I was delighted to hear of the response from the Board of Governors to my open letter.
We all look forward to hearing of the progress with the ‘Infrastructure Development Fund’ in the School and hope that from overseas we can report a development with our meeting(s) with the Master of Marlborough College in September.
We shall also maintain and progress our efforts with the Head Masters of Rugby and Westminster.
Changes…Transition. (Capt. Vivek Bhasin : Chairman OCA (UK Chapter)
From Kindergarden to Transition and then to Lower I……
Isn’t that’s the way all Cottonians start?
The OCA (UK) Chapter’s Annual Lunch at Bombay Brasserie was attended by 45 OCs and their wives; in my case my Mother and Brother ( an OC stalwart) accompanied me.
It was my Mother who packed my trunk and my bedding roll, gave me my red attache case and putting on me Black ‘ tuffies’ shoes from Bata, tying my laces put me on the Howrah-Kalka Mail on the 5th of March 1961……..at the age of FIVE……… The Old Cottonian has come a long way.
Having accepted the position of Chairman of the Old Cottonians Association United Kingdom on this date, I wish to first Thank all my Seniors; especially:
-Allan Gay Niblett-Chairman OCA (UK) who is now appointed as Honorary Life President; indeed the most remarkable and dedicated Chairman in the history of the Association. Unfailing in his responsibilities, he makes at least 12 trips a year to London from his Mallorca Home; nearly always at his own time and expense; personally writing such meaningful and intelligent letters in his most beautiful handwriting and ensuring that whatever he says…’will be done….for the Good of the OCA….for the Good of BCS’. To me he is a Father, a mentor and a true true friend. Christine….you are Beautiful.
-Peter Stringer-Secretary of the OCA (UK) who breathes the Simla Air and has dedicated his 150 years( yes he is 150) for his love of BCS-he too has stepped down,( but I am not releasing him in a hurry). Peter lives in Whyteleafe and has steadily over time, built a small museum of BCS in his pretty home. Maggie his Dear Wife has given him a study where he sits, thinks, paints….Bishop Cotton forever…. To me he is my Rock of Ages. Maggie we love you.
– Raj Lamba: A Hard Core Cottonian who always supports and is part of the Committee….permanently.
– Vinod Nanda: The hardest of the core…..a fellow Lefroyian…..Guts and Glory……A committee member…permanently. Over the last 10 years he has always been there..offering his home for us to attend meetings before we move on to an authentic north Indian khaana at Southall. Rosy we appreciate it all…… we really do.
-Arthur Jones: A wonderful wonderful person…..always there; Peter Stringer’s true bother in arms…at home and in the pub……God! We do miss Shirley.
-Ken Richards:….motoring down from Marlborough….until… until then….we know how life goes through its changes…..the mind is willing but the body is weak….the last angrez speaking Hindustani…never forgotten.
– John & Katherine Phillips: John… Tall, bold, Mighty……decisive….and the delicate but firm Katherine. The OCA (UK) will always need you…..for a lot more. Your hard work and sincerity is always appreciated.
– Peter Evans (Lamboo):…….He may live in Amsterdam….and is a more in-depth painter than Van Gogh….A PILLAR of BCS..ageless….forever. His strength is what drives all of us….onwards.
– Bob Myers: A tower of strength; his knowledge and planning excellence knows no bounds. He too keeps BCS always on his mind…on his agenda.
–Shiela Reed: A true Lady Cottonian; yes she is. No doubt.
……and so so many more Seniors whose faces, whose actions, I can never forget…… Dr Daljit Singh…never ever failing to be there. Thank you Sir.
Dr Humayun Khan……Hashim Khan Esq,…..in a complex world….you make it look …So Very Easy….
On behalf of ALL Cottonians far and wide…… I Salute You ALL.
AND NOW…….(into Transition to a newer and younger generation)…
AND every young, youthful OC who in a way is omnipresent here in the UK.
THIS IS A TIME FOR CHANGE. OUR SENIORS HAVE IN EVERY GRACIOUS MANNER MOVED TO EXHAULTED POSITIONS LEAVING US , THE YOUNGER OCs TO FURTHER CEMENT OUR ORGANISATION HERE IN THE UK. FOR ME AS CHAIRMAN, I KNOW I NEED THE STRENGTH OF THE YOUNGER GENERATION……I BESEECH YOUR HELP…
We need to come together more often..
Very good suggestions and ideas flow from the young….We need to Listen, we need to sit together and make this work…..for ourselves, for future OCs and for Bishop Cotton School.
Lets also be frank and open.. We need Cottonians who have the infrastructure, organisation, financial capacity to come forward and assist whenever/wherever possible.
1. We need to have at least 4 to 6 get togethers here in London. Suggestions are Welcome!!
2. Culminate in the Annual Get Together on the Last Saturday of June every year..
3. As suggested the ‘out-of -towners’ and the younger chaps in College need to be supported by way of subsidised travel/accommodation to attend the same.
In clear terms, every OC in the UK is part and parcel of the Association. Every OC visiting the UK must make contact..
Networking plays a great part in today’s world.
The OCs worldwide form one of the greatest networks..we need to develop this further.
We are Blessed and Proud that we were Born Cottonians.
Lets make the most of it! Help each other….Help our School and enjoy ourselves
May God Bless the OCA (UK) and Bishop Cotton School.
