Tag Archives: Bishop Cotton School

Bishop Cotton School — how Asia’s oldest boarding school is coping with the pandemic

From The Indian Express:

Football season, a mountaineering expedition, a cricket tournament, an inter-school debate competition – these are some of the events which have been canceled or postponed due to the pandemic at the Bishop Cotton School in Shimla, one of Asia’s oldest boarding schools for boys.

Though students are attending regular virtual classes from home, they are missing out on a number of sports and other activities, apart from the experience of community-living in the residential school, said Simon David Weale [MA Oxon] the school’s director.

“We’re eager for the campus to fill up with students again. They are attending 44 hours of virtual classes every week, and our teachers have improvised well and come up with innovative, teaching methods. But students are not obliged to attend all these classes as too much screen time could be unhealthy. Besides, the essence of holistic education provided here is the residential environment. That’s why even local students from Shimla live inside the campus,” said Weale.

A typical day at school begins at 6 in the morning and lasts till 10 at night, during which boarders are engaged in physical training, classes, organised games, prep and co-curricular activities such as public speaking, art and drama.

In summer, the school also organises outward-bound activities such as treks and adventure sports, and a month-long mountaineering training course for the outgoing batch, which have all been delayed this year. “The mountaineering course is usually followed by an expedition, and so far, there have been seven successful expeditions to Himalayan peaks above the altitude of 20,000 feet. For those who have missed the course this year, we are planning to rearrange it for them next year,” said Weale.

The school has a strength of about 450 students and 160 staff members. Though a majority of the students are from Himachal and neighbouring states of Haryana, Punjab and Delhi, there are students from all corners of the country, including Mizoram and Odisha, and some foreign students as well.
When the state government ordered closure of schools on March 14, around 70 per cent of the students left for their homes. Those appearing for their board examinations stayed back but left soon after the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CICSE) canceled the exams. Three boys from Thailand stayed back till as late as May but left as restoration of normalcy seemed distant.

Not the first disruption in school’s history

For many institutions, the pandemic crisis is unprecedented, but BCS has survived several such disruptions since it first opened for students in March 1863. On a Sunday in May 1905, when the boys were away for an outing, most of the school was destroyed in a fire. The students were shifted to other lodgings in town, and the school was rebuilt and occupied two years later in July 1907.

An outbreak of influenza in 1922 also affected the school, and the then headmaster FR Gillespy’s wife died while treating the children, said Weale.

After partition and independence, an exodus of Muslim, British and European boys led to the closure of the prep school in Chhota Shimla.

“We have also heard of some other disease outbreaks such as that of yellow fever during the school’s long history. And there was no internet back then to impart distance learning to the students, as is happening now,” said the director.

Legacy

BCS was founded as the first ‘public school’ in India (along the lines of the British ‘public school’ system, which incorporates a house system, a prefectorial body and a system of organised games) by George Edward Lynch Cotton, the then Bishop of Calcutta, in July 1859. First established at Jutogh, it opened for students in March 1863 with Frederick Naylor as the first student. The school moved to its present site at the south end of the Knollswood Spur in September 1868. Suren Tagore was the first Indian boy admitted to the school in 1881.

BCS has a long list of distinguished alumni such as writer Ruskin Bond, six-time Himachal CM Virbhadra Singh and Major Roy Farran (Curzon), a decorated officer in the British Army. The school also has an infamous alumnus, Reginald Dyer, a British general remembered for his role in the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919. The motto of the school is:Overcome Evil with Good”.

Thank you Mr. Praveen Dharma for sending this in.

Best wishes,
OCA WEbmaster

MY TIME AT BCS – David Wood-Robinson 1940/4

I and my brother Mark were among the batch of boys from England who came out to India after the fall of France in WW2 and spent most of the war years at BCS. My other younger brother Colin started at the prep school and later moved up to BCS. I started in the Headmaster’s House and later moved to Aicheson (?) House near the school gate but I do not remember which school house I was in.. I have lots of wonderful memories, most of them naughty, like climbing over the barbed wire fence to raid bhuttas from the fields below the school. We roasted them in the school boiler. We made strings for our kites by crushing bottles in tin cans and gluing the powder onto the kite strings with flour paste so that they would cut the strings of other kites.. We also made catapults from tyre rubber and tried to shoot flying “sqiggies”, never successively! But I was also given a love for classical music by seeing Disney’s “Fantasia” at the cinema near the Mall and got some good Cambridge School Certificate results which later enabled me to become a Naval Architect but I became a Christian at Glasgow university and later spent many years in Japan trying to tell the folk there about God’s love.

David Wood-Robinson 1940/4

Batch of ‘04 – from Raghav Kumar

Hi Folks,

Hope you doing well!

This would be my 1st mail to you. It’s been 16 years since my batch and I, have passed out of school and life has taken us to various places.

My batch created a small whatsapp  group, so that we can all be in touch. This year has been hard for most of us. Some of my friends lost their jobs, while others were sitting at home getting low pay or no pay.

Since, most of my batchmates were undergoing stress, Amos (Ibbetson), Parmeet (Curzon) and I, took an initiative of asking my schoolmates about their best memories at school and how life been after school.

We were lucky enough to get some responses, I am assertive that we would get more responses of my batchmates and uplift their confidence.

I thought of sharing some clips of them, for people who chose to send their clips.
I hope that you would like the glimpse of these nostalgic videos.

Raghav Kumar
Lefroy House
Batch of 2004
Bishop Cotton School
The videos should appear below, but if these do not then you can use the Links :

Video_1 Video_2 Video Video_3

Some thoughts from an OC – Suresh Sethi 1961-66

WRITINGS by Suresh Sethi

Suresh Sethi  E-mail: sureshsethi49@yahoo.co.in

My poems have been published in:

Poetry, Australia : Australia Five Poets Magazine           

Journal Of South Asian Literature:USA

The Canadian Forum      : Canada                                         

Queens’s Quarterly        : Canada

The New Quest               : India

Indian Literature              : Sahitaya Academy–India

The Penguin Book Of Indian Poetry: India 2012 

Signatures                : National Book Trust Of India 2003

19 Poets Ed: Keshav Malik : New Delhi 1981

The PEN                          : U.K.

The P.N. Review             : U.K ( Carcanet Press) 

The Colorado North Review: USA


Born:1949, Ferozepore, Punjab and went to school in: Bishop Cotton

School-Shimla (Himachal Pradesh). Did graduation from Punjab University in Chandigarh. Worked with a MNC for twenty-five years before taking early retirement to devote my self full time to writing. Married with a son and daughter.

I have translated more than thirty books of OSHO from Hindi into English. These books include a wide variety of discourses of OSHO on the Saints of India, The Upanishads, The Gita & day to day problems of modern man. I have also written a weekly column for the English Daily—The Tribune, Chandigarh  and for the Punjabi Newspaper `Ajit’ which is published from Jalandhar-Punjab.

I have also published a collection of poems in Punjabi.

My first collection of poems in English: Musings Of A Tom Brown School Boy– was published last year by Authors’ Press, New Delhi.

                                                                                Suresh Sethi


Musings of a Tom Brown School boy

High up in the Shimla hills, I stood

my gaze through the big passes

of Himalayas. Splashing overhead

a restless raven tips its wings

on coniferous pines. This land

with a boundary stone, strange flags,

traditions, mottos, was mine,

as my youth tied to expensive tags

of English breeding, stiff upper lip,

and my tongue was taught to wag

to prosodies of Harrow and Eton;

house spirit, school song, the discipline

of a Spartan, and the confidence

of the conquerors and the manners

of an English gentleman.

In the long, cold and austere dormitories,

home was just beyond the valleys.

All these years of homesickness,

brought no images of a mother’s pangs

of separation. All those years now haunt me

of an unfulfilled promise.

When the school padre opened the Bible,

in Shimla’s elite and venerated public school;

with his starched cassock, sonorous voice

booming in a hushed cold class-room

with our faces cupped on elbows, expectant,

we listened. In the cool breeze of the Himalayas;

he talked of Jesus healing the sick, the great

victories of king David, the Acts of Apostles;

and the stories of the Prophets.

Eagerly we took notes. Our minds on the exams.

In private we devoured the passages

of king David making love to his wives,

and wondered how a holy book

could possibly have such vulgar details!

The padre talked of the resurrection of Jesus; the

tricks of satan:

with sin heating our flushing faces!


 In a Himalayan churchyard

(at the grave of Headmaster R.K. Von Goldstein)

Now you lie on this consecrated ground,

And exiled stoic facing the charge to the very end.

Here, in a famous resort of a Himalayan beat

Snow is relaxing its grip; springs’ levers

Are opening dark pores; tenderly like healing fingers.

From below the railway gauge whistles

Noisy, gate crashing tourists to this town.

Through the key-hole I see your last night,

In coveted silence, listening to rich baritone tunes

While you lovingly mull over

The England countryside of the twenties.

Gently patting your Alsatian dog,

You sip brandy, cigar smoke curls up to the ceiling.

On your lap is an ode of Keats.

 A cool dependable full-back who term by term

Handled the bully, the underdog, the tongue-tied

With an equanimity of a commander—

And set a personal example of courage and honor

`play up and play the game.’

Taught us to own up to life in toto.

Now in an alien land under a modest headstone

The shades travel further and leave you alone;

But this is exactly how you would have wanted it;

Knowing that a man can clear space in any wood,

Ignoring titles, footage but still stick to his word—

Then let death trip the plank anywhere without a hint.


COVID-19 

Krishna,

I know you love to show off your magical powers—

To bring massive upheavals on this earth:

And then justify them with your old excuse—

‘ I have to reduce the burden of Mother Earth’.

Hence the great war of Mahabharata;

Followed by countless, wars, floods and famines—

And now Covid-19,

Your latest arrow from your armory of Maya.

( to add insult to injury you admit you could have prevented all of them)!

I admit and acknowledge:

 That you are the Big Boss of the Cosmos—

And you are legally allowed to do anything you want to do:

But please for a change—

Can’t you send us the virus of: love, peace & happiness—

I mean just for a change?  


The Oceans – by Vivek Bhasin

How cool
You feel
Walking on
Soft Sand
White Gold
Smiling sure
Windmilled hair
Wind Whispers
Sometimes Roars
Seagulls flock
Busy business
Feet Wet
Shells whistle
How Great
You Feel
Knowing all
Memories return
Love found
Embracing you
Hugging me
Heartfelt Goodbye
Love lost
Nothing around
Blue Sea
Not Knowing
Lookouts posted
Gleaning across
Miles Away
Through Seahorses
They see
You there
Right there
Ships sailing
Nothing around
But you
The Beach…
And Memories.

Life is not always the beach..
You learn survival at BCS.

Bonnie Bhasin
10 June 2020
Sweden