Correspondence between OC Vijay Khurana and Mr. Ronald Goss for your reading pleasure:
Dear Mr Goss,
I am taking the liberty of introducing myself as former student of yours from BCS. I was a boarder and finished with the class of 1963. I owe your e-mail address to Mr Sasim Das Gupta, who has my profuse thanks.
You taught us English in Shell and then educated us in the less complicated Mathematics for those that opted for the Arts or the humanity subjects. Your readings during class periods of Sherlock Holmes is an event I recall because it eventually encouraged me to buy the entire volumes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books. The Sherlock series was offered in two volumes by an Indian publisher.
What I also recall is the devastatingly frugal marks that you dished out for our English tests. Govinder, who was a good student of the subject, on that occasion obtained for the form order a decent 46 when most of us barely hovered just above the pass mark of 40 and more particularly in the region of 41-43. I was awarded a low 38, the only time I ever failed in the language. It caused me much anguish and I thankfully obtained a 43 at the end of year final examination, sufficient enough to proceed to the next class!! I recall collecting that detail before heading to the railway station. I then knew that the impending holidays would be more cheerful!
I also recall your disarming honesty. While preparing for our final board examinations we tested ourselves against the previous years exam papers. One winter evening you were passing by when you popped in to where Rishi and I were attempting to solve an old paper. Rishi asked you the meaning of the word “bottleneck” and while you answered all the others you were candid to say, “I do not know the meaning of that one!!” That word has stuck with me and I made it a point to discover its meaning even though it was a long while before I eventually made the discovery !! Traffic bottlenecks is now a feature we live with !!
I am sending, as an attachment to this mail, a few photographs to refresh your memory. I do hope you will enjoy seeing them since they will inevitably revive a host of memories.
My kind regards to your family and you.
V K Khurana
(Vijay Khurana, Lefroy 1954-63)
P.S. I am taking the liberty of sending this mail to members of my class and those for the preceding years of 1961, and 1962. With the aid of modern technology, it has been convenient to remain in touch and we exchange notes fairly often. We also meet as often as is possible but that becomes distinctly difficult for a bunch of 60 year olds who still seem rather busy !!
What a pleasure it was to hear from you. Little did I realize at the time that almost 50 years later one of my students would be taking me to task for my very stingy attitude when it came to dishing out marks on English assignments. Please accept my apologies. However, I can tell that no lasting harm was done!. If anything, that 38% probably spurred you on to prove yourself, and judging by your letter, you succeeded remarkably. I would assign it nothing less than 100%. And another 100% for those precious memories you can recall so well. A big “Thank you” to Sherlock Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for helping me to make a lasting impression on at least one of my students. I am ashamed I did not know the meaning of “bottleneck”; but then bottlenecks were not part of our cultural experience in the easy-going pace of life in India. That is something I experienced only after I came to Canada and witnessed traffic jams and road rage, AND “bottlenecks”! Thank you for the photographs as well. They will certainly find a place among my most treasured souvenirs. In that House photograph I must have been about 34 years of age. I am now fast approaching 83 and, by God’s grace, still in fairly good health. My wife and I still travel extensively, our preferred mode being the cruise. Tell me about Vijay. Where do you live and what career did you choose for yourself? I can see that you are in touch with a lot of Old Cottonians. Please tell them I have very fond memories of the old school and many of their names still ring a bell. And do convey my best wishes to one and all who remember me. My wife was able to recognize many of the little fellows sitting in the front row from her days as matron of Linlithgow. My wife and I and our two kids (Stephen and daughter Cheryl who was born in BCS) left India in August 1964 to make a new life for ourselves in Canada. It turned out to be a great adventure and a rewarding experience. I taught for 21 years at St. Jerome`s School in the small town of Vermilion in the Province of Alberta, and have been enjoying a retired life for the past 27 years. In my reverie my thoughts go back to India and Sherwood College and Bishop Cotton School, and then I know that I have truly been blessed to have known so many fine students and colleagues. I hope they have all had happy and rewarding lives.
My dear Sir,
Thank you for your delightful mail. It is a pleasure to read. Absolutely wonderful.
You were, I recall, not being stingy. You were frugal and you explained that to us. At the board level the marking was likely to be more liberal. It was best we got used to the idea of a tight marking system and hoped to get a better result where it really mattered. The performance, in which case, would possibly deliver a better experience. A very valid rationale and it was not in your character to be parsimonious, just well balanced in all things, or most things.
