Tag Archives: Ruskin Bond

School History and some memories….

Dear Old Cottonians
Recently we sent around an email with a link to the downloadable file “History of Bishop Cotton School, Shimla” – Researched by Colonel (Retd) R. Dewan, Written by Raaja Bhasin with an Introduction by Ruskin Bond. We do hope many of you enjoyed reading it. Old Cottonian Richard [Dick] D’Abreu from Australia wrote back in reply and also sent in a few pictures, appended below.

It was good to read the History of BCS, written up in so much detail. I was able to recall the part written up from 1936 to 1946, the accuracy of which was so precise. In 1937 Allan Fennell was the School Captain. To me at aged 9, I would mistake him for one of the staff, I was in awe of all the school prefects. Fred Brown was a senior student in my time. He was an excellent hockey player and an all round cricketer, and although I was a few years years his junior, I came to know him quite well. He left school in 1939, with his fellow hockey friend Malcolm Petters. Fred then returned as a member of the school staff while I was in Fifth Form. He was first a master at the Prep school for a while, but then, Cannon Sinker transferred him to the senior school. He became my House Master of Curzon when I was a House Prefect. In his single days he became engaged to our Bursa’s daughter Pat Murphy. His living quarters was one end of the Curzon C dormitory. One of his duties was to have the House boys over to his quarters on a Saturday evening. He would often trust me the key to his quarters on Saturday so as I could lock up after the boys left at 9.00pm, while he was out taking his fiancee Pat to the pictures in town. I left school before he married. For a few years while I was in the RAAF in Australia I kept contact with him, but regrettably lost touch when I was with the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces in Japan. Many years later while retired in Perth Western Australia, I met up with Malcolm Petters. He used to ring up his old friend Freddy Brown quite often. I used to go over to Malcolm’s home and chat with Fred also for a while. It was sad when Alzheimer’s got the better of Fred and he could not remember me.

I also recall all the school operas that we sang in under the direction of Mr. and Mrs. Priestley …In the opera Trial by Jury, as mentioned in the BCS History the boys took the part of girls in the opera. I was pleased I sang as a Tenor so did not qualify to be a girl. The singing of Handel’s Messiah in Simla in 1943 was a highlight. The photo of the choir is included.

Old man Karam had the tuck shop on the first playing field. His son we called Silly Billy ran the tea shop next door. Rs 2.00 was the maximum pocket money we were allowed each week, in those days it would buy quite a few things. At the end of each term we would have 10 days holiday, for this my parents would allow me Rs 50.00. We would think we were rich.

Mr. Fisher was a senior master that taught us Physics. I think he was also a House Master. When we used to quite often play up in his lab, he would call us out by name and say “Take your books and leave the class..you are only wasting your parents money…all you people realize is the stick… ” He was also in charge of the little photo lab and darkroom where we could go and do our own developing and printing of films. I had a Box Brownie camera of which I took the photo of Simla in 1937.

I would like to also make mention of the end of year House Chews each House would indulge in. Our parents would contribute to a fund which would go towards buying tasty curries and Indian sweets for everyone to enjoy. This feast would take place in the main dormitories of each House. Sometimes I wish I could wind back the clock 70 odd years to those memorable school days.

My best wishes…Dick D’Abreu.

Karen Ann Monsy interviews Ruskin Bond

Karen Ann Monsy interviews Ruskin Bond [Bishop Cotton School 1943-1950 Ibbetson House]. As published in the Khaleej Times WKND Magazine of 9th December 2011 reproduced below. The original article photos and can be read here.

From Ruskin with love
By Karen Ann Monsy

Sixty years on and with pen firmly in hand, Ruskin Bond proves he’s still as capable of enchanting readers as he was when he first began.

Hundreds 
of screaming fans in a tent packed beyond seating capacity. That an audience could 
be just as captivated today by the man whose storytelling first fired up their imaginations as little children decades ago was a testament to just how popular an Indian author by the name of Bond — Ruskin Bond — could be.

With over 300 short stories, essays and novels to his name, it has been his irresistible signature of unassuming wit and simplicity more than anything else that has forged much of the bond between the Mussoorie-based novelist and his readers. Considered an icon in literary circles, the 77-year-old of British descent was recently declared due to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Delhi Government. To his cheering fans at the Sharjah International Book Fair last month, he stated simply: “Without readers, there cannot be writers. If I’m famous, it’s because of you.”

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Articles for a souvenir

Dear OC’s

We wish to bring out a souvenir on the occasion of the sesquicentennial celebrations. We would like to print memoirs of OC’s giving reflection of their years in BCS. We request OC’s to write articles not more than one page and send it to us.

We enclose herewith article titled “Thank you BCS” by Ruskin Bond. We solicit this kind of article which can be printed.

Please send article to the undersigned latest by 10th August 2009.

Best Regards,

Jaspal S. Sawhney

Introduction

THANK YOU – BCS

There were some who became legends ——— Freddie Brown , T.M. Whitmarsh Knight, Bob Murray, Frank Fisher ———– dedicated teachers through whose hands several thousand school boys passed during their years at BCS. Through the critical years, just before and after independence, these and other stalwarts made certain B.C.S. standards and traditions remained high.

To a school boy, a non –teaching headmaster may seem rather remote. But all of us can look back on our school days and recall at least one, sometimes two or three teachers, whose influence on us was strong and permanent. “Tubby” Whitmarch Knight lent me his own books, encouraged me to write. Freddie Brown taught me to hold a straight bat, both on and off the cricket field. “Taffy” Jones, a man of high principles, taught me integrity. Others left their mark in different ways. Mrs. Knight tried her best to teach me to sing but failed hopelessly; I was tone deaf. So she did the next best thing. Insisting that I looked just right in a cassock and surplice, she had me stand in the choir and open and shut my mouth with the rest of them; but I was not allowed to sing a single note. For two years a silent member of the school choir, I grew into a frustrated opera singer.

A few years earlier, a more accomplished B.C.S. choir had given a memorable performance of Handel’s Messiah, which was also broadcast over All India Radio. The School’s musical reputation was also enhanced by performances of Gilbert and Sullivan Operettas – The Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado, Iolanthe, and Trial by Jury. G.L. Papworth, our music teacher in the 1940’s, was the inspiration behind many of these efforts. School plays were also popular and were occasionally performed at Shimla’s famous Gaiety Theatre. Although, naturally, I did not get any singing roles, I made a hit playing a tipsy waiter in a one-act farce.

The Sixth Form of 1950 was not a brilliant class, with the exception of the Kirschners, Kasper and Andreas, who went on to become leading lights in their chosen scientific fields. The rest of us were average students, and some were more taken up with sports, the cinema, current jazz, and the tuck-shop. In my own case, the tuck-shop took precedence. Those hot fresh Samosas and Jalebis made up for the rigours of early morning P.T., occasional canings, and having to write “a hundred lines” ( the same line repeated over an over again) as punishment for some misdemeanor or the other. I’m not sure if this rather pointless task still exists. If it does, today’s boys will no doubt be doing their “hundred lines” on computers.

The B.C.S. was a great place for tradition, and canings (usually by headmaster or housemaster) were common enough right up to the 1960’s. This tradition came down to B.C.S from Tom Brown’s School days and English Public School such as Rugby, where our Founder was once one of the junior masters. We took there canings fairly phlegmatically and without fuss. In my time, young tata held the record for being caned the largest number of times, and he went on to a successful career in the hotel business. Some of us would thrust exercise books down the seats of our trousers to mitigate the effects of the swishing cane, but these were usually detected and resulted in an even more vigorous whacking. Three strokes was the average; six the maximum. Not every boy was equally compliant. My small brother William (Bond II), on being caned for the first time, leapt up and struck his housemaster, Mr. Fisher, on the chin. Mr. Fisher was greatly amused and took it sportingly, young bond being only eight or nine years old.

Mr. Jones, a junior master, has strong views on the subject of corporal punishment, and refused to cane boys. He was a dear man, who smoked a cigar and kept a pet pigeon which perched on his bald head and accompanied him on his rounds, although not to class. He had a soft spot for Tata and Vakharia, the most punished boys in School, and years later, when Vakharia dropped into see me in Dehra Dun, we walked across to a local school where Mr. Jones was working, long past the age of retirement. He was still smoking his cigar and he still kept pigeons. He was a man of character, strong in his principles, and so he remained to the end. The best teachers are not always the most qualified.

