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



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 .