The only time I think you were excessive was when you caned me four when I think I deserved none (!) or two, at best. However, on that occasion you were acting on the instructions of Dr Dustan in his office. JPS Kniggar and I were hauled out of class that morning for a caning. I do not recall the issue that affected him but my infarction was reading a comic during prep time the previous evening. Mr DasGupta was the master on duty. His silent hand arrived from no where to gently take away a comic lying in my lap under the desk. I was engrossed in its contents and did not see authority arrive. It came stealthily and his crepe soled shoes (most of you preferred them!) ensured a silent presence until his hands arrived with considerable swiftness. He uttered not a word, no reprimand just taking delivery of a non prescribed text that was really at a gripping point in its narration. I thought that was all until the next morning when you beckoned us to follow you, before the first class commenced for the day, to the Headmaster’s office. Dr Dustan stared at us through his rimless glasses with a face that was most impassive. He gently, as was his habit, shifted his body weight from side to side standing behind that large and imposing desk. He then, in a most even tone, stated the indictment and I weakly replied that what I was reading was but a rag that I had found on the floor. He gently removed, to my embarrassment, the well bound and very complete comic from under his papers. “This is not a rag, ” he stated with considerable evidence to support his accusation. Silence followed and I must have turned only redder in the face. He then proceeded with the sentence, “Mr Goss, four to each of them” Fortunately, your hand was not considered the strongest in the business but the pain and humiliation completed some part of my education!!
You need hardly apologise for one word you did not then know! Your considerable skills as a strict and yet fair teacher were qualities that made their impact. I also recall the impact you had as Ibbetson Housemaster and the way that crew from my class looked up to you. They emerged as a cohesive bunch, first under the inspiring and aggressive, though some what extractive, leadership of SM Jain and then continued to forge close links during your tenure. Their commitment to each other endures in a peculiar way to this day despite differences that occur in any relationship. You earned their respect and as you did from the rest of us.
I am happy to learn that you are in good health. I begin to believe that the teaching profession encourages longevity. Both Mr DasGupta and Mr BR Roberts are in their 80’s. So are the Advanis. Mr Fred Brown and Mr Varughese were well into their 70’s before they passed away and Dr Dustan, I believe, lived beyond 90. It must have something to do with a lack of excessive stress and pressure since the major part of the activity seems to be placing it on the student!! Some of that stress is transferred, possibly, with aggressive force.!! The student wilts but not the teacher. Seriously, it has more to do with temperament and the effect of the genes. It is a pleasure that age and good health have affected so many that we knew. They deserved the best this life has to offer.
I will send you more photographs as and when they come into my possession. They are always a treat. I have one for the whole school for 1959. I will forward it to you as soon as I can find it.
I now live in Delhi, having moved from Bombay in 1985. I did not choose my profession and went into the pharmaceutical industry as a result of circumstances. I began working straight after leaving school, collecting my degrees as a working student. I now conduct a business, which I began in 1996, with the aid of a small staff of about 12 people. We are a dedicated operation committed to exporting pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and niche drugs. I am also a consultant. My wife, Vatsala, was a lecturer at the University of Delhi. She taught English literature and retired a few years ago. Our daughter, Deepika, is a marketing person in the events and media business. She has just ventured to start a business of her own in the area of public speaking, which is now a paid activity where earlier speakers were engaged on a pro bono basis.
I recall your family very vividly in the house that you occupied next to the Advanis. A part of that house was, for a short time, occupied by four boys, including myself, when we were in Linlithgow. The matron at that time was a single mother, whose name I fail to recollect. She was Mrs Jacob’s predecessor and left BCS at the end of 1955 or 1956. That front room then became a part of the staff member’s quarters and was your living room, if I recall correctly. It was outside that room that you read out for me those very important marks of 43% for the English paper. My previous failure had some how come to the notice of Dr Dustan and I feared the worst. It was relief that I had passed in your paper because Dr Dustan pointedly asked me how I had fared in English when we went to wish him before leaving school that year. I was in trouble or was it just a school boy’s imagination? !!
