Category Archives: Spot Light

New author on the block (OC Surinder S Ahluwalia)

Hi Folks,
I have now become a published author, though I have taken the route of self-publishing on Amazon Kindle (less hassles than with publishers). My novel can be purchased for a paltry Rs. 200 in India or for USD 2.99 in the US. It is also available in most countries of the world at equivalent local currency.

The book is titled, “Retribution by Proxy,” and can be searched by my name, Surinder S. Ahluwalia or by title. The cover you will see on the web page, is an artist’s version of a group photo that plays a pivotal role in the story. It has an interesting storyline, an idea about which, can be had by reading the synopsis on the web page. There is no fancy language – in fact it has been written in everyday language. It is a story of two school time friends in their early twenties, an engineer and an aspiring private detective, who are confronted and affected by the consequences of a crime that was committed more than 25 years earlier, when the British still ruled India.

Here’s the link:  

https://www.amazon.com/RETRIBUTION-PROXY-Surinder-S-Ahluwalia-ebook/dp/B01KHC94QQ#nav-subnav

Do give it a read, and if you find it interesting, please give your rating and comments via Kindle. Needless to say, I am a first time author, and will need a lot of encouragement accompanied by good and positive publicity to attract buyers.

Happy Reading,

Surinder S. Ahluwalia

BCS sets an example

Rainwater harvest by Northwest: How this school in Shimla has emerged as an example for other residential schools.

Bishop Cotton School in Shimla tides over water scarcity by harvesting rainwater, setting an example for other residential schools located in hilly regions.

bcs_water_harvesting_1Shimla school goes from students bathing every other day to swimming daily!

Mathew Jacob, estate supervisor at Bishop Cotton School (BCS) in Shimla, remembers when he took his students walking in single file to the nearby stream to wash and bathe every other day in the summers. Shimla is a city blessed with very high precipitation but a poor distribution network which results in water scarcity in the summers. Established in Shimla 1859, the famous boys’ residential school with illustrious alumni including author Ruskin Bond, industrialist Ratan Tata and golfer Jeev Milkha Singh to name a few, was also victim to this crisis.

Rising strength of the students and staff continued to burden the already stressed supply but the school managed by hiring water tankers and providing only short supplies to residents. For Jacob, it was a situation that could be easily handled. “I belong to Kerala where we have traditionally been harvesting rainwater in wells and ponds. At a household level, we hang a muslin cloth over four sticks and the rainwater passing through the cloth is collected in a pot to be used for drinking and cooking,” he says.

Rainwater is first made to go through a mesh which stops the big particles from the rooftop
Rainwater is first made to go through a mesh which stops the big particles from the rooftop
The concept of rainwater harvesting is simple but to implement this at an institutional level, technical know-how especially about filtration and plumbing systems was required. Help came in 1992 from the Council for Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technology (CAPART), which was running a programme on rainwater harvesting for institutes. Two storage tanks were dug and lined with polythene to collect rainwater from rooftops.

Though the programme ran only for two years, it introduced the school management to the basics of the required set up. The storage tanks were fortified with cement and new structures were built with links to the rooftops. Already slanting roofs of the buildings in the hills easily fit into the scheme of things. By the year 2000, rainwater was also being used for flushing in the washrooms and bathing. The school also got four borewells of which two are still functional. The water falling on around 1350 square metre of rooftops is collected at different locations.

bcs_water_harvesting_2

The rainwater is led through a mesh which stops pollen, pine needles and monkey droppings from going into the filtration chambers, which are mainly lined with pebbles, coarse sand and charcoal. The filtered water is then sent to the storage tanks from where it is either pumped to the overhead tanks for use in the toilets and kitchen or for gardening. The water from the storage tanks is also sent to the central filtration plant before its use for drinking and cooking.

“When I joined here 22 years ago, we had a storage capacity of just 14,000 litres. Today, there are four storage tanks with a capacity of around 7 lakh litres. Of this, rainwater makes up around 3 lakh litres,” Jacob says. The daily water demand of the school is around 1 lakh litres of which 60 percent is met by the Municipal Corporation. “During lean months, this supply further reduces but we have enough water for the residents, and water tankers are not required,” says Rabinder Kaul, former incharge of the school’s Nature Club.

The experience also inspired the school to look for natural solutions to a challenging situation. In April 2006, the swimming pool had no water due to a supply problem from the Municipal Corporation. The management decided to hire 24 water tankers at cost of Rs 60,000 to fill the pool as swimming classes were getting delayed but before that could happen, clouds gathered and the management changed its mind. “Rainwater flowing out through the open drains was diverted towards the pool downhill. It was made to pass through a steel tank lined with filter media. By next morning, the pool was filled to its maximum capacity of around 2 lakh litres without any expense,” Jacob explains.

The school spent around Rs 45 lakh on its water set up which includes the centralised water filtration plant costing Rs 35 lakh. “Though rainwater is usually clean, we were not sure about the supply from the Municipal Corporation. Besides, we also use groundwater through borewells which requires filtration,” Jacob says. BCS has emerged as an example worth emulating especially for residential schools in the hills which are bound to have high water demand but low supply.

Originally published on India Water Portal’s blog. Republished here with permission.

http://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/shimla-school-goes-students-bathing-every-other-day-swimming-daily

Spotlight story : Humayun Khan [Rivaz 1941-1947]

imageHumayun Khan was born in 1932 to a Pashto-Hindko speaking family in Abbottabad, Hazara Division in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP, now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). His father was a District and Sessions Judge at the judicial commissioner’s court in NWFP, which is now known as the Peshawar High Court, and his mother was a homemaker. Mr. Khan’s paternal family is from the Yousafzai Clan, hailing from the village of Amazogray in Mardan. They were landlords with ownership of over two hundred acres of lands in the village that depended on wells and rainwater irrigation systems for harvesting wheat. Mr. Khan’s maternal ancestors hail from Dera Ismail Khan and Peshawar. They were traders engaged in businesses with merchants from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

Mr. Khan spent his early years of upbringing in Peshawar with two elder brothers and two younger sisters, and at age seven, he was sent to boarding school at Murree where he studied for two years. In 1941, he was enrolled at the Bishop Cotton School in Shimla where he studied until Partition. Recalling life at the boarding school, Mr. Khan says that there were about two hundred boys from all faiths and backgrounds. “It was considered one of the best public schools. There was a great emphasis on teachings of morals and ethics like fair-play, being truthful, and self-sufficiency. I was always a good student and used to be first in the class,” recounts Mr. Khan. He was also an avid cricket player and competed on the school’s team. “We’d study in school for nine months out of the year and then be with our families. There was no such thing as discrimination in our school. We were never looked upon each other as anything but fellow classmates,” Mr. Khan recalls.

Speaking of his experiences at home during the holidays, Mr. Khan mentions that he enjoyed the traditional Peshawari way of life, including the food bazaars and the hujra (courtyard). “It used to be a romantic life. We would dine at my grandmother’s house, where she used to have these stoves on the ground. She would sit on a low stool all day and cook for the entire family. We never used knives or forks on the table,” he says. Mr. Khan spoke Pashto and Hindko at home.

At the time of Partition, Mr. Khan was at school in Shimla. “On June 3, 1947, all the senior boys were invited to the house of the senior master to listen to the broadcast on the radio, where Jinnah, Nehru and Baldev Singh spoke. We were so out of touch with reality there — we really didn’t take much interest in it. When the trouble started we remained unaware of it. We heard about riots in Shimla and Punjab but our political knowledge was heavily limited inside the school,” Mr. Khan remembers.

In early October of 1947, Mountbatten visited Shimla and spent one day at the Bishop Cotton School, as Mr. Khan remembers. “At lunch, the headmaster told him that he had 40 ‘odd’ boys who ought to be in Pakistan. Mountbatten advised to let those boys stay until they complete their studies. However, our parents in Pakistan were extremely worried. Some of them, including mine, were in powerful positions. They approached the then-acting governor of NWFP and urged them to get their children back from Shimla,” Mr. Khan says. In late October, the governor arranged a special convoy comprising of trucks under the supervision of Gurkhas to pick up the boys from Shimla. “We were loaded onto the trucks and taken to the Ambala Cantonment where we spent the night in barracks. The next day, a Dakota airplane was arranged by the governor to pick us from Ambala from where we flew to Lahore, and then Karachi. Some of the boys had families in Lahore and they were reunited with them. Some of them were flown to Karachi. There were seven of us from Peshawar, and we were dropped off at the Lahore airport and picked up by Mr. Leghari, the Commissioner for Refugees.”

Mr. Khan and the other boys stayed at the commissioner’s home for two days and slowly started to understand what was happening. “We didn’t initially realize the danger we faced because everything had always gone so smoothly for us, in our state of isolation. Two of Mr. Leghari’s sisters, who were students at the Auckland Girls High School in Shimla, had also travelled to Lahore, but by car. They had told him in our presence what they had seen on the road — the refugees and the violence. That was my very first impression of what was going on outside the walls of our school,” Mr. Khan recalls.

From Lahore, Mr. Khan and the other boys boarded on a train procured by the commissioner for refugees, and Mr. Khan was eventually reunited with his family at the Peshawar railway station.
“The clashes in Peshawar had died down by the time we arrived. My mother had very close relations with Hindu families. We used to virtually live at each other’s houses. My mother’s best friend was a Hindu lady. When I returned to Peshawar, I found out that they were all gone but had left their valuables — cars, furniture and carpets — with us,” Mr Khan recalls. “Some of the families managed to send representatives to Peshawar from India after Partition, so we were able to give them the belongings. Unfortunately, we’d later heard that these folks were looted at the border,” he says.