My Sincerely Regards
Capt. Vivek Bhasin
The Old Cottonians Association, United Kingdom
I write to you with the attached letter, which was sent to each of the Members of the Board of Governors of Bishop Cotton School. It is my “last bugle call” as Chairman OCA (UK) but a “reveille” to all Cottonians with special emphasis on those Indians living in India, who can more easily make the journey up to the old School to see the situation as it is and with their support, ensures the changes are made to carry BCS successfully forward into the 21st Century.
With my thanks and best wishes to all Cottonians,
Chairman OCA (UK)
Chairman and Board of Governors
Bishop Cotton School
Shimla 171002 (HP)
4 June 2010
Dear Chairman and Board Members :
I address this letter to you on the occasion of my stepping down as Chairman OCA(UK) after 10 wonderful years at its helm. It is also a seminal moment in the history of our School, in the 150th year since its foundation.
No longer can we look back alone on its history, its tradition and its name on the CV of its pupils to set them apart in the world of globalised pressure and competition. The future demands a stronger, more pragmatic background, based on today’s exigencies and values.
I have been privileged to read Vijay K. Stokes (Rivaz 1948-54) treatise, “150 years of Bishop Cotton School – an assessment of the past – and the future” which should be mandatory reading for all members of the B.O.G. and the Staff of B.C.S. and would be a salutary and eye-opening document for all pupils of B.C.S. past and present. A masterpiece by a brilliant scholar, author of innumerable papers and publications and a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers amongst many distinguished honours and for the past 20 years studying the culture of the area 50 miles north of Shimla.
Vijay K. Stokes, like the President of OCA(India) and myself was in Rivaz House, whose motto is ‘Sirvamus’. We all have the School and its future at heart and I quote three small extracts tying-in the past with the future which portray the thoughts of us all:
“… Some good things about (our) school years … irrespective of their background, a rigorous enforcement of the uniform and pocket-money, a strict enforcement of the leave policy and an equal treatment of all parents made all students “equal”. Personal integrity was considered important, as was telling the truth. One did not do underhand things – that was just not cricket! The School motto ‘Overcome Evil with Good’ was in consonance with Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals”.
“ … Mr ‘Tubby’ Whitmarsh-Knight – who set a very high standard as a role model for integrity and as a teacher – was the Senior Master and (my) House Master, the school was well run! Later, as the qualifications of the teachers declined, many of the good practices became rather lax and richer parents could ask for rules to be bent; the School tended to become more of a ‘finishing school’ for the rich” and finally :
“ … The focus of education must shift to training the mind to think – which is the essence of education – and to inculcate a sense of enquiry that best prepares persons for rapidly changing environments. THIS WILL REQUIRE HIGH QUALITY TEACHERS who can make science and mathematics more exciting than cricket (IPL not withstanding!) THE STATUS QUO WILL JUST NOT DO.
“ … WORKING OUT THE REQUIRED REVOLUTIONARY CHANGES IN EDUCATION IS CERTAINLY BEYOND THE KEN OF THE CURRENT STAFF.”
The vital points made by Mr Vijay K. Stokes are echoed by me and other OCs worldwide: a radical change in direction and control by the Board of Governors along with a change in attitude and structure in the running of the school; a delegated line of responsibility filtering down from the Headmaster via the Senior Master, House Masters (and teaching Masters) through Prefects to the pupils themselves must be clearly laid down. Only thus will there be mutual respect achieved with mutual responsibility.
Staff accommodation has to be made decent and acceptable enough to attract the highest level of teachers – who may be fewer but better.
Staff salaries must be increased substantially, commensurate with better qualifications and enough to attract teachers not only from the best in India but from outside India – cost of living adjustments will be taken into account along with leave and travel and the needs of families – not making it essential to have both husband and wife working, simply to provide a living wage!
The infrastructure of the whole school must be overhauled.
Classrooms, dormitories, bathrooms, kitchens, dining-room, recreation rooms laboratories, I.T. and Art, Engineering, Crafts, Hobbies, Theatre and other studies must be renewed and up-dated. Sports facilities improved immensely.
Class sizes must be restricted to 30 pupils per class.
The total number of pupils must be reduced to between 300 and 350.
Fees will have to be raised – without fear – to reflect the changes in the facilities and infrastructure and the upgraded staff.
The School has to compete not only with other schools in India but be looking to provide for schools from the UK and USA who are selling their brands worldwide.
Globally fees for boarding schools range between £25,000 and £30,000 per annum.
Marlborough College has set up schools in Malaysia and the USA. They are actively seeking partners in India. This is not just for the exchange of teachers and pupils. Harrow, Rugby, Westminster and Dulwich College have joint ventures in India and China or are seeking them. This also applies in the setting up of similar schools in the Middle East.
Over the past 18 months OCA(UK) has been developing a relationship, principally with Marlborough College but also with Rugby and Westminster – all schools associated with our Founder, Bishop Cotton (and could call on Harrow School as well) to try and integrate to exchange teachers and pupils between BCS and Marlborough College. The Master of Marlborough, Mr Nicholas Sampson, his Deputy and Mr Larry Lamont – who has met Mr Robinson at school – are keen to foment the relationship. It would be a travesty if all these efforts were not acted upon now.
A chance was lost some 10 years or so ago, when Board Member Mr Deep C. Anand hosted a number of Marlborough pupils on a visit to India with Mr Martin Evans, Secretary of the Old Marlburians. Following last year’s 150th celebrations at Marlborough and the annual cricket match between Marlborough and Rugby – a team from Rugby came to India and was entertained in Delhi by the OCA.
