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.
Mirrored Reflections and Reflections of the Soul
From the very instant I arrived in this world way way back, yesterday felt like yesterday.
Many I met along the road were mere travelers and others with whom I cemented relationships; at least I tried to, but heavy landings on the runway did bring cracks which again need repair, patience and hard work to bind together.
Reflections do sharpen the Brain as now you would capture the essence on your iPhone but during those misty years, the camera roll stayed within your head and now the urge to speak out..
- From chipping rust on rotten decks off at Tripoli Libya and the scorching sun 52 C.
- Hiding behind curtains –something like a stick in the school dining hall with Mum in panic.
- Eating Shark Meat with that lady Security Guard on a full moon at Hamilton Bermuda
- Obliged to a Vietnam veteran who saved my ass at Brooklyn
- Stunned at the flash of green at a Caribbean sunset.
- Dancing the Salsa at El Rodadero Colombia
- Watching Van Halen Rocking the House at Madison City Gardens
- Taking the Greyhound from Baltimore to Washington with a sneak at the White House
- Feeling the house shake and tremble at San Jose Costa Rica
- And later sitting under a Guanacaste Tree at Guanacaste
- Sampling vino at Los Andes Chile
- Buying my first pair of Levi’s in Las Palmas
- Hearing the sound of Led Zeppelin Houses of the Holy that made me a Rocker.
- Negotiating the Panama Canal and anchoring at Gatun Lake in transit.
- Meeting the High End executives at World Trade Centre NYC with my wife
- Slipping through and attempted mugging at Rotterdam
- And another at Defence Colony Delhi
- Visiting our small plot of land at Bishnupur with my Dad-abound with coconuts
- Smelling the smoke fires at Bursa Turkey
- Dancing with Russian Devooshkasa on a summer’s evening at Kherson USSR
- Hearing Michael Jackson’s ‘Don’t stop till you get enuf’ at the 40 Thieves Club
- Taking the Children to grill sausages in off the Vanern Lake Karlstad
- Buying my First Opel Ascona and visting Bunty Bhullar at Cardiff.
- Breaking my first golf club at the Golf Course in Jamshedpur
- And watching 2 elks staring at us as I played gold at 0100 with my Father in law on Midsummer Sweden
- Going Fishing off the Coast of Sudan
- My first cufflinks at Aden
- Eating Shrimp at Maputo with a rich Indian Dude whose sister had to escape from the clutches of Adi Amin
- Having Dinner with the Joud Brothers at their palace in Lattakia Syria
- Reaching Nagarkot with 2 Swedish damsels and my Mum!
- Seeing the biggest biggest sunflower fields on the train from Buenos Aires to Rosario, Argentina
- Safely making the Valhalla exchange between Guatemala and El Salvador
- Taking refuge south of Nisos Psara as my ship was getting hammered by tumultuous waves and swell.
- My Mum teaching me to drive in my Dad’s immaculate Fiat 1100
- Watching my Dad ship handling mine as we worked our way from Sandheads
- Walking from Southlands to Weybridge Station, Surrey
- Sailing over London on the London Eye
- Eating the best bread, cheese and ham at Burrough’s market, London
- Walking with Sam Aas through Hempstead Heath.
- Watching my daughter releasing white pigeons at Neemrana
- They found their way back to Bishop Cotton School.
- The Albatross guiding me like a sentinel through the Straits of Magellan
- Getting even more inclined towards Hard Rock
- Having a Picnic with my Brother and our Grand Mum at Council Rock
- Taking my Mum to Wagah Border
- Buying 3-dimensional stamps at in Bhutan
- Having the best grub at a family stall in Singapore
- Buying my first Italian jacket in Genoa, Italia
- Walking marble sidewalks in Marina de Carrara, Italia
- A tricky situation in the Straits of Messina, Sicily
- Watching my daughter performing in a Midsummer’s Night Dream, Karlstad Sweden
- Sweden teaching me respect, tolerance, organization and genuine nobel peace
- Watching the monsoon clouds rushing into the valley at Mashobra
- Looking at West Berlin from East Berlin and the Berlin Wall
- Taking a stroll with the family in Barcelona, Esopana
- Enjoying Lamb Chops with Gay Niblett at Valdemossa, Mallorca
- Getting a compliment from 3 ladies off the Imperial War Museum London
- Handing over the realms of the OCA (UK) to TOP DUDE Kuljinder Bahia
- Getting hammered on my left outer thigh by mad golf ball at Naldhera
- As that lost intoxicated Lover played his flute amongst the pines
- Walking through Tea Plantations at Sangsua, Assam
- And helping Senor Marino Urena with his coffee cosecha at Santa Maria de Dota, Costa Rica
- White water rafting at Reventazon Costa Rica
- A flying kiss to M.V Santa Marta from my M.V.Cartagena off Guantanamo Cuba
I THINK I WILL CONTINUE WITH MY REFLECTIONS …AS I ENJOY THE COMPANY OF MY TWO YEAR OLD GRAND DAUGHTER.
As Mr Bob Marley said:
‘’..don’t gain the world and lose your soul
Wisdom is better than silver or gold..’’
I thanked my Mother for giving birth to me as I turned 60 yesterday.
Congratulations to Ruskin Bond (class of 1952) on receiving the Padma Bhushan award. All OC’s should feel proud of his remarkable achievement. This follows a Padma Shri award that he received in 1999.
Photo from “The Indian Express”