Early last evening I took a call from Arthur Jones (L 43-48) who lives in Cambridge to say watch BBC2 at 8 pm & follow Michael Portillo – Indian Railways journey – Amritsar to Shimla.
Very nostalgic as both Arthur & I used to make the journey from Lahore (now Pakistan) along the same route.
Rehearsing through the programme starting at the Golden Temple at once brings to mind, on a visit to Indiaaah, how kindly obliging OC Santosh Singh in Amritsar arranged for Napinder Singh (C 43-50) & I to visit the beautiful Temple & later to watch the Tamasha at the Border Gates at Wahga Wahga.
Then a day or so later to be joined with Nappy’s late wife Parvesh spending the afternoon & lunch with Sukinder Singh’s Sister in Amritsar – onto Ludianah stopping to have lunch at a well known Dubba (restaurant).
That Railway line from Kalka to Simla rests in each BCS schoolboy’s memory forever – through Barog tunnel and for me the Ghurka band playing when the Sesquicentennial Special pulled in and stopped for a puri-tac lunch & on to Simla.
Finally, Portillo talking with OC Rajah Bashin who’s legendary knowledge of the town’s history filled me with proud pleasure. Reminded me once again of Old Cottonian hospitality when Rajah invited Maggie & me to a late reception for the wedding of his niece in the basement banqueting hall of the famous Gaiety Theatre.
Memories – memories how can any Ole boy forget?
Peter Stringer (Lefroy 43-47)
(click for larger view)
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
The Great Himalaya
No other range can match the lofty grandeur, the immense heights and the diversity in flora and fauna from the foothills to Kanchenjunga , to Mount Kailash to Mount Everest to
Bishop Cotton School….. which is at a mere 2300 metres or so but its perch, its architectural and geographical position were set to get maximum strength from the Sun God, pay obeisance when he sets across the Tara Devi Gap and a million stars appearing and the Moon illuminating the school, setting the 2nd and 3rd flats on a silver blaze. Besides Sports and Academics emphasis was on the pure Himalayan air, the smells of pine that was tonic to our growing years.
As a Third Former I used to creep across to the benches and strain my eyes and ears towards the gap wanting to know if my Mum and Pa thought of me every moment the way I did about them.Far away in Calcutta..
Having sailed the seas and touched every continent, driven across the Andes, The Rockies and the Alps my final return was always the Great Himalaya. Here New Monasteries, Temples, Pagodas, Mosques and Churches have come up yet I know our School Chapel stays unmatched in beauty and splendour. Being a Saprano in the Choir I had Adams, Dehlvi, Singhs, Bhasins , Tippakorn and Pandit all singing in unison to the hymns and psalms everyday.
Our School touched our lives and has stood entrenched in the soul of the mighty mountain range. It is there waiting with open arms for every Cottonian to come back today tomorrow or whenever..
We Cottonians are Blessed to have merged our soul with the Great Himalaya.
…Amigos, Familia y Hermanos de Bishop Cotton School, Simla y Nuestra Ecclesia…
There are friends,
who you befriend when the shyness overcomes; perhaps you encounter another person who too is shy and as you make that eye contact the vibrational link makes the connection. You slowly shuffle and slide, and approach one another. Standing side by side looking at Samson and Delilah at the National Gallery it is perhaps the best place to meet a shy person to befriend. It’s a quiet zone and all one needs is to appreciate the seductiveness of Delilah with her breast exposed leaving Samson in such a trance and stupor that wine and pleasures of the flesh make him buckle. All it took was for Delilah to shave his seven locks of hair and he was terribly weakened…the Philistines snared him… the powerfulness of the painting, the enormity of the room, the many visitors and yet there was a quiet stillness…Finally the two turned towards each other and stumbling with words, grammar and awkward movements acknowledged each other in whispers…the start of a Beautiful Friendship that never waned but constantly waxed.. Nos somos Amigos*
And there is family.
The young girl the only child in her family has enjoyed her kinder garden years and now steps into skirts, stockings, monk shoes. With her long pony tails she starts another journey of eleven years at a Boarding School. Her Father has chalked her life, her Mother more genteel but knowing there is no option after Oxford or Radcliffe and a MBA from Stockholm Business School she needs to work her way back to the country where the source of the Ganges, the confluence of many rivers, the Kumbh mela, a billion souls, the heat and the dust are part of the corporate world where she would start as an apprentice getting to know the ground reality before final lift off. She will at a certain point of time join as a Director on the Board of her father’s conglomerate, one day becoming the CEO. The relationship of Business may also mean a relationship of Business Matrimony to keep alive the name of her founding Great Great Grand Mother who started it all…from a small postal delivery service as back up to the Post Office, today the business is global and huge jets fly across the heavens their bellies packed with super expensive parcels that are guaranteed to arrive at Tierra Del Fuego, or Hammerfest or Cairn Island or Madagascar. Where at the end of the journey when the Jumbo Jet lands and the concrete runway ends, the lush tropical jungle emerges, her company has trained Chimpanzees to carry small packs on their backs swinging through trees and hopping over rocks in meandering brooks to reach Chieftain Zukalu Madunga; he has heard of Serrano ham from the Iberian Peninsula and is willing to pay by way of the rarest plants that are needed by the Chinese in Beijing. More than just aphrodisiacs but for a reversal of Alzheimer’s. The Young Girl now a Business Woman, a shrewd one at that controls the world of logistics. Alas, she has no real friends, mere acquaintances but sometimes it is family that sets the rules… You cannot breakaway when there is lineage to preserve…Mi familia sacrada**
And then there are You and I. Cottonians who lived, argued, competed, mugged, played, hiked, screamed and formed our cores at this greatest of institutions. Each a steadfast brick that dislodges itself from the main frame work of BCS (just as another younger brick lodges in to keep the institution erect and proud) and goes out into the world, sometimes as far as Quito in Ecuador. To face life’s challenges and duck against pelting rocks, analyzing, thinking intelligently and logically, finally striking back with our motto on our backs ‘Overcome Evil with Good’ knowing all along that a Cottonian will never ever forget his roots, his lineage, his teachers, his bearers and the sacred ground of Bishop Cotton School, up in the Greens of Simla. He will never forget those with him he spend over a decade of his life; how can he forget? It is the connection of souls at Bishop Cotton my true true friends that in many ways leaves everything else truly pedestrian. The Cedars around our school have seen all of us grow from young little men to big little men and men with courage and fortitude. Where ever a Cottonian may be on this planet of ours, he is protected by the School Chapel; wherever he may in the galaxy when departed his soul floats free over the Chapel, his dormitory, the First Flat, the Irwin Hall, The School Gate and then meanders down to Remove-Man does he enjoy the view from the top; his focus is on his School, its periphery, he glides like an albatross. Only we Cottonians can see him up there….
Next time you walk the sacred grounds of Bishop Cotton School, pause on the First Flat and look up towards the Heavens..You will see him! I have…a flutter and a cool rush of mountain air as he glides past and banking heavily stoops low to Salute You.
TRUE COTTONIANS. Mis hermanos de BCS y Nuestra Ecclesia***
*We are friends.
**My sacred family.
***My Brothers’ at BCS and our Chapel.
31 August 2016