So the potential exists. It must be nurtured.
India stands in the forefront of nations in I.T. and its sons and daughters occupy posts at the highest international levels in Banking, Science, Research, Industry and Commerce. It is to these posts that B.C.S. must aspire for its pupils and now is when it must act – taking the vital steps to renew and reinvigorate its great institution to meet these challenges.
Forgive me for writing at such length but the added inspiration given to me by Mr Deep C. Anand and Mr Vijay K. Stokes caused me to amplify and substantiate those views.
I trust you will consider, digest, discuss and act soon on our thoughts, which come from our hearts and the love of our alma mater and gratitude for all it gave us.
SIMLA OLD COTTONIANS’ ASSOCIATION (UNITED KINGDOM)
2009 WINTER NEWSLETTER
Chairman’s Christmas Letter
Dear Old Cottonians
We are drawing to the end of a most extraordinary year in the history of our School and our Old Boys’ Association
Before going further I would like – on behalf of your committee and me – to wish you and all your families a very Happy Christmas and a good and healthy year ahead.
The 150th Anniversary of BCS was celebrated in the UK at Marlborough College on 1st July by the kind invitation of the Master, Nicholas Sampson, through the Secretary of the Old Marlburians, Martin Evans and the kind help of the Senior Master James Rothwell. They, with all the Staff, gave us a wonderful day with a delicious lunch, drinks and canapés on the sun-drenched Master’s lawn, afternoon tea and the opportunity to watch the annual cricket match between Marlborough College and Rugby School. Where for the first time they competed for the Bishop Cotton Challenge Cup – presented by OCA(UK). The match was drawn and Marlborough retains the trophy till Rugby beat them.
We have to thank John Phillips for all his trouble in obtaining the Cup and having it suitably engraved, as with his efforts to raise money via the 150th Anniversary Single Malt Whisky, towards our gift to the School of the new installed doors to the Irwin Hall. Here we have to thank too, Bob Myers for setting up and controlling the account and Vivek Bhasin, who travelled back and forth to Simla, working with OC Arvind Mankotia, with the design and construction of these elegant symbols of our everlasting gratitude to our Alma Mater for all we have learned within those walls and on the playing fields during our childhood stay there.
The 5- Day celebration in Simla was an unforgettable experience for all the hundreds of OCs and those who accompanied them. The monumental task of organising the events, transport and accommodation fell on the shoulders of Jaspal Sawhney who performed a Herculean task, much against the odds, to produce the most enjoyable and well organised long weekend.
The OCA Chapters of Chandigarh, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and the School itself put on some glittering evenings of food, drink and music, to which we added a sober (almost) breakfast in the School. The Headmaster and his Staff and the boys themselves deserve our heartfelt thanks. Also KC Anand for his organisation of days at School and arrangements to bring over Pakistan OCs and a contingent from Aitchesan College, Lahore for hockey and cricket matches. John Whitmash-Knight discreetly remained in the wings, looking after the paperwork.
For all those who participated in either or both the celebrations – the memories will stay for a lifetime
Back on planet earth again, I want to express my personal thank to the Committee for another year’s hard work and my wish that we all continue to remain close in this brotherhood which joins and cuts across creed and country.
I have been fortunate and privileged to serve you as your Chairman these last many years but now, not age but a heavy load of commitments prevent me from continuing in my post. After the next Reunion Lunch at the Bombay Brasserie 26th June 2010, I shall be handing over the reins to my successor. Younger blood for a new era in this rapidly changing world is needed. I ask for your continued support to strengthen further this wonderful bond that binds all of us Cottonians.
Thank you for your support and valued friendship. I hope to be joining you and being of any help I can in the many years to come.
Where do I begin after so much has been said and done. This YEAR has filled my OCA social cup like no other going far beyond the many months of advanced planning. One Hundred and Fifty years comes only ONCE, celebrating our Founder’s life and his distinct impact on an educational heritage from England to the sub-continent of Old INDIA.
Memorial celebrations in the UK began with our Annual Reunion held in stately campus splendour at Marlborough College, Wiltshire. A divine Chapel service and during which The Master delivered a deep and engaging account on the life and times of the Man – George Edward Lynch Cotton. Followed by a grand reception on the lawn of The Master’s Lodge with refreshment cocktails and canapés and a group photograph. Then, onto lunch in the spacious college dining hall in full view of the famous Cotton portrait. Accompanied by the Headmaster of Rugby School. Patrick Derham Esq. and Senior Chaplain of Marlborough Rev. James Dickie with The Master & Senior Master Marlborough, Cotton House Masters from Marlborough and Rugby and Mr. Martin Evans – 48 OCs with families and guests, ending in speeches and platitudes and gifts and finally a rousing rendition by younger members singing our School Song. It was a glorious
1st July day, after the lunch recess we witnessed the second half, first day’s play of the Cricket fixture match between Rugby School and Marlborough College. Chairman Gay Niblett earlier presented The Master, Nicholas Sampson Esq. with the silver Bishop Cotton School Challenge Winners Cup donated by Old Cottonians (UK). We have since learned the match was a draw, so Marlborough retains the cup as they were previous winners.
The summer months dwindle into autumn weeks and in September the countdown to days. Excitement brought on by exchanges of e-mail, faxes and letters till the 25th evening we boarded the big tin-bird and headed out east to Indiaaah……
Ken Richards (L38-45), Raj Lamba (L49-59), late Bobby Reed’s wife Sheila, Maggie & I. We arrived safely after an uneventful flight just 45 minutes before mid-day. Indra Ghandi International, New Delhi is growing day by day in conjunction with the massive urbanization and city expansion programme set to meet and welcome the Commonwealth Games next October. Our first stop was the Anand Corporation guesthouse in Gurgoan half-hour taxis ride from the airport. A tranquil setting amidst the endless building construction and traffic roar and skirted by the main route road to Jaipur. My heart beat in unison with delight to be back on the land of my birth.
That immediate occasion rings in my memory to my dear Mother’s warm and final resting place in Bihar, she would be so proud of her youngest son returning to his roots. I really do feel like a rajah every time I walk on India’s soil.
We spent a few days in New Delhi to breathe the air, and acclimatise and thankfully rest up for what an awesome welcome that awaited us. 27th September we lunched at the Dewan’s Delhi household – Neelem & Bill (Wendy) warmly greeted us.
(Retired Col. Dewan is the Hon. Secretary OCA India) is my close mentor and opposite associate, good friend and PR adviser for many years. Ironically he is some years younger than I am but we share the same annual birth date!
Johnny McLaughlin is the North American OCA Co-ordinator, he flew in late on Saturday 26th from Chicago with Jazy Sihota from LA.
John accompanied us for lunch – meeting of THREE CHAPTERS!! On the way back we stopped over for tea with Jaspal Sawhney & his charming wife at their hide-away mansion.
29th a planned dinner launch with a good gathering of OCs at the home of Dimpy Mehra was sadly cancelled. Dimpy unfortunately had contracted cholera, dear fellow and subsequently missed out on the entire celebrations. Jaspal Sawhney very kindly used this opportunity to assemble us at very short notice, inviting some OCs to his very elegant restaurant ‘Tonnis’.
Just Johnny & I met up with Gay and Christine Niblett, John and Catherine Phillips, Vivek Bhasin, his brother Sharat and wife, Jaspal with his wife and a few other OCs in company. A delightful evening enhanced with some gourmet Italian cuisine.
30th Rouser came early in the morning, packed and breakfasted we were rushed by taxis to Delhi Railway station to catch the north west bound Shatabjee express to Chandigarh. An envoy met and greeted us here and whisked us off to our resting quarters as guest in the campus of National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education & Research. Wearily we rested till evening when a car came and picked us up and brought us to Sukinder Singh’s family home. Kawal, Suki’s dear wife drowsy with a heavy head cold made us welcome and apologised for not joining us for the evening as we moved off to the Golf Club (new extension). Now in the company of Suki, Davinder & Shuksham Jaaj – meeting Santos (from Bombay for the first time), we drank and dined in pukka style. We tucked ourselves in bed just after midnight.
1st October we were introduced to OC Lalit Kumar Jain & his wife also staying in quarters near who informed us that the OCs from Pakistan would be arriving soon. Super – before dark Humayun Khan, Tariq Khan and Hashim Khan arrived with three other OCs and one with his wife. Hashim related his account of the Indian border entry with the police escort for VIPs which was truly amazing and unforgettable experience. Gosh this was only the beginning. We all dressed and were driven to the Chandigarh Lakeside Club to attend the inaugural meeting of OCA Punjab Chapter welcome to all visiting OCs. Stupendous and what a welcome. They had prepared and rehearsed well with choir practice in the afternoon – Ken, Sheila & Maggie with some OCs at Suki’s home and that was not all. The press and media of radio and television were here and eager to meet us.
It was a warm balmy night an open-air on lawn venue and full of joy and delightful merriment meeting a host of OCs from everywhere.
We sang and danced through the night of great fun and jubilation, carefree and jolly. Stop! This was only a warm-up for the extravaganza that would unfold in the next few days. It was nearing 1:am when we broke away knowing we had to be up early next morning from the night my Maggie will never forget.
2nd Oct a coach had been arranged to pick all of us up, drive into Chandigarh and meet with another coach full of OCs and follow escorts of OCs in their private cars onto Kalka Railway Station. There to greet us was more collective press and photographers, TV, radio and a VIP walk-on red carpet – and all our very own reserved Cottonian Express on line waiting for us alongside the very platform we would board our annual school train to Simla. What a sentimental reminder that returns a memory at once to a bye-gone era and put my mind into collecting joyous thoughts. I trembled with excitement stepping up into the carriage with a Lefroy banner strapped on the outside. All that was missing was the age-old coal-fired steam engine now replaced with a diesel monster. It blew its powerful whistle, not sounding like the ones of old when we rowdy boys would in answer shouted “ janna dho” and we would start to shunt off with a burst of steam and raw black smoke plume from the chimney stack. This time we stood still – I looked out to see the signal was still up at stop – again two sharp whistle blasts – and signal down to green and we were rolling Simzy bound!
The climb up the foothills is gradual and counting up the tunnels as we jogged along. We older OCs reminisced with our new-found younger members and it was filling up with nostalgia as we shared this wonderful experience with our past.
