an opportunity for our students to discover a new place and build even stronger relationships with their classmates. This time was no different, our students described the trip as an amazing experience, which was enriching not only in term of the learning opportunities they had throughout the competition but also by the opportunity to explore Mumbai and go places they will remember for a long time.

– Kailash Tahiliani, Physics Teacher

A Door Opens for KIS Students at the 2018 Festival of Choirs

“One door closes, another door opens” was the theme of this year’s Festival of Choirs, hosted by The American International School of Muscat (TAISM). Eight KIS students from grades 9-12 explored this theme both before and during the festival, through pieces written by the guest composer Kyle Pederson. Pedersen wrote three songs which weaved the concepts of doors, knocking, opportunity, and Arabic words such as samidun (steadfast) in a celebration of the 15th anniversary of the festival. The festival choir, composed of 157 students from 16 schools representing 38 different nationalities, sang the world-premiere of the songs in Muscat on March 17th, 2018. Sharon Lukos (grade 12) reflected upon the experience as one that “indeed opened a new door filled with opportunities. The exposure got was incomparable. The knowledge gained was profound and the memories made are unforgettable.”


The performance was held at the Bosch Center for the Performing Arts, which was named after KIS alumni Dr. Donald and Eloise Bosch. Their son David, also a KIS alumnus, met the group at TAISM and briefed the group about his life and experience at KIS.

The festival was conducted by Dr. Nicole Lamartine of the University of Wyoming, a highly sought-after clinician for choral festivals. In addition to the pieces composed by Pederson, Lamartine selected 5 other challenging pieces to be performed, including a musical chant setting of an excerpt of Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali, as well as a piece called “Dravidian Dithyramb.”  Student Louis Gomes, grade 11, spoke of how the music really “had an impact on [him.]” He reflected, “performing the music together really did broaden my concept of music being a universal language, which was another huge building block in my musicianship.”

In addition to over 15 hours of rigorous rehearsal in just 2 days, the festival participants also had the chance to compete in friendly challenges and games, socialize with host families and new friends, and learn more about voice-care and choral technique. KIS students also made us proud by being selected as finalists for the solos and participating in a Q&A session with the composer. 10th grader Stuti Jerald states that “lessons and concepts learned at the festival have changed me as a person and are sure to travel with me wherever I go.”

TAISM beautifully summarizes that the festival “helps students who have never sung together arrive with a deep purpose and common goal. It nurtures the necessity of intimacy, celebrating the skill and risk taking that singing requires. In addition, it provides opportunity for reflection and a united focus.  Simply put, music is the tool we use to connect with one another and our audience as fellow human beings. And in just two days, that bond is created and never forgotten.”

Support these talented singers by watching the full concert video below!

– Tianna Smith, Choir Director


Financial Literacy and Inclusion – Going from Strength to Strength at KIS!


The KIS campus was buzzing with excitement on Saturday, February 10th, as this was the day that Kodaikanal’s largest ever Financial Literacy and Inclusion program took place. A record two hundred KIS staff and members of the local community enthusiastically participated in Tamil and English workshops throughout the day!

During my volunteer work and the Financial Inclusion support sessions held by me in Kodaikanal each Saturday, I found that many members of our community have questions and concerns such as: Do I have a Financial Plan appropriate for my life stage? Do I have contingency funds to meet life’s emergencies? How can I save on taxes? Am I appropriately insured? Have I correctly invested my savings for retirement? I therefore structured informative Workshops covering these areas and basic financial investments, in a simple and easily understood manner.


I was also successful in fundraising for complete sponsorship so the Workshops were conducted at no cost to our school or the participants. I would like to thank our Principal, Mr. Corey Stixrud, for always encouraging my initiative, and Commander AJL Fernandes and Mr. Varghese for their support and allowing use of the school auditoriums for these programs.

I am committed to ensuring that my Financial Literacy and Inclusion initiative creates a lasting impact on the financial future of our community in the town of Kodaikanal!

– Rehan Balsara, Grade 11

“Breezy” Romulus Whitaker (KIS ’60) Lands Padma Shri for his Life’s Work

The Indian Government honored a fellow-Kodai School graduate Romulus Whitaker with a Padma Shri, one of the country’s highest civilian awards, for his nearly six decade-long career as a conservationist. Rom or “Breezy” as he is lovingly known among his contemporaries, has had a lifelong interest in reptiles, which he has pursued around the world, from his birthplace in New York to various parts of India, including, Agumbe, the Andoman and Nicobar Islands, Kodaikanal, Mumbai and finally, his home in Chengalpattu, just outside of Chennai.


Even as a young boy of four growing up in Garden City, New York, Breezy was fascinated by snakes. As Rom explains it, it was no different to him from how other kids are smitten by tops or marbles, or cars or trains. He liked to bring home various catches, including, the garter and milk snake varieties, common to the area in the suburb where he spent his early years. Rom says his mother encouraged his interest, buying him books on the subject and taking him to the New York Natural History Museum during their time in the United States.

Before long, the family to Mumbai, India, where his step-father was doing work in the color film-processing industry connected with Bollywood. And shortly thereafter, Rom and his sister, Gail, began attending Kodaikanal International School in Tamil Nadu.

Rom’s time in Kodaikanal only spurred his childhood interest. On weekends, he would head for Tope, Rat Tail or some other far-flung spot, getting away from the routine of campus life. He was known for bringing back a range of fauna from his hiking treks in the hills. Stories of Rom’s pets include a parrot he would bring to the dining hall for tea and a python which lived under his bed in the dorm, where he stayed.

Rom’s interest in wildlife continued to propel him, taking him back to the United States where among other things, he worked at the Miami Serpentarium in Florida alongside legendary snakeman, William Haast, learning from the man Rom affectionately referred to as the “guru.” Rom returned to India a few years later and established a small snake park, which would grow and become established in Guindy as the Chennai Snake Park, the first of its kind in India. Rom continued his efforts over the next few years extending them to the conservation of various species of crocodiles, culminating in the set-up of the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre for Herpetology (the “Crocodile Bank”), a reptile zoo and herpetology research station just outside of Chennai.

Through his leadership and work on crocodiles and turtles at the Crocodile Bank, Rom would go onto establish the Anodman and Nicobar Environment Team, a research station focused on environmental sustainability in the famous Indian archipelago located in the Bay of Bengal; and then, the Agumbe Rainforest Research Station, a field-based conservation effort in the Agumbe Reserved Forest in the central Western Ghats. Over the years, Rom has also been known for his work on the King Cobra as well as the Gharial, a fish-eating crocodile now considered to be a critically engendered species. Rom’s work has won him many accolades including an Emmy award for his critically acclaimed documentary about the Kind Cobra, produced for the National Geographic Channel’s Explorer program, entitled The King and I.

Rom jokingly refers to himself as a “rabid hippie conservationist,” and confidently reassures his audience that it is entirely a figment of their imagination. This was in a TEDIndia presentation back in 2009. After Rom’s talk covering the critical juncture of conservation efforts in India, he was asked, how he is so comfortable around what makes most people scared. He replied:

I take the sort of humble approach, I guess you could say. I don’t say that snakes are huggable exactly. It’s not like the teddy bear.… there is an innocence in these animals. And when the average person looks at a cobra going “Ssssss!” like that, they say, “My god, look at that angry, dangerous creature.” I look at it as a creature who is totally frightened of something so dangerous as a human being. And that is the truth. And that’s what I try to get out.

Rom, thank you for opening us to a new perspective. We can all be grateful for your special attitude and your devotion to the conservation of these creatures and their habitats in India.

– Stan Kuruvilla , Class of  ’93


Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: