OCA Reunion (batch of 1989)
By Gursant Sandhu – Ibbetson House
I am so glad that I could make it for the Old Cottonian’s 1989 batch Silver Jubilee celebrations in Shimla, 18th – 20thSeptember 2015. I would like to share my experience with you so I have written this short article.
Firstly, I along with my batch mates are ever so grateful and indebted to our respected Headmaster, Mr Robinson who opened the School gates and hosted us for three days. We very much appreciate that our reunion was during a busy period in the School Calendar. My batch mates and I would also like to thank Mr & Mrs Robinson for all their hospitality. A very special thank you to all the Teachers, Administrative Staff, non-teaching Staff and also to all the young Cottonians who made our experience such a memorable one.
As soon as Kuljinder Bahia and I landed at Chandigarh airport on 16th September, we were greeted at the airport exit by Kamal Kishore. Although this greeting was meant to be a brief one, we had Kamal Kishore travelling with us to Shimla and his boxing skills from our School days could not defend or match Kuljinder’s persuasive skills. In the next 24 hours, there were lots of phone calls finding out where our batch mates were, who is travelling with whom, have they left Chandigarh, what time will everyone be in Shimla etc. – the excitement was building up as some of us, for one reason or another, had not met since passing out of School. On the 17th September, Sam Grewal was speeding up to Shimla with Amit Bakshi, Sukhtep Arora and Ankur Rohtagi in one car followed by many others. By about 8 pm on the 17th, we were under one roof – at The Marina Hotel.
The first day (18th September) of our visit to School kick started with a very touching and a heart-warming chapel service. The Headmaster in his speech confirmed that Kuljinder Bahia has donated 50 lakh rupees to the School and that these funds are held in the School’s Bank Account. From the Chapel we headed to the main Dining Hall for tea and a game of football which was of course won by the young Cottonians. Although we were beaten, some of us bruised by falls, and admittedly followed by days of muscle and joint aches and pains, it was nonetheless the spirit of the game and the participation which we enjoyed. Seeing some familiar faces on the first flat after the game, namely Mr Robin Sinha and Mrs Kaul bought back some lovely memories.
I hope that the interaction session between the 1989 batch and the Upper Sixth Form was productive for the budding Cottonians who will very shortly leap into a very competitive world. Ideas about business, professions, academic routes, self-development etc. were raised. General aspects of life in School, the Cottonian brotherhood, inculcating discipline and English speaking within the campus were also touched upon. Visits to Chelsea, St Bede’s College, Auckland House, town leave etc. did not go amiss. Mr and Mrs Robinson opened the doors of the Headmaster’s Lodge for us for some enjoyable drinks (as a student, a visit to the Headmaster’s Officer or Lodge meant some serious and deep trouble!) followed by Headmaster’s Dinner in the Irwin Hall. The whole day was full of activities, interaction and was thoroughly exciting.
Although we had a very long and tiring first day, we kept to our punctual timing and were on the first floor flat at 10am on the 18th September. Our match with the School XI cricket team started at 10.30, winning the toss we elected to bat first. The game which was witnessed by the whole School, Teaching and Administrative Staff did go in favour of the School team. Nitin Arora bowled very well and I could hear the cheering from the Cottonians, which included the shouts of “c’mon He-Man” (being Nitin’s school name). These cheers were probably instigated by the bubbly and jovial Abhinav Sikka (a keen tennis player from Kullu) and Inderpal Singh Dhillon Rakesh Thakur badly injured his finger. Many catches were dropped by us, including one by yours truly. All the action was caught by Amit Bakshi on his camera.
Lunch on the second day was also in the main Dining Hall. It was delicious! There was then a brief stopover at Mr Bhardwaj’s office where we verified our ICSE marks as there was some banter about some students claiming more marks than what they had achieved, flicked through The Cottonian, general gup-shup. We had a few hours to kill post lunch, so most of us headed back to our nests. The masseur at Hotel Marina had a rather profitable day, given that by this time everyone was queuing for his service. Late afternoon, we witnessed a very competitive and enjoyable Inter-House Hindi Play Competition – a great job by all the students who participated, the organisers and the House Masters. At the request of the Upper Sixth Form boys, Kuljinder Bahia approached the Headmaster for town leave. This was immediately granted, so a good result for the boys. Another sumptuous dinner was laid for us in the main Dining Hall.
Day three (20th September) began with a Campus Tour. The Junior School has since 1989 been completely transformed. It was so nice to see Mrs Modi still active in her duties. Immediately after the Campus Tour, Kuljinder very generously donated an additional 10 lakh rupees for the development of Lefroy House cubicles! We enjoyed another lunch in School, this time with all the main school boys.
We hosted a dinner at Hotel Marina for the Headmaster, Head of Junior School, Senior Master, Second Master, Bursar, Administrative Officer, House Masters and all the teaching staff. By the time we started, the Shimla weather turned for good from a light drizzle to a dry one (although slightly cold). It was an honour for us that the such a large number of invitees attended. The Headmaster distributed souvenir plates, which had been sent all the way from Delhi by the OCA Delhi Chapter.
Kuljinder Bahia’s action of gifting 60 lakh rupees to the School is praise worthy. It takes a huge heart to make such a generous gift, irrespective of how successful one is in his business or stable in his financial affairs. I hope that Kuljinder Bahia continues to contribute to his Alma Mater not only financially but also with his experience as successful entrepreneur. He is also liaising with the Marlborough College regarding an exchange programme for students and teachers, and we all hope that it materialises.
I take this opportunity to thank Mr Vijay Bhardwaj for many things, which include his dedication to the School and its past and present student’s, for always motivating and showing his students the correct and righteous path and for his politeness and humbleness. I have liaised with Mr Bhardwaj over the last 12 months or so trying to organise dates etc. for the reunion and as always I am grateful for the time he has given me, his guidance and support.
Thank you to Mr Dhaliwal, Mr Dinesh Thakur, Mr Danny Singh and Mr Gurprit Singh for their unbiased umpiring!
A big cheer and thank you to Mr Praveen Dharma for his time and effort in co-ordinating and supervising all the activities.
Kuljinder, Dhiraj Sardana and I left Shimla early morning on the 21st. Never shall I forget the memories attached to my batch reunion. Still kindled and strong are those friendships and bonds – which will never die. I carried along the School Service book which I read regularly.
Please forgive me if I have missed anyone or any important aspects in this article, given that I have compiled this within a short time frame.
Before I conclude, I must thank those batch mates who made it to the reunion, including the day scholars and for all those OC’s who contributed towards the dinner hosted at the Marina Hotel. Sukhtep Singh, Pronthep (Pawanjeet) Singh and Umesh Pandey came all the way from Thailand, so the OCA Thailand Chapter survives! I look forward to meeting all of you again, hopefully for the OCA (UK) reunion on 25 June 2016 in London.