Hashim Khan (I 43-47), from Islamabad, was a class friend of mine and shared the same five years of schooling together. From Lahore Ali Afrdi and Imranullah Khan, from Peshawar Tariq Khan (Rivazite 42-47) along with Dr. Humayun Khan older than us but of our times and leaving in 1947 with the mass exodus to the new nation of Pakistan, also savoured the purpose of this remarkable return. Passing through the mile long tunnel we rolled into Barog. Like royalty arriving, our train came to halt to the loud strains of a full Gurkha military band, smartly dressed in white. Joanna Lumley eat your heart out! We all stepped down and stood in wonder – was this really for us? We moved up the steps to the old refreshment rooms and a lunch buffet of 1st class puri tac – something we dreamed about as schoolboys, all year round and longed for jhug day and the journey on the down train in mid-December. In our years this was dished out on the opposite lower platform, in tiny containers sown with leaves and we collectively bought mistletoe and holly for Xmas fare for our homes in the plains. The smart band played on — renditions of old marches and some nearly new popular music. A complete surprising delightful spectacle and sending us on our merry way. When Old Cottonians want to do something and join forces there is nothing they cannot do in INDIA. Another box ticked in the hospitality display of The Spirit of BCS. The sun was now moving to the western horizon and it started to rain as we passed through many tunnels. The air began to chill as we moved up higher and the lower forest trees gave way to the lofty Deodah pine that cover the Simla hills. Stopping at Somerhill we wait the passing of the down train. As we look through the fading evening light among the pines stand old, old holly trees and city lights appeared. We heard the powerful engine whistle and we moved on and in and out tunnel 103, then a final long whistle blast as we see before us the capital of Himachal Pradesh – SHIMLA.
Senior Boys and Staff with the local press, radio and TV are here to greet and welcome each one of us. A bracing cordial, chaotic atmosphere as we cope with recovering our cases and serge toward the jammed entrance full of vehicles to carry us away. We wind our way through Simla’s crowded streets, bells and horns at full crescendo. It was now dark as we arrive at the very bottom of the campus – the Main Drive is restricted due to a mass of private vehicles. ‘You’re having a laugh’ I told the Senior Boy who was detailed as our escort. ‘No Sir’ sharply he replied in all sincerity, we were marched up from the Third Flat. By the time Sheila Reed, Maggie and
I reach to pause for breath with a banging heart, just below the bell-shed. Phew! I was puffed out but the roar of voices and the party atmosphere with streamer lights on all the visible buildings and the First Flat displaying a dazzling gala night decked with tables and chairs with covering umbrellas. Wow! What a cheerful sight that really did suddenly take my breath away – the opening night of celebration events at PATINA. By the front quick march – as I quickly wove my way through to a room at the top of the Headmaster’s Lodge.
We hastily freshened up and as I was last missed the Chief Guest’s arrival and official opening of Celebrations and torch-lights PT display on the Second Flat that I was given to understand was pure precision and outstanding.
The up-train journey throughout sentimental and in company of like-minded members did leave a feeling of immense thrill and now coping with an evening’s further delight added beyond a thankful measure of happiness. What more could any Old Boy ask for when attending his Alma Mater’s Sesquicentennial Founder’s Celebration. Shabash & Bravo son! Be proud we have come a long way!
I have no recollection of what I drank, when or what I ate, whom all I met or when I fell asleep. It was just a beautiful dream and it put me on a High and I was overjoyed to be with this IN CROWD. An after thought – our return to the Lodge that night was so super charged, must have like an incendiary, fused the room lights and we undressed in the dark.
3rd Oct. Next morning up early, we beckoned the mistree who came and replaced the fuse. Dressed and ready we attended our Holy Trinity Chapel all welcome Service. Significantly solemn yet a joyful reminder of the many important occasions we attended during our formative years. We sang loud and clear the hymns I remember, but my choir voice did falter when my eyes misted up with Cottonian pride. Tearful thoughts return as I write now, perhaps subscribing to my longing and love for Dear PATINA. It was a moving Service con-ducted in the presence of Bishop Samantaroy (member of the School Board of Governors) and many Senior Boys, Staff and Old Cottonians and families. We were treated to a big hearty breakfast after, served in the main dining hall setting us up till afternoon. Registration continued from the War Memorial, First Flat and followed by walks and viewing the School campus. I engaged in a remarkable introduction to a very smart and very senior OC Narottam Sehgal. Believe me this gentleman no doubt looked at least 20 years younger than his sprightly 91 years. Passed out in 1934 and finished his studies at Cambridge and joined the ICS. His batch members are a very scares and rare breed – take note us youngsters. Maggie & I retired to our rooms to rest up for another big party night.
The sun slowly dipped past the horizon vale far beyond the view through Taradavi gap. The winter sky line much higher nowadays – pollution – I am told. As a lad and many of us would recall, admire the vivid colourful sunsets as I did. It was twilight as I descended the covered stairs to the swimming pool and stepped onto the main playing field. I walked along the near side under the pavilion to the opposite end. I approached a platform stage erected for a seated open-air auditorium, powerful coloured lamps lit up the whole beautiful set.
To the left, under a canopy, an extended all boys’ choir smart tied collars and blazers sang with clear eloquence. I breathlessly took my seat quickly – the show had already begun –
…. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat ….
I was spellbound in amazement as I sat and watched this brilliant performance of BCS at its very best. Directed and produced under great sacrifice by Mrs. Joy Michael and assisted by Mr. John Whitmash-Knight. The small privileged audience was in awe responding with great applause through out and a loud crescendo at the end. I was so moved with all round complete appraisal – could somebody
please tell me why this could not have been performed for the Shimla public in the famous Gaiety Theatre ……..
An Amazing lost opportunity celebrating a noteworthy gift from the BOYS of BCS!
Back to the Lodge we slowly dressed in party clothes and on with my Dreamcoat blazer and soon we were driving up to the lights of Simzy. This was the Himachal Pradesh Chapter’s welcome to OCs from everywhere to join the gala open-air venue at the Peter Hoff Hotel. Gosh this was getting better every day and now truly I didn’t want to return home!! OCs galore I have never seen or met so many and an absolute pleasure to capture all these precious moments to enjoy the company of young and old. And here is the message to all old Cotton Boys for those who didn’t or couldn’t make it to the Sesquicentennial Celebration – you missed a very important date with Destiny’s history of BISHOP COTTON SCHOOL, SIMLA. The roar of fun and laughter almost drowned out the non-stop music the band struggled to engage dancers on to the floor. Even I a lover of strutting the boards only put in one appearance to jive with Maggie. I must have been among the last of the seniors to tear myself away, probably stayed on longer had I not got my escorts Sheila Reed and Maggie.
We rolled down The Drive and the Simla moon was still large and shining bright it was past 1:30 am. Who was waiting on the First Flat … The Headmaster Roy Robinson Esq. – strange frightening thoughts suddenly clouded my mind emerging from a very distant past. Was Sir there to scold me for coming back late? Or to record my entry time!! Sheila and Maggie disappeared as I faced Headmaster alone. Mister Robinson was waiting the arrival of the Principal Dr. F.S. Aijazuddin of Aitchison College, from Lahore Pakistan and his teams of football and cricket. I waited till he arrived with his wife and team coach but the bus carrying his boys were stuck up close behind and did not arrive I believe till after 3am.
4th Oct. I took a light breakfast, coffee and biscuits in the Lodge with the Bishop, Mrs. Joy Michael (also a member of the School Board of Governors) another gentleman associate of Joy, the Principal of Aitchison and his wife before moving to the First Flat to officially greet our visitors from Pakistan. Then we all filed in for a late breakfast in the School dining hall.
Sunday and the School Chaplain and the Bishop specially invited us to Chapel for Holy Communion Service. I know it was untimely for Maggie and I to break from the main crowd assembled for the ceremony of acceptance from the School for the installation of the Irwin Hall doors presented by OCA(UK) earlier in the summer. A very moving old tradition ensued. Only VIPs and high honoured patrons were allowed to enter the Irwin Hall through the center doorway especially opened for rare occasions. In solemn sad marked respect, in September 1947, these doors were opened for pupils to pass through and returning to their families across the border to the new country of Pakistan. Now in an act of honourable goodwill these doors were opened for our returning Pakistan Old Cottonians and the Pakistan contingent from Aitchison College to a congratulating entry and welcoming accepted applause.
For my special homage I chose something very special only to me. When I left School in 1947 I was only 14 and not yet confirmed.
5th September 1949 I was confirmed by Bishop Foss Westcott (who earlier was the Archbishop of India Burma & Ceylon) – retired and dwelling on campus of Bishop Westcott School, Nankum near Ranchi, Bihar). So my first Communion in this School Chapel was a rare and highly honoured privilege. I simply could not have missed such an indicative opportunity.
The Football challenge match against Aitchison College was played. We beat them 4-2 and I was in no doubt sure the BCS X1 had the upper hand on two accounts. Even though the opposing team looked taller and more powerful. Our boys schooling in the hills had the advantage of better climatic breathing over the boys schooling in the plains, besides these dear lads had arrived very late. The whole school shouted loud and cheered us to win – boys that does help!
Lunched in the main dining hall. Visited the art room with Hashim and Tariq. I stopped off at the hallowed Masters Common Room and chatted with some of the Teachers and Masters – good exchanges. Late afternoon we retired to our room and emerged to witness the sunset over another day. Darkness descended swiftly with a chill and I returned to dress for another party night. We hopped a ride in an OC’s car up The Drive and crossed over first bridge to about 250 yards further on stepped onto the forecourt of the now enlarged East Bourne Hotel. The new palatial Hall was not big enough for all the gathering of OCs and families, some of whom spilled out onto the vast terrace outside. This was the definitive welcome Reunion subscribed by the OCA (Delhi) Chapter and farewell to all Old Cottonians cordially invited. Shabash! Another brilliant affair and I enjoyed every last minute spent moving among OCs from all over the globe and all ages. This, I feel, was the ultimate summons of our very unique brotherhood shared with so many I had never met before and sadly perhaps never to meet again. But instinct tells me we will stand foursquare forever
Reminding each other of our School motto – OVERCOME EVIL WITH GOOD– in the true spirit of BCS. So to all Old Cottonians
I will relate a Shakespearean wish ….. If we do meet again we shall smile if not the partings were well made. Farewell Guys
5th Oct. The morning arrived as usual with bright warm sunshine. This beautiful October weather continued throughout the glorious days spent at School …… location – latitude 31* 6’N – longitude 77* 13E – elevation approx. 7000 feet ASL. After breakfast we toured some of the campus waiting for the T20 Cricket School First X1 match against the Aitchison College to start. We beat them again after a very spirited game – Aitchison bowled out for 99 and we with 8 wickets in hand and then watched the prize distribution of some rather handsome trophies.
