I have been hunting for information about the gentleman and what I have obtained is grossly inadequate but entirely complimentary. To anyone I turn, all that I am able to glean about this life is his abiding interest in cars and the single malt whiskey club. It would have been sufficient material for PG Wodehouse to write a seriously witty piece. I possess no such talent. Surely there was more to the man than his frequent run-ins with Badal on these mails. Badal could not resist twisting his tail and Billy never failed to honour the bait. Those exchanges were hilarious and I had to often urge Badal to tone it down a bit lest it got out of hand. Badal was always in control and he knew exactly where to poke or provoke.
Billy, the son of an army officer, possessed all the bearings of a person from the services. It was the way he tied his turban, neat, clean and with accentuated folds that resulted in a pointed sharp turban unlike the sloppy placement that resembled a hot water bottle on the skull. His Sunday suit was always well ironed and his double-breast blazer made him always look impeccable. He was always well turned out. He learnt that possibly from his father. Billy was always in the lead when it came to issues, never the one to be left behind and Sukhinder will remember those encounters only too well. I witnessed one such meeting but I am told that these were a regular between the two them. Often the result was a stand off and no one the decided winner but within minutes they would be discussing the next drinking session and the previous exchange had been set aside as idle banter, which it often was!
My little impressions are vague and very generalised but the Billy I recall was feisty, a good friend and most of all generous. Is there more than any one can add on this day in memory of a good man. I will be grateful for any input.
May Billy rest in peace.
Good Evening to you.
It’s late at night and I shiver with excitement ( the crispness of November adds a zest of life running through my body..)sitting on my bed in the Sixth Form cubicle writing to you..
It’s surely is the last day of the year or sooner than later it is.. I stare out at the glow of the First Flat and through the Tara Devi gap I see lights twinkling…
It’s quiet in the dorms as lights out happened many hours ago; Lefroy House Master completed his rounds seeing us all tucked in. I should be in cloud cuckoo land but the radium in my watch casts a green glow under the quilt and I struggle to sit up and grab pen and paper..
Another nine months went rolling by Sir. I am now an inch taller and all my gym shoes are holed. My tie is hanging on the peg; last untied was never. The loop slips past my head and I tighten it; that’s at least 60 seconds of effort saved for 60 seconds of extra sleep..
I think back hard on the days that went; yes coming full circle from winter kit past summer kit to winter kit again. It’s time to go down to the plains and the maddening crowds; the trains and buses and lanes and by lanes. Last Saturday’s movie at Irwin Hall was aptly named “ Home from the Hills”… I must confess Sir, with exams all over, my steel trunk packed locked and sealed; loaded on the truck must be halfway to Calcutta ! …Yes Sir I must admit our gang was out about town and we saw two movies; one at Regal the Two to Five Dr Zhivago ( at interval the hall played The Stones Jumpin’ Jack Flash); we then ran back to School for Supper and caught the movie in the Irwin Hall; we panted past Sudden Death and screamed through the Mall to see the Ten to One with a new phenomenon called Rajesh Khanna in “ Aradhana”… later we crept back via Knollswood on the short cut so sure footed back to School. Three films later a bloody splitting headache I must confess to.
I must confess again for the record I was on your walnut tree; no walnuts but orange coloured hands and my knees bruised.
My Grandma returned to Delhi after bathing and adorning new clothes to the Gods at Kali Bari, Prospect Hill and Jakoo… she was my local Guardian since I was five in Linlithgow Sir; you granted me “ sleeping out” once a month so I could trundle up to see her… my Father had an account set up for me at Gainda Mull… I could buy goodies like fruit gums, fruitella and condensed milk for five rupees at every town leave and sign for the good stuff … that’s where I learnt how to sign my name with great flourish..
On other weekends my Grandma came down to see me; we we were seen picnicking at Council Rock; I was barely five. When she left in October the last four weeks were rather lonely but Jai Singh the local baker at J.B. Mangaram always met me at the school gate with a freshly baked muffin! He truly was a great saviour those last four weeks Sir..
The twinkling lights at the gap suddenly fade and are gone.. it’s School Party to Calcutta.. it’s always been the Kalka-Howrah Mail Sir..
But a certain yearning becomes an ache .. a confused ache. I strain to understand what my body is saying… on one end it’s the pull towards my parents in Calcutta … after nine months.
There is a certain steadfastness, a magnet pull beneath the steel bed, the voices of all the guys on the first flat, the Irwin Hall and in unison in the Holy Trinity Chapel of ours…
It’s the next day Sir; a new day.
It’s time to leave with my bedding roll and attaché case Sir.
I am writing to let you know, I am leaving…A final Goodbye Sir.
But I left a part of my soul, my strength ..in Bishop Cotton School.
Class of 1970
It’s an enviable view that Vijay Stokes has from his family home, Harmony Hall. It crests his very own hill in Kotgarh, 3 hours north-east of Shimla, and on a clear day he can see snow-capped Himalayan peaks ring the horizon while the Sutlej river snakes through the valley below. Pickaxe in hand, and dressed in his customary Pahari kurta and waistcoat, the 78-year-old is reworking an experiment his grandfather, Samuel Stokes, had begun nearly a century before him. And it has to do with an apple which was as much [continue reading…]