I will endeavour to give you an account of the others if you can recall the names that you would like to know about. As a student you feel a certain exclusive affinity towards a teacher. However, for the latter, after so many years, and numerous faces passing him by it is not easy to relate intimately to each one of them. Quite a predicament because as a student you expect or rather want to be remembered by the teacher with accuracy, familiarity and for your imagined praise worthy attributes!!. Just not possible for a teacher’s memory store to recall each one intimately. So, please let me know and I will be happy to assist in the process. Most of us have had rewarding lives and I do not believe that financial success is the only measure, which is otherwise the accepted yardstick.
May I please request you for your phone numbers since I am sure some of us would like to call and speak with you.
I am taking the liberty of circulating this correspondence to fellow Cottonians on my mailing list and who knew you well. I trust that is in order. My thanks.
My warm regards to Ma’am, you and the kids.
P.S. I have also endorsed this mail to Mr B R Roberts, and his daughter, Jean who generally handles his mails since he does not access the internet that often.
—– Original Message —–
Dear Vijay: I have been reading the correspondence between you and other Cottonians with interest and a measure of amusement. Here are a few updates. Mark Thun & his wife live in Coquitlam, B.C., Canada. His older brother, Geoffrey Thun, lives in Leeds, England. Their mother, Mrs. Jessie Porteous (Thun), who was matron of Headmasters, is now into her nineties, and also lives in Leeds. Mr. Desmond deYoung and his wife Colleen live in Ottawa, Canada. Mr. deYoung was a science teacher and House Master of Rivaz for some years. Desmond left BCS to join the Staff of St. Paul’s School, Darjeeling. Mrs. Maud Williams (not “Maureen”) lives in retirement in Wellington, New Zealand. Her husband, John, unfortunately died quite a few years ago. My wife and I had the pleasure of spending a day with Maud in February last year when we were on a cruise. We had met after more than fifty years, and, as you can imagine, BCS monopolized the conversation. Mr. Jairam Asrani died many years ago. The last time we met his wife (Pansy) was in 1971 when she was teaching in Sherwood College.
Ronald Goss (“Ronnie”)
My dear Sir,
Thank you for your mail.
I am forwarding your inputs to the Cottonians on my mailing list. They would all recall the names you mention.
I am currently at work and would have liked to respond at length but will just reproduce a paragraph when I posted a comment about the deYoungs in a recent mail.
“Mr Young never taught me though his wife did. She was very much taller than he and was, generally, elegantly turned out. One outfit she wore, and I remember, was a tight fitting yellow top with a black and white checked long pleated skirt that made her look all the more striking in her high heels. Now, this is the memory of a 10 year old in 1956 and I will not let my imagination wander afar! They lived right below Knolls Wood in the apartment that was subsequently occupied by Mr & Mrs Williams, the Raja Rams and then, I believe, Mr Shanker.“
R S Sodhi, who recently retired as a High Court judge, (yes some guys did well, very well!!) reminded me that Mrs deYoung also played the organ in the Chapel. She often did so putting her shoes aside and employing her bare feet to maneuver the pedals of that wonderful machine. She played that equipment well and enjoyed doing so. After she left, Mr Mathew Zachariah took over.
It is most interesting but whenever any of us goes back to BCS, the first place we seek out is the Chapel. That aspect was on display at the time of the 150th year celebrations when, I think, the service at the Chapel drew the largest numbers, with a huge and vast majority, obviously, not belonging to the Christian denomination at all. It has an alluring and peaceful attraction. This is a comment I have heard from so many Cottonians. That Chapel and the value system we imbibed encouraged a very secular upbringing. While one, among the many, of the original objectives of the School would have been to encourage conversions, I think it, over a period of time, developed an outlook (in our minds) that was most universal and accepting. Paraminder Singh (Ibbetson 1962, he did well, too, as an Aerospace Engineer and then as a very successful entrepreneur, consequently an early retiree, who now lives in Boulder, Colorado) mentioned this aspect to a friend of his and actually took him to see this wonderful place of worship. It brings back so many memories for all of us. It has always struck a visitor for its very imposing, serene and impressive atmosphere and that is what my wife and daughter felt when we went to School one year. By the way, that organ has not been repaired for many years now for want of spares or an appropriate service mechanic!
I will write again.
My warm regards to Mrs Goss, you and the rest of the family.
P.S. Mr & Mrs D deYoung may (!!) possibly recall a lot of boys from the picture sent as an attachment to this mail. This is the class that finished in 1961. It is one my favourite photographs for the innocence on these faces!! Besides, a good black and white picture has a charm all its own. Kodak will concur !!