The School looks forward to many future challenges with this Pakistani Tournament. We dearly pray for stronger relations and understanding between these two neighbouring nations. Close on the finish of play the School Fete was opened to a joyous happy crowd of student boys, family, friends and many OCs.
In the evening after sunset we were entertained, for those who attended the Curzon House Spectacular. This special celebration was in acknowledgement of their century existence. Performed on stage in a specially prepared venue roughly on the site near the Bird Sanctuary-Aviary (during the 1940s). A mixture of music, stage acting produced and presented by the boys. Good try chaps did bring back memories of our Jhug-Day plays in the Irwin Hall. Mind you we did not stay for the hard rock band that must have frightened all the birds away and kept the monkeys and black-faced Langours awake. Our lights were out well before they packed it in!
6th Oct. Straight after a rushed breakfast we moved to the Chapel. In solemn respect we bade farewell in the blessed name and to our benevolent Founder – BISHOP COTTON, whose untimely death by drowning was lost on this date in 1863. Hereinafter in commemoration the School was dedicated to his memory and leanings for children’s education in England and India.
Immediately after the whole School and Old Cottonians assembled on the First Flat as we watched a rather smart cadet’s parade. Small detached units in dressed Army, Navy and Airforce march past to the music of the well-practiced School Band. I was inducted as a guest, on behalf of OCA(UK), to join this company and given the extreme privilege to lay a wreath of remembrance at the statue bust of George Edward Lynch Cotton, on the left side of the bell shed. I might tell you, I was still trembling with emotion as I was presented with a special folder commemorating this day by the India Postal Service – First Day Issue celebrating The Sesquicentennial Founder’s Year. Boy after all that I had to retire and take tiffin! After the meal the launch of the long awaited and beautiful historic and pictorial story -book of BISHOP COTTON SCHOOL SIMLA. This is a must-have publication for anybody connected to BCS.
In the afternoon we closely observed the torch-bearing ceremony and lighting of the Olympic flame declaring the School Athletic Sports open. Minister Vir Bhadra Singh (now the Minister for Steel) had arrived. Once a Cottonian of the 40s and 50s, we affectionately donned him ‘Our Man of Steel’
When the sun sank in the west to close another day, we were invited to the Irwin Hall for a Special Headmaster’s Dinner. Meeting many guests and some more OCs and mixing with Staff and some Senior Boys was another good night’s experience.
7th Oct. After breakfast we said goodbye to Glen & Susan Whipps (Freddie Brown’s daughter) who paid a brief visit. We then joined up with Parvesh & Dorothy Chahal and their respective husbands Napinder and Joginder and drove over to meet old friends in Chota Simla – Prithivi Nat and his parents Enid & Mr. Singh. On our return trip we dropped into The Tibetan High School which was where Nappy, Joggy and I started our association at BCS Preparatory. One would find it very difficult to recognise now especially after remembering our first initiation in 1943. We spent the remainder of the afternoon and lunched late at the Chahal’s Simla Lodge ‘Peach Blossom’ and back to the Headmaster’s Lodge for a deserving early night.
8th Oct. We spent a lazy day at the school. Sheila & Maggie in the Lodge resting up and making ready for the evening wedding reception at Woodville Palace on Jakko’s higher southern slope. I played assistant to the Art Master (my favourite Subject). I lunched with the School sitting at my house table, Lefroy, next to the House Captain and enjoyed the company of the senior boys and I might add the grub was terrific and very tasty. By evening we ordered a cab and soon we were driven up then crawling down the drive leading to the venue at least another 1000 feet above the school. Meeting a tumult of people, vehicles and a thumping Poo-poo band. We had arrived and waited and waited long. Even later the groom and then the bride’s arrival separately to a loud beat of drums and much louder music from the band. Uda the father of the bride greeted us (Uda is a younger OC). Slowly it built up to where the couple took their vows in the presence of their parents, and a high priest in a vale tented investiture. The party then declared open to drink and eat to ones pleasures, some under the cover of marquees and many at tables around cozy warm log fires. The latter mainly down on the lower lawn a long way down. Great excitement and meeting all kinds of international party people including many older OCs. My main excuse to imbibe was the night was distinctly turned nippy. I must say the food at these sorts of receptions is superb and the choices of drink quite a varied good range. It was well after 1:am when a courtesy limmo dropped us to the School gate.
9th Oct. Breakfast as usual after Maggie & Sheila went up for shopping in Simla and to meet with Nappy & Parvesh. I spent my day in the Art Room and lunched with the School again at my favourite table and in good company. It is a joy to recall my days of schooling at BCS and relate to the eager listeners.
In the evening we all assembled in the Irwin Hall and were treated to A Cultural Show displayed so poignantly by groups of Differently Disabled Children visiting from surrounding areas. Senior boys carried out their detail escort duties with true and gentle passion. We were escorted and followed them down to the Remove building at the very bottom of campus and shared with them a very hearty dinner.
10th Oct. Sports Day for these dear souls are now an annual fixture at this time of the year. Again Headmaster Mr. Robinson installed me as guest of honour as I handed out the many prizes. Again the Senior boys, at their best, doing the duty with dignified assistance in every way. For me it chalks up a heavenly blessing to this wonderful school that was earmarked by the great man G.E.L. Cotton and the testimony brought down from him by the Principals who have followed on to the present YEAR.
