BEST YEARS OF MY LIFE [at Bishop Cotton School]

The Best Years Of My Life:

My parents settled in Lahore decided to try for my admission at B.C.S where a nephew of my Late Father, Rustom Boga studied in the late 20’s. I was admitted to the Preparatory School situated at Chota Simla in March 1945 and recall Boarding a train at Lahore on around the 10th March,1945 and it was part of the Frontier Mail carrying fellow school mates who were travelling from Peshawar to Kalka via Lahore, Amritsar, Jullundar and Ludhiana to Kalka. We had a short stop at Kalka before Boarding the train around 6 AM to Simla which was about a 6 hour journey with numerous stops. It was an experience travelling on a mountain train which passed through about 100 tunnels. The main attraction was Jetoog/Behrogh where we had a short stop to fill the belly and thereafter I recall the stop at Tara Devi where Kevinter had their farm. We were escorted to the school around 2PM and after a tiring journey were moved to our Dormitory. I was admitted to Cotton House and my house Master was Mr. Shalom and later Mr.Murray. The Headmaster was Mr. Priestly with his wife in attendance to look after us. This was the first time I had left home and the first week was tough for most of the new faces. However, we were very comfortably looked after and fed and soon settled down to a very well organized and settled life. My first friend was Ramesh Bhasin who assisted me in settling down and finding my feet and as time went on the group of mates increased with Derek Crowl, Durrani, Ali Afridi, Niaz-ul-Haq, Persis, Ifti Malik, Mcdowell, Edrich etc.

Among the staff the name of a Mr.Shalom and Jones comes to mind who assisted us in our development and Dunda Hawkes-the Physical Training Instructor who had retired from the Army and was a boxing Champion in his day. I was at the Prep School for 2 years-1945 and 1946. In early 1946 Mr. Priestly left and an Old Cottonian Col. A.E.R Bruce took over as the Head Master. These 2 years at the School played a significant part in my development as the Staff were committed in assisting the country in producing men of character who would take the country and World forward. Apart from taking us for outings regularly to Chota Simla they also took us to some beautiful spots and the one I still recall is Brockhurst. We also visited the Main School on various occasions and they were mainly to view the Inter School fixtures between B.C.S. and Sanawar and we followed the path through the woods to the main school and entered where there was a Birds House in which a variety of birds were held. We watched the School’s matches against Sanawar from the 1st Flat which was covered and was the entrance to the Swimming Pool and the Gymnasium.

I moved to the Main School in 1947 and the year brought new challenges which added to my vision of the outside World as I witnessed the School go through a very traumatic and upsetting period. The School went through a very trying and difficult year in August 1947 at the time of Partition of India when a very large segment of our mates departed for their homes in Pakistan. The Head Master Mr. Drake and Staff at the time Mr. & Mrs. Fisher, Mr. & Mrs. Brown, Mr. Papworth, Mr. & Mrs. Murrey assisted us greatly in settling down. At the end of term a few of us who were settled in Pakistan were taken from Simla by train to the Combined Military Hospital in Ludhiana from where were joined a convoy of buses carrying school children who were studying in India to meet with join their parents settled Pakistan. We left Ludhiana for Lahore by Bus at 3 AM and arrived at Lahore at 1 AM the following morning and most of us were unable to locate our parents who were informed that the convoy would arrive the following afternoon. I got home in a Tonga at 4 AM with a couple from Simla who ran a music shop-the Lobo’s who asked me to join them as they had an apartment on the Mall close to my residence on Temple Road. The cost of the 60 minute ride was Rs.5 and I was home at around 3 AM. Before going further I recall the visit to the School by the Viceroy of India, Lord Louis Mountbatten and his family and I still have the photograph taken of the occasion before the August separation. Simla was the summer capital of the Government and was very well equipped to handle the affairs of the State. The guys who were my role models at the time were Hassan Agha, Humayun Khan, Jesse Pudwell the Curzon House Prefect the house I was proud to have joined. Hassan Agha was the School Captain and Humayun Khan apart from being an outstanding student was also an outstanding Sportsmen who represented the School in all Sports. The
other outstanding students were the Kirshner brothers, Plunkett the outstanding Cricketer at the time who scored a double century against Sanawar. My House Master Mr. Murray and later Rev Bentick and the supporting Staff instilled in all of us Honesty, Tolerance, Understanding and Compassion.

