I still remember the day almost 10 years ago and the series of events which occurred on that day. It was a typical day in May with the warm blistering heat of Delhi when I received a call from D.C Anand’s office. How he traced me is itself an achievement as it was almost a decade since I had any direct contact with him or with my alma-matter. This was an invitation to a gathering of Cottonians in Delhi to meet “Freddie Brown” our Head Master of yester years.
As we drove towards the Taj Man Singh Hotel my excitement grew. The moment we were ushered in to the seventh floor reserved room I saw the familiar faces of Wendy Dewan, D.C Anand, Vinnie (Toti) Aggarwal, my mind went back to June 1948 and I could see my self sitting in the school dining hall with The RIVAZ House Captain, (Late) IVOR HITHCOCK calling the Roll and moving to the Head Master’s table totally oblivious to the cries of the “ATSOM”. And this is how the Roll call went.
Anand – Bhow – Bhandari – Brent Ford – Chandu Lal – Chandu Lal – Cursetji – Dewan – Jain – Harinder Singh – Kohli – Kirschener – Kirschener – Mehra – Mehra – Murphy – Murphy – Naginder Singh – Nakai – Nakai – Preet Mohinder Singh – Raghu Raj Singh – Rudra – Rudra – Renzing – Sarda – Sarda – Samuels Lal – Samuels Lal – Sinha – Dhawan.
Those of you who were in Rivaz House in 1948 would bear testimony to the roll call. However, names of some of the persons who were in the Rivaz house in 1948 but did not figure in the Roll call are listed below:
I.M Khosla (Because he was a day border). The others were the boys who stayed in the dormitory above the “Head Master’s House” (with their special privileges) as they also missed the daily evening roll call at the main dining hall. Some of the names of these others which come to my memory are – Ranjit Puri, some of the Patiala boys & other boys from the erstwhile princely families.
Over the years even though almost half a century has passed we have directly or indirectly still kept in touch.
I venture to write about them with memories of what they were in 1948 and where they are today.
In this I have tried also to narrate the atmosphere of that time. We had just gained Independence and there was a great sense of patriotism among the boys. Most of our senior masters were from UK who imbibed in us qualities of discipling and character and put us through our paces (and laid the foundations of our future).
D.C. ANAND: We all know him today as a self made man who is the head of a large industrial empire. A person who has also dedicated himself to do service to his “Alma-Mater” and has been the pillar of the current OCA. He amply exhibited the qualities of leadership even at that young age. Even though he was a Fifth Former yet every one listened to him and whatever he said or advised was treated with great respect. I recall two minor incidents which I associate with him:
JANAMASHTAMI – On the occasion of the Janamashtami in 1948 the school did not have a holiday and it was DC who prevailed upon the establishment that all the boys who wanted to celebrate this festival should be given a day off. An unheard of thing in BCS in those days. We therefore gathered in the Rivaz House Common Room and he insisted that those of us who had taken the day off must have a compulsory Janamashtami fast. Because it came from DC even though he was only a fifth former we all followed.
The Controversy: Our house master J.L.Papworth used to give us fabulous parties called “Chews” in the common room. He had an excellent cook, who was the talk of the town. One day we learnt that the cook had been sacked, because he had stolen/pinched some food items from the Larder. This matter became the topic of discussion and DC led the debate as usual. There was one view that because he was such a good cook, if we were in Mr Papworth’s place, we would have let him off with only a warning. The other view was that we must follow our principles. Later when I think back on this incident I realise the basic thinking of the two cultures.
“In one you stick by your principles no matter what the personal cost and on the other you are prepared to compromise keeping your personal requirements in view”
BHOW: He left soon after I joined the school and we have had no contact with him since then.
Ranjit K Bhandari: He was the son of a very eminent engineer who was the Secretary of the Bhakhra Dam Project. When I arrived in school I was put under his care and he put me through my paces. His personality reflected himself in the Cross Country Race where grit and determination were the necessity of the hour. He graduated from Hindu College, Delhi, worked in the Kingdom of Brunei, then went to the Bahamas where he made a name for himself in the field of education. From there he emigrated to the USA and became a Banking Executive of repute. He has recently retired from service and settled in New Jersey where he and his wife Madhu take special care of all visitors from India, particularly those of BCS.
Malcolm Brent Ford: He was of European descent. His father was an Englishman and his mother a German. Soon after graduating from school he emigrated to UK.
JB Chandu Lal and Chandu Lal: They were then the pillars of Rivaz House. The School knows Chandu Lal-2 as a former Bishop of Amritsar and the head of the Board of Governors.
Coover Cursetji: He came from Bombay and one remembers him as holding centre stage in the Boxing Ring. I read in the Mitre of his recent visit to the school and learnt that he had joined the Merchant Navy and was one of their senior Captains.
Robindra Dewan: He came from an Army background and from the very early age he exhibited special qualities of leadership. He captained all the Colts teams of the school. He was the Junior “Victor Ludorum” in the school athletics. We met again at the National Defence Academy where he distinguished himself in the field of sports. He was commissioned in the Armoured Corps and commanded an Armoured Regiment with distinction and at the same time he distinguished himself in the Inter Services Cricket championships. After retirement he has settled down in Shimla and he and his talented wife Neelam have done yeoman service for the school and the OCA.
Antony Peter Jain: He brought with him the stories of two cultures. The Jain tradition from his fathers side and the British tradition from his mothers. He narrated to us all the stories of his visit to the UK to visit his grand-mother when the war had not finished. He narrated the stories of his voyage to England, of how they were worried about the German Submarines and their rejoicing when news came that Germany had surrendered. He left the school in the Fourth form and has now immigrated to UK.
Harinder Singh: He was a scion of the Royal Patiala House hold/family. An out-standing sportsman. He brought with him tales of the wonderful palaces at Chahal and Patiala. I understand that he has settled down in Patiala.
JM Kohli (Called Kohli 2): His elder brother was a school prefect and hence was not a part of the Roll Call. I remember him personally as our leader in the morning PT. Somehow I have not been able to establish contact with the Kohli brothers after leaving school.
Kasper Kirschener & Andreas Micheal Kirschener: They were the most fascinating personalities we came across in the school. They taught us many qualities of leadership and resource and team spirit. Their father had been a planter of German origin in Indonesia and had been interned during the war. They brought with them stories of how they were repatriated by the Red Cross and how they settled down in Shimla (where their father was the General Manager of Keventers). We were all fascinated by Junior Kirschener’s bows and arrows which he had carved out of a bark of a tree from Narkanda and his medicine box. Both the Kirscheners were outstanding swimmers. The younger Kirschener was a Boxer of repute and was awarded “The Best Loser Prize” in one of the most keenly contested boxing finals. As our house prefect he taught us discipline and rule of law, camaraderie and spirit of adventure. One day we both decided as a measure of adventure to “Break Bounds” where we were almost caught. (Our house master Tubby described these as “healthy school boy’s fun”). While we were Breaking Bounds Kirschener II who was a House Perfect mentioned to me that if caught he would be detapped. He did not mind being detapped but was afraid of the process of being detapped. They have now settled down in Germany and Switzerland respectively. I was very happy to meet Kirschener II at a get together which DC Anand had organised at the Delhi Golf Club recently. What is remarkable about them is that they have risen up in their careers to great heights but still have strong ties with the school and mention “that what they are today is because of their being in BCS”. Incidently Kirschener I was described by Ruskin Bond in the Annual Cottonian as “capable of losing his pen in his pocket”
RC Mehra and KC Mehra (Mehra 1 and Mehra 2): They represented the class of boys who had seen the trauma of partition. They were the sons of Shri W.C. Mehra who was one of the most respected Inspectors General of Police. They were both very good sportsmen. I lost contact with senior Mehra soon after leaving school. KC Mehra had a very chequered and successful career. Initially his handsome looks got him a role in a movie opposite Tanuja. Later he took to serious things and retired as a very senior functionary in the Tata Group of Industries.
Murphy 1 and Murphy 2: The twin Murphy brothers were versatile all rounders. Murphy 2 was awarded the school colours in boxing (by beating me in the finals). They would liven up any group with their songs and stories. They both have emigrated to England where I am sure they are keeping the flag of school high.
Naginder Singh: He was a scion of the royal house hold of Patiala and like his other brothers regaled us with stories of the famous palaces of the Maharaja of Patiala.
Nakai 1 and Nakai 2: They hailed from Punjab and brought with them great stories of the farming community. Nakai 1 had joined the Police and rose to the rank of Inspector General of Police, Haryana and makes it a point to attend the annual OCA get together at Delhi. Nakai 2, I am given to understand is a surgeon settled in Canada or the USA.
Preet Mohinder Singh: A very reserved boy with impeccable manners. He has now settled down in Delhi where he was one of the partners in Deacon Lights.
Raghu Raj Singh: One of the most loveable boys in the school, popular all around, very good in woodcraft and handiwork. We had no contact with him since he left.
Joginder Nath Rudra: I still remember our boxing bouts where we won alternately. His sister was in Auckland House considered as our sister’s school where many of the school boys sisters studied. We had a long service together in the Army starting from the Academy. We both took part in the United Nations Operations in Congo in 1962-63. JN had joined the Gorkha Regiment and rose up to the rank of Brigadier where he commanded a Brigade with distinction. We have kept in touch over a period of time.
Renzing: He hailed from a royal family of Tibet. He was an excellent boxer but had to leave early because of the requirements back home. His marriage to a princess was given very wide coverage in the News papers, bringing fame to the BCS and Rivaz House.
Shyam Sundar Sarda and Desh Raj Sarda: They were outstanding in sports and all round activities. They came every year from Dar-e-slam and brought with them stories of East Africa. I had an occasion to hear about them first hand when we went to the Congo via Dar-e-slam and found that they were one of the most well known families in East Africa. Both of them distinguished themselves at Oxford/Cambridge and have business interests both in East Africa and UK. Desh Raj Sharda had made it a point to come for one of the OCA get togethers at Delhi recently.
David Samuels Lal and Robin Samuels Lal: They were the two handsomest boys in the school with their blond hairs and exceedingly good looks. They excelled in Cricket and were responsible for the Rivaz House winning the cricket shield. They have now emigrated and settled in UK.
Sinha: He came from Bihar and brought with him the stories of his native province with its tigers and the forests. I read about his visit to the school in the Mitre.
Harish Kumar Dhawan: That is the bloke who is writing this. The reason why my name is the last in the Roll Call, because I joined the school after March and the House Captain Ivor Hitchcock could not change the sequence of the Roll Call. So he put me at the end. I joined the National Defence Academy and was commissioned into the Corps of Engineers and retired after 34 years service. I was fortunate to participate in the Congo Operations in 1962-63, Indo-Pak Wars in 1965 and 1971-72. I was also fortunate enough in winning the National Championship in Yachting in 1971 and was also awarded the Corps of Engineer Colours in swimming and Gliding. I am now settled in Delhi. One of my great fortunes has been that I was a student of BCS and belong to the Rivaz House fraternity.
Brig H K Dhawan (Retd) Rivaz House (1948-51)