For a break we – Sheila, Maggie and I rode upto Wildflower Hall in a courtesy School car for a quiet lazy lunch on the hotel terrace as we viewed the higher snow capped mighty Himalayas. One really has to be present to admire this brilliant panoramic, serene tranquility under a clear blue sky as one breathes in the freshness and warmth and together relish this natural beauty.
11th Oct. Another carefree day spent in the school. Roamed from top to bottom – Council Rock hardly recognizable – up and down the Drive. Again lunched with the School – got to be good grub as I was beginning to make a habit for it.
In the evening Nappy came and picked us up and we all had drinks and a super dinner at his summer lodge. It was his brother Joggy’s birthday and we did not return to school till midnight. Thanks for a lovely evening!
12th Oct. A positive reason for staying in the school one is close to all the action and there is not always demand on your time.
Nice and easy to relax spending another day and in the Art Room again. Some pupils would drop in to look and chat and then lunch in the school yet again. In the evening there were two friendly hockey First X1 matches to watch the first against the Masters to warm up and a second against a team from Ludhianna.
13th Oct. For a change we spent a day up in Shimla. The Mall is the main attraction with its many shops and good bargains galore. Always a lover of wild life I was fascinated to watch the behavior of the monkeys and their interaction with the Shimla people. We indulged in an afternoon drink with Nappy, Parvesh and in the company of their friends at the now well refurbished ‘Green Room’ Gaiety Theatre. You would not recognise it now – only that it stands on the same site and twice as large and one can now enter from The Ridge. For lunch we retired to the Combermere. We then all strolled gingerly down to Nappy’s and Parvesh refreshed us with tea.
14th Oct All good things must end. Our last day I decided to spend it on campus and sent Maggie & Sheila to do their last bit of Shimla shopping and to finally meet with Parvesh and Nap. For me it was a day mixed with thankfulness for being present at this historic inspiring return and sadness at the thought of finally leaving. I lent as much time as I could to chat and mix with the boys. The benches on First Flat always hold precious memories. To watch the ultimate sunset brings with such deep purple a sense of mingled melancholy and lasting Old Cottonian pride.
The 15th morning came soon as we said our goodbye and rolled down to Barog for our final puri tac and then by early evening to Chandigarh. Next evening we joined Nappy and Parvesh at he home of Parvesh’s sister Jugnu and husband Inderjit for a pre-Diwali family get-to-gather. Dewali night we were treated to a fireworks display by staff of our Regency Hotel outside in front.
On to Delhi for the tail end of this grand tour staying at DC Anand guesthouse two episodes come to mind. On the last Thursday night Dimpy & Lena Mehra invited us for dinner. A lovely evening we were joined by Jaspal Sawhney and his wife, Tejii Singh and BN Singh (the Taxman). The conversation flowed as easy as the drinks and we all sat down to a delicious meal. The ladies exchanged live experience as we OCs locked into the central purpose of the Sesquicentennial Celebrations and the real future of BCS. The following day Margaret had arranged to meet Mrs. Joy Michael at the India International Centre for lunch. Our acquaintance with Joy brings on a new dimension. Joy thoughtfully planned for me to meet a very, very senior OC a delight and pleasure meeting 95 years old Romesh Chander and Lefroy House! Joy informed us that Romesh’s wife was her college friend and Romesh at one time was leading in the field at the start of Indian Television – he still is a writing critic for some of the Indian national newspapers. A great privilege to meet with them and regret we could not have spent more time.
Our Month’s Dream holiday in Indiaaaah will live on and Bless the School for having us ……. THANK YOU!
In closing I would like to take this opportunity to inform all our members after the 2010 Reunion on the last Saturday in June I will be stepping down from Honorary Secretary. I have given this decision much thought and to ease the burden of anxiety. Over 25 years tenure I do believe is long enough. Carrying the Association into the 21st century and more so to meet with the Sesquicentennial Celebrations. All this has been a lifting and fitting climax to a labour of love that has been a privileged honour and great years of joy.
Finally Maggie & I would like to wish each one of you a Merry Christmas and happiness with good health in the New Year.
Following the tragic disaster of the earthquakes in Pakistan in 2005, the Old Cottonians Association (UK) decided to raise money for an Appeal Fund to go towards the construction of a new school in the devastated area of Pakistan. Dr. Humayun Khan took it upon himself, with his wife, to administer these funds to their best use.
We now have a photograph of the plaque and there are also those of the school itself, showing the results of our contribution to this most worthy cause.
Our contribution mirrors the deep and lasting feelings of brotherhood which those educated in Bishop Cotton School Simla carry with them over the years. This feeling which crosses borders of country, race and religion, is one of the pillars on which the school was founded and manifests itself to this day. Our Annual Reunions, held in London, bring OCs from East and West, North and South and for us the camaraderie and memories of our schooldays bring us together, shedding the years and reviving and strengthening our friendships, borne of years of ‘suffering’, joy and proximity of annual periods of nine months together in the heavenly setting of then) pine-clad Simla!
So we are proud to have been able to be of some humble assistance in the rehabilitation of young children in this most important of their requirements – the chance to be educated.
We now look forward to seeing a number of OCs from Pakistan joining us from the UK, along with others from around the world, in Simla at the beginning of October to celebrate our 150th Anniversary.
We also send our greetings and best wishes to all those young pupils in their new school for a happy and successful time, which will hopefully lead to a bright future, helping them to cross the borders of country, race and religion.