Sharing his observations on post-Partition life in Peshawar, Mr. Khan says that behavior patterns of the middle class remained very “English” for several years after their departure. “Even though there were very few Englishman left, the clubs and the cinemas kept going for several years after Partition and so did the civil structures — only now they were managed by Pakistani posts. We didn’t really find much of a difference in life. The roads and neighborhoods were safe. As boys, we used to go to the cinemas on bicycles at night. We did not live in any fear of being harmed,” Mr. Khan says.

Mr. Khan continued studying for his bachelor’s degree at Lawrence College, and then at the Edwardes College in Peshawar for one year. In 1950, Mr. Khan went on to study economics and law in the Trinity College in Cambridge, graduating with honors in 1953. His degree was later converted into a master’s degree, and in 1954, Mr. Khan joined the Lincoln’s Inn and became a barrister of law. “I had dreams of being a successful lawyer but my complete lack of knowledge of reading legal documents in Urdu held me back,” he says. “At the Bishop Cotton School, we were only taught lower Urdu [basic alphabets and conversational phrases].”

In 1955, Mr. Khan became an officer with the Central Superior Services of Pakistan for the Frontier Cadre and offered his services for seventeen years in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas [Waziristan and Malakand]. After 1971, Mr. Khan, secretary for the North West Frontier Provinces government at the time, was transferred to the foreign services office where he served for another eighteen years, beginning from his posting in Soviet Russia. In 1984, Mr. Khan was sent to India as the Pakistani High Commissioner. “Apart from Shimla, I’d never known India. This was my first chance to discover the country,” he says. He recounts his tenure in India to be the most difficult in the midst of Indira Gandhi’s assassination, and the resulting violence.

In 1961, Mr. Khan married Munawar Humayun Khan. (Read her story here: http://on.fb.me/21p1DGn They have three daughters. Sharing his thoughts, Mr. Khan offers, “We should…focus on the politics of reconciliation, instead of confrontation.”

This interview was conducted by Story Scholar Fakhra Hassan. The summary above provides a brief glimpse into the full interview. The complete video interview is expected to be public in 2017. Browse more stories on the STORY MAP: http://www.1947partitionarchive.org/browse

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Appropriate written permission has been obtained from 1947partitionarchive.org to reproduce this article and photograph which are Copyright © of 1947 Partition Archive.

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Hamayun Khan was at BCS Simla from 1941 to 1947 in Rivaz House.

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The MITRE / Nov 1961

Many thanks to ANUPAM SACHDEV for sending in this 1961 copy via Vijay Khurana:

Click here to read The MITRE / November 1961 issue

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MESSAGES RECEIVED:
For the history buffs…Found an old copy as I was cleaning out my parents place….Pompeii [Anupam Sachdev]
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Such pieces revive wonderful memories. This is one issue of The Mitre that is historically important for many – the announcement of Mr & Mrs Brown departure from BCS. I know that both GP Sahi and Susan Whipps, Mr Brown’s daughter will be interested. Will forward it to them.

A lot of names now come to life and a lot of memories come alive. Names hit you after all these years and they become real again. Then some other names hit you in a different way. You know these guys have gone away and will never return. I remember those voices and those faces. I miss them.

You yearn for those times and you know that those sounds, smells or surroundings will never come back ever again in the way they then existed.

Keep this issue of The Mitre or we can archive it suitably with the keepsakes that probably exist with The School.

On reflection, Dusty’s farewell was pretty dry and inspid. It lacked warmth, I thought!!

Cheers

Vijay

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Congratulations to Rishi Rana for standing 1st in Shell (from KG to Form VI)
Jai Joshi MD
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Thanks Joshi 2 for  remembering and noticing this. To be quite frank this has been a millstone round my neck. However my greatest achievement is that I have four grandchildren today.
Regards and all the best for the future
Rishi
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Wonderful and extremely nostalgic period from the Mitre of 1961 Sir! Especially for me ..That was the year I joined our Bishop Cotton School … Travelling by Calcutta School Party .. Aged 5… Lefroy… Roll No: 123…
The start of a life that continues to roll…never forgetting , always remembered. Along with members of the OCA ( UK) chapter I attended the funeral of Freddy Brown in SE England… All the Hymns and Psalms were chosen from our School Chapel Hymnal & Psalm Book.
With Every Best Wish
Vivek Bhasin
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Thank for the 1961 mitre.wonderful memories of BCS. In our class it was always H.S Bedi,Paraminder and Umesh in the first three.Others were far behind.I used to come in the 5-6 position. I am enjoying with my grand.kids.God bless you all.

N.K.Sethi (I)485 1953-1962

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Hi Vijay,
Thank you for this. I have saved it and will take a printout and give it to Umesh. I am sure he will enjoy reading it. Hope all is well with you and yours.
Love and Light,

Ranjana spouse Umesh Dutta