A 2017 Christmas Letter..
Confession :I took away some grapes from a vineyard in Chile…
“School’s out for the Summer .. “
pelted Rock Legend Alice Cooper with a Boa Constrictor around his neck. The dude was the son of a clergy man and his real name was a something- something Furnier; the band in which he kicked ass as vocalist was called A-C.
Cooper progressed from Badass Shock-Rock God to the quieter side of life where he excelled and improved his handicap at Golf..( he hit that ball straight as a flaming arrow renaming himself “Golf Monster”).
When I was a young lad at Bishop Cotton School, the seniors had formed a pop band called “The Cat” and played some really cool numbers with James Gideon, Benjamin Gilani and a few other cool cats ! I remember how James used to twist across the stage in Irwin Hall wearing skin tight trousers ( today called slim and tight fit ) and real sharp pointy shoes …
as juniors I remember the song ..
“If you missed the train I’m on
You will know that I am gone
You can hear the whistle blow
.. a hundred miles….”
I went to School in the 1960’s, at that time English Pop and American Rock were slowly entering our musical blood streams. Aku Pawa had a Red Vinyl of The Beatles Abbey Road..and we all used to crowd around the music system in the Common Room dreaming of growing our locks like John, Paul,George and Ringo..yes only dreaming.
2017 ends it’s last days here in Sweden with snow, blue skies and sharp sunshine for those brief minutes of the day.. barely four hours of daylight. Tropical tourists head further north to a place call Jukkasjärvi; book in at the Ice Hotel ( yes the creation melts away in the summer) they look up at the glorious heavens to see the Northern Lights.. a sweep of bright lights in orange reds pinks blue and greens..
Well from the first flat in School you may not see those northern lights but you do see the Belt of Orion, The Great Bear and the Pole star. Simla is crisp at this time of the year.. if you do venture in through the gates, the emptiness of School with its silence is pure deafening.
As they’ve all gone home..
Back here in Sweden it’s “Julafton”, Christmas Eve that is celebrated. This year the grandchildren will clasp my hand and we shall all dance around the Christmas Tree…
The fare…Christmas Ham, Pickled Herring, Jonsson’s Temptation, Smoked Salmon, Saffron buns with RAISINS..Ris-a-la-malta and Marabou chocolates…then a toast for peace in the world..
for peace in our lives..
for peace in our Beautiful School. ..
For peace to all Cottonians !
At a wine tasting on a vineyard in Chile two years ago , very nonchalantly I stuffed a few dark red and purple grapes in my Levi’s; then in the evening discarded the pair in a corner of my closet. For some strange reason the other day I had the urge to don that pair again… two years later. I slipped my hand inside the pocket and felt something soft like rubber .. I pulled out six little pieces of …..Grapes from Los Andes Chile; dried and “raisined”!! Tasting sweet with the right twang of alcohol, I knew I had some winners here… placing them on the saffron buns as pure beautiful raisins; part of the Christmas fare…
For Alice Cooper “ School’s Out for the Summer”..
For us Cottonians “ School’s Out
for the winter “
A Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year Ladies and Gentlemen.
A day before Julafton-Christmas Eve at
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…]