No one forgets his school years. Memories of B.C.S. grow stronger with the years. Each of us has his own special memories, but there are many that we have in common. Like that first day at School…………

I remember that day in 1943 when my father brought me to the prep school, then situated at Chott Simla. It was mid-June; and because of the War and my father’s R.A.F Service, I was a lat admission. I remember standing on the retaining wall above the playing – field , watching a horde of some two hundred small boys making a great deal of noise as they ran and tumbled about during what must have been the morning break. I did not think I would survive amongst that rather rough-looking lot, and I remember telling my father; ‘Lets go home!”.

But B.C.S was to be my home for the next three years, and I was soon to become one of the noisier boys on that little playing –field. Mr. Ram advani, who now runs a book business in Lucknow, was then the school bursar, and he remembers me as a small boy, for he helped to facilitate my admission, telling Canon Sinker that I was a deserving case.

Bigger playing fields beckoned, and from 1946 to 1950 I was in the senior school, the sola topee having given way to a school cap as a sign of changing times!

There were many changes during this period. The prep school closed down; and in 1947, when independence was the partition of the country, our Muslim friends about a hundred of them, had to be evacuated to Pakistan. This was a grave bow to B.C.S. At the same time, many good teachers were leaving the school and the country, and quality replacements were hard to find. As students we were unaware of the crisis. In 1950, when I took the senior Cambridge Exam, the Sixth form consisted of barely a dozen candidates. Sanawar, then a school for British Soldier’s children (my father’s old school) was in deeper trouble, and could hardly put together a foot ball team.

However, as we all know, B.C.S. along with other hill schools, survived this difficult period and moved onward and forward with independent India, nurturing talent and providing an English education that was as good as any envisaged by Bishop Cotton and the early pioneers.

As I write this little memoir, memories come flooding back: the great storm of ’45, when a couple of giant deodars came crashing down on the prep school roof; a freak snowfall on the Ist April ; fiercely contested hockey and football matches against Sanawar: getting a black eye in the boxing ring; happy hours in the Library; and Scout camp at Tera Devi, when I rolled out of my tent and down the khud. And of course those excursions to down during the June and September break. First priority was an ice-cream at Kwality’s ; then a comic at one of the book shops; then a film at the Rivoli, Ritz or Regal. No TV in those days. No video games or computers. But plenty of fun all the same, especially those occasional “socials” at Aukland house, where we were permitted to dance the fox-trot or Samba with the girls. Tradition and modernity always went together at B.C.S.

Games of course were compulsory, and that included the marathon, which I detested. I was invariably last although, D.C.Anand would sometimes compete for this position. This was due partly to the fact that I would stop to buy and eat roasted “bhutta” ( corn on the cob) from a wayside vendor just below the Governor’s house.

In spite of these occasional acts or indiscipline, it was probably self-discipline that I really learnt at B.C.S. and this has stood me in good stead for the greater part of my life. It has carried me, and may other cottonians through life’s ups and downs. , triumph and vicissitudes.

It helps even in small ways. Today, aged almost Seventy, I still make my own bed, polish my own shoes ( rather ineffectively), and tidy up my study and bed room: all habits I learnt at School. And if challenged I can still make “French bed”, the sort that will get you entangled in the sheets.

But of course self- discipline is more than just self-help. It means working regularly and with commitment; meeting deadlines, revising, giving of one’s best.

Courtesy is another quality that we acquired at B.C.S. and courtesy is a powerful weapon, especially in business and profession. We learnt to say “Sir” to our teachers and seniors.

A year after leaving B.C.S. , I was being interviewed for a job in Public Health Department in Jersey, in the U.K. called into the Director’s office, I automatically greeted him with a “Good Morning , Sir” he looked up, startled. Apparently none of the other candidates had bothered to call him “Sir” , apparently it had gone out of fashion.

“Where did you to school?” he asked

“ In India”, I Said

“ I didn’t know they had public school in India. It must been a good school”

“ Yes, Sir, it still is.” And I had the Job.

Thank you Bishop Cotton .