Tag Archives: News

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

Mission Aconcagua Completed / Karma Tenzing Nyangmi

Completed. Here’s me at the summit of #Aconcagua (6,962 meters or 22,840 feet above sea level) after an intense 13 hours of climbing where we started our climb directly from Camp 2 with no acclimatisation. Due to weather conditions we had to change and complete our entire climb from Base Camp to Summit and back to Base Camp in a shortened 5 days (in Everest it was 21 days and in Manaslu I did it in 10 days – Usually it takes double or even three times for most climbers).

With this summit of Aconcagua, I’m now closer to my goals of being a true Explorer. If summiting an 8,000 meter peak is equivalent to a Masters degree and summiting Everest is a PhD, then the below are the lifetime Emeritus titles offered. So far, below are my membership journey into the various clubs I’ve always wanted to be a part of:

  • Completed 1/3rd of the Three Poles Challenge
  • Completed 2/7th of the Seven Summits Challenge
  • Completed 2/9th of the Explorers Grand Slam
  • Completed 2/14th of the 14 8,000+ Meters Challenge

About an Old Cottonian – Lt. Sharif Khan aka Sharifo

J. S. Grewal [1970 Batch] sent in this very interesting excerpt from a book he is reading “The Frontier Scouts” by Charles Chenevix Trench, in which he came across a reference to an Old Cottonian – Lt. Sharif Khan aka Sharifo . