Sadly, Paul Tonk [Ibbetson 1947-1954] passed on this morning. Yet another OC lost to COVID.
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?
Beloved, day has come to an end—
celestial fire gone over the city fence.
Now the night comes a timely reprieve
for a daily panic:
finicky like the street traffic.
Set down your limbs for solace
and seek a kiss of grace
Say with a faithful chant: for a lonely want—
a confessional prayer
and go over with reverential fear.
Beloved, for a few hours let all doubts subside
and seek shelter in the dark.
Gently go over to sleep;
never mind to-night:
for tomorrow’s chronic rise.
From my diary, November, 1979
obscures likes wingtips
in the acataleptic shade.
coruscate like a tooth in the dark.
are silent in the accrescent cricket wails;
goes rustling through their blind eyes.
feeling my bones fuses sleep.
is stale with nicotine.
flicker hesitantly like
much discussed ideas half-explained.
wobble and long for sleep.
Already the swollen crevices of the heart
flood the pores of veins;
and memory with her illusive taunts
throws fear’s goblet stains.
Outside, winter creeps on soft soles.
The men go about their ways.
Only an occasional exuberance of wind
tells the parting of summer days.
Soon the moon will be a copper coin
sky heavily painted with blood;
and my reverberations like ill-begotten sons
shall tear my bed loose.
On the last ride when siren’s wail
shall sear through the traffic lights,
and I flutter alone within cold walls;
beloved, please be by my side.
let me suck at your breasts
for succor like a child.
let me sleep in your lap,
my head resting with assurance on your strong thighs.
with your vast wisdom
wean out my thread of life
from the entanglements of this world.
show me the way out
from the confusions of dead ends.
stop this incessant ticking
of the metronome of my head.
lift me lovingly like a grandfather
who never asks any questions.
Brilliant like the sun at noon,
and reporting like the nervous telephone;
the latest OCA News lies on my desk
with corporate graphs, minutes, tasks
of winter ahead. And embroidered here
on the last page of the year,
out and zeroed like a bomber’s target.
The little extra I know about you is
accidental, the rest between stodgy covers
like any reference stands
an index for the groping hands.
In a two minutes silence
(mutely staring at my buttons)
I pay an official condolence:
You, who were one of us.
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.
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”.
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.
Batch of 2004
Bishop Cotton School
THE DEAR DEPARTED
IT FEELS LIKE YESTERDAY THAT YOU LEFT
GOD TAKING YOU AWAY FROM ME
WILL ALWAYS BE HIS GREATEST THEFT
I DO NOTHING NOW BUT WEEP
BECAUSE THERE WAS A PROMISE
YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO KEEP
NOW MY LIFE IS CLEAVED
IF YOU WERE HERE
I WOULD HAVE FELT SO RELIEVED
NOW I KEEP YOUR BELONGINGS CLOSE
BECAUSE YOU ARE A DRUG
I WOULD LIKE TO OVERDOSE
THE TIME SEEMS TO COME TO A STANDSTILL
THERE ARE MEMORIES I WANT TO KILL
BUT MY LIFE NOW HAS BECOME A BASTILLE
LIFE NOW SEEMS SO TOUGH
THE PATH TO MOVE FORWARD
IS WAY TOO ROUGH
LIFE NOW HAS BECOME LIKE HELL
SO DARK AND BLEAK
A HAPPY FACE NOW I CANNOT KEEP
I FEEL BACKED AWAY IN A CORNER
IN YOU I FIND SOME HOPE
TO COME OUT STRONGER
IT FEELS LIKE A PART OF ME IS SHATTERED
BECAUSE TO ME
IT WAS YOU WHO ALWAYS MATTERED
AROUND YOU I FELT SO SAFE
BECAUSE YOU WERE MY SUPERHERO
WITHOUT A CAPE
WITH YOU I FELT SO LOVED
THERE WASN’T A OBSTACLE
I COUDN’T HAVE CRUSHED
YOU MADE ME WISE
NOW I FEEL THAT
YOU WERE MY BIGGEST PRIZE
IT WAS A GLORIOUS RIDE
THAT WE PASSED IN HAPPY STRIDES
AND LIVED WITH PRIDE
Rivaz House, Batch of 2018
“OVERCOME EVIL WITH GOOD”