I returned to School in 1948 and there were about 4 of us (the Waughray brothers, P.K.Kapur and myself) who were collected by Mr.Barker and at the end of 1948, I was the only boy from Pakistan who continued my studies till December 1953 and I will never forget the kindness of the Chief Secretary East Punjab a Mr. Gyan Singh and an officer of the Indian Police, Mr. Ashwani Kumar and an uncle of mine Rusi Boga and family who also assisted me with border crossing from Lahore to Amritsar which enabled me to complete my studies. The School was second to none both on the Education front and Sports field regularly out doing our friends from Sanawar on the playing field.I would like to recall the period from 1945 to 1953 where I spent the most memorable years of my life. I may sound emotional but the School with the Headmaster and his excellent team were responsible for all that I achieved in life and my particular thanks go to Mr. T.M. Whitmarsh Knight who was the Senior Master, and who guided and looked after me throughout which assisted me greatly in my development and achievements. I also recall that it was here where we learnt to respect each ones religious faith as it was a multicultural society and the common meeting ground was the daily service at the Chapel which taught us to be tolerant and to respect each others faith. I have since leaving B.C.S devoted a few minutes daily to prayers and recite daily the Lord’s Prayer and the School prayer each Sunday. I will never forget our Motto “Over Come Evil With Good” which appears in the 12th Chapter of the 9th verse of the Epistle of Paul the apostle to the Romans. I have a long list of friends and among those I shall always remember are the Late Ramesh Bhasin and Late R.K. Simha. The others are D.C.and K.C.Anand, Vir Bhadra Singh, Dulip Singh, Amar Singh, Feroze Vakharia, Keki Nanavati, Brijesh Narain, Behram Irani, Omar Marwah, the Bahl brothers, Aurora, Wendy, Chaddha, Sarda, Joginder Singh, Narpinder Singh, Ron Plunkett, Ruskin Bond, Peter Stringer, Arthur Jones, Les Homer, P.K. Kaul, Baljit Singh, Daljit Singh and P.K. Kapur and the list goes on. The last memorable outing was in June, 1953 when our Headmaster Mr.Frank Fisher with Ted Cuzen, the Lefroy House Master took Simha and me to Choir where we climbed the peak around 9am which was at a height of around 10,000 feet and it took us about 5 days to walk to our target from the School and the trip was made during the 10 day hols in June. When we got to the top we felt we were on top of the World as if we had conquered mount Everest. Before closing I would like to recall the trips to town and we passed Knolls Wood, before going up a very steep incline we called Sudden Death and after a furlong were at Oak Over the Summer residence of the Maharaja of Patiala and then on our entry to town passing Clarke’s Hotel.

I joined Pakistan Tobacco Limited Karachi an Associate of British American Tobacco towards the end of 1955 and was with them for 38 years and retired as the Head of their Commercial Operations in 1993. I continued service thereafter and joined Ravi Chemicals an associate of the Hoechst group in Lahore till early 1996 and assisted them in setting up in organizing their Commercial operations for the Chemical plant they established outside Lahore. Thereafter I returned to Karachi and joined Green Star Social Marketing, an N.G.O. associated with Population Services International Washington who provided the necessary support services and arranged the required funds to meet the organizations requirements on Family Health and Family Planning. I assisted them in setting up and organizing their Commercial Operations throughout Pakistan and retired after a most rewarding 6.5 years. In order to keep myself active I am currently a volunteer with The Citizens Foundation at Karachi and the project is to educate the poorer sections of our society, particularly girls located in the rural areas where adequate facilities for education are not available. To-date we have established over 800 schools throughout the country and the monthly fees are in the region of Rs 25 which is inclusive of books and a fully equipped Library and in house Computer facilities.

God Bless all of you and I wish Bishop Cotton School the very best in the years ahead and look forward to visiting the school in the not to distant future and guys always remember our motto “OVERCOME EVIL WITH GOOD”.

Jal Boga.

February 3rd 2024

Dear All,

I reproduce the correspondence from Meher Boga, the Late Jal Boga’s daughter for your information

“Thanks Vijay for your kind words of condolences on the sad passing of our dear Dad. I shall certainly pass on your message to my mother – Ava and my brother & sister in law – Rustom & Dilshad. You can should you wish circulate some of the info as appropriate about Dad among the BCS fraternity”. 

“Thank you for your kind words expressed for my dear Dad. Yes I do have a copy of the Bio he wrote which you have so kindly attached to this mail. As requested I have attached a picture of my Dad taken a few years ago when he was living here in Toronto.  

As indicated in his Bio which he wrote sometime around 2006/2007, he worked for Pakistan Tobacco Co Ltd (an arm of BAT – British American Tobacco, UK) for over 38 years. After retiring from PTC he took on various positions as a Consultant on Contract with a few different companies before he actually decided that he would now call it quits and officially retired in March 2006 and subsequently moved to Canada permanently that summer. Both he and my Mum lived with me until the end of 2021 when they left to spend time with my brother and sister-in-law in Karachi, Pakistan. Each year they would spend about 2-3 months of the winter in Karachi and then return to Canada however due to Covid restrictions they were unable to return as planned and soon thereafter Dad’s health deteriorated and they were unable to come back. I therefore visited them each year spending as much time as I could with the family. 

 Dad passed away on October 22, 2023. My dear Mum along with my brother and sister-in-law provided all the care he required. We can only take solace in knowing he is in a better place and at rest. I cherish the wonderful memories we shared over the years. May God bless him and may his soul rest in eternal peace forever” 

Jal Boga will endure in our minds as a legend for his achievements. His was a life well lived. God hold him in arms.

Warmly – Vijay Khurana 

16 thoughts on “BEST YEARS OF MY LIFE [at Bishop Cotton School]

  1. Padam Singh

    Dear Vijay
    Thank you for publishing this letter from Jan. He was a truly visionary man b. y character, soft spoken but terribly disciplined as I too was a boy who joined in 1953 and he was our School Captain What our country is people like Jan in every sphere and we would certainly be a better country for it.

    His letter could be framed and hung in every classroom for future generations to read and imbibe

    Thanking you again


    C 1953 – 59 )

  2. Pingback: A much remembered figure: Jal Boga | Old Cottonians Association


    Hi Jal—It was a real pleasure to read “Best years of my life”—brought back happy memories of our schooldays.I was looking forward to meeting you in Simla for the BCS Sesquicentennial Celebrations in October 2009.We had the pleasure of meeting a delelation of old Cottonions from Pakistan as also Football & Cricket teams from Aitchison College, Lohore. As you may recollect, during our school days,the centre door
    for the Irwin Hall always remained closed—during the celebrations this door was reopened for the return of the Old Cottonions and we were privileged to walk through the door. P.K.Kaul,Behram Irani,Daljit Singh,Wendy Dewan were there for the celebrations.10 cottonions from the batch of 1954 stayed at a Resort on
    “Sudden Death’.Warm Regards & look forward to meeting you—Brijesh Narain.

  4. Editor Post author

    Jal Boga asked to post this message on his behalf:

    I would like to thank the following O.C’s who very kindly thanked me for my article with their very touching appreciation – BALJIT SINGH, B.M.SINGH, RAJIV MALHOTRA, NARINDER CHAUHAN, SANTOKH SINGH, YOGESH MEHRA, LT.COL.U.S.GILL, ASHWANI SINGH, BALWANT SINGH AND IPPY MALIK.

  5. Balwant (Bunny) Rao

    Though I am from Ibbetson but we were awed by you. You were our role model. It was the considered opinion that after Kirchner you alone were suited to take his place. My classmates were Paul Tonk, Wendy, Dajit Singh…Your article made us recollect those wonderfull days in the most impressionable years of our life and those who taught us. To recollect some of the teachers you mentioned.
    You must have gone through 3rd Form and Mrs Fisher one of the finest teachers one could have come across, and if one failed to come upto her expectation, not only in class but also on the games field, her inimitable tongue lashing straightened one out. Mr Whitmarsh Knight and Mrs Knight were slave drivers as far as choir practice went. Plunkett in the choir was given the solos to sing, and I wondered why my House-Captain Ruskin Bond was never given a chance to sing till only recently we came to know, on Ruskin’s his own admission, that he couldnt sing a note and was kept in the choir as a show-boy. Our great day came when the Choir went to the main Church in ‘Simzee’. Our performance there was appreciated by a distinguished and perceptive audiencel. Mr ‘Tubby’ Knight was not only one of the finest teachers but an expert in caning. My memory of Mr Bruce was that he was a stickler for good table manners and you were punished on the spot for gluttonly. But the nicest and most loveable teacher was Mr Jones, and the petite Mrs Brown who was there to nurse you with love and care if you were admitted in the hospital.
    Once again thank you for reviving memories and making the legend of Jal Boga live again.

  6. ashwani singh virk

    Thank you very much for your worthy contribution to a worthy school. So much so that it lives on till date in every OC’s heart and Mind. Every student wants his name desperately on the honor boards at BCS but are always surprised at the fact that there is none without the name of “Jal Boga” that too, not just once but twice or thrice….. amazing! May god give you a long life to share your rich boarding treasures with all of us.

  7. Lt Col U S Gill, SM

    Sir JAL BOGA, the legend of BCS. The name of a persona that has travelled down the years (1962 – 1972, the years that i was in school). Am sure, THE NAME ! still resonates in the dorms, when todays generation talks of the yester-year Cottonians.
    What one has learnt anew , is this persons getting back to school after 1947 and continuing till 53 Hats Off!!!
    A visit to the Alma Matter is called for on your part. Am sure it would be a great ‘Home Coming’ and all Cottonians would look forward to meeting you

    Uppi Gill, C-62-72
    (Lt. Col. U S Gill, SM)

  8. Iftikhar Ahmad Malik

    I am writing from the the same village from where I went to BCS in 1944 from which ‘A School Boys Story‘ started and reported in the Old Boys website..Modern day technology knows no bounds and enables me to keep in touch through this small laptop and wireless connection.The learning process for me started at BCS.
    Jal was my House Captain of Cotton House and in later years brought me to work with him in the same Pakistan Tobacco Co.He set very high standards of work and was universally admired. An Old Boy, Khwaja Zafar Hassan was a Chairman at one time of the Company. BCS boys stood out and I am thankful to the School for making me what I am today.

  9. Yogesh Mehra 1969-73

    Dear Mr. Boga – thanks for posting your lovely note. As Narinder Chauhan has mentioned above – I too sought immense inspiration by seeing your name on practically every board; I recall trying to figure out if any other student had more mentions, and if memory serves me right – I don’t think anybody had.

    I too was very keen to meet up with you in School during the Sesquicentennial celebrations – as some mentioned that you would be there.. perhaps our paths shall cross some day..

    Wishing you well –


  10. Dr. Santokh Singh

    JAL VICTOR BOGA……. was the hero of all the Cottonians from 1950 (when I joined) and 1953 (when he left)… & even after. A young man of character, ability, sportsmanship, a true leader of his House & the School, is the way we all looked up to him! … And it really was a great treat, an honour to suddenly run into him in Toronto, at an OCs reunion there, a few years ago. (I wonder if he remembers!). I had taken my son along for the reunion (he also is an OC & was then living in Toronto) & took great pride in introducing Jal.
    I was under the impression that Mr. Boga had moved to Toronto for good. But will make it point to meet him in Lahore, (my birth place) when I next go there.
    The likes of JAL VICTOR BOGA are Giants, we are privileged to meet perhaps once in a life time.
    Dr. Santokh Singh.

  11. Editor Post author

    Dear Mr. Boga,
    Your comment:

    Before going further I recall the visit to the School by the Viceroy of India, Lord Louis Mountbatten and his family and I still have the photograph taken of the occasion before the August separation

    has perked our interest. If you could scan and forward the photograph [and any others you might have in your collection], it would be a superb accompaniment to your letter.

    1. Editor Post author

      Mr. Boga responds:
      The photograph of Lord Mountbatten’s visit is with me in my album at Karachi and on my next visit in early November will scan and send it over.

  12. Narinder Chauhan 1964-74.

    Dear Mr Boga, a host of us were looking forward to meeting you during the sesquicentennial celebrations, a few of my seniors even pointed out the inspiration drawn by your name as reflected in numerous boards adorning the Dining hall and Irwin hall. Please do take time off to visit BCS, the Himachal Chapter of the OCA, based in Simla, looks forward to hosting you in Simla. Best wishes,

  13. Rajiv Malhotra

    Mr Boga, Greetings! You made my evening , reading your blog was really nice and uplifting. It is so good to hear the humane side of an individual. It is so sad politicians divide us humans on caste, creed and religion. We all are one family. I am forwarding your note to my sons to read. It surely should be an inspiration for them to know how one values one’s alma mater.

    Best rgds, Rajiv

  14. B.M.Singh

    This is worth a read for all OCs and students at BCS. What comes through is a person devoid of bias or the poison of sectarianism. In a world of conflicts we need many more like him and I am proud that our school could contribute to his upbringing. We would love to have him as a special guest at the next OCA week in the school.

  15. Baljit Singh Gill

    For years i wanted to know about the legend Jal Boga….I joined Liliput in 1954 after you left and was fed with your stories…some guys said you went back to Malaya others said Pakistan….till some years back some Cottonion met you in Canada and he set things right….it was lovely reading each word you have written to relate back to you…Jal Boga is Jal boga indeed..i was in BCS for a few years only perhaps thats why i did not get your updates…Thank You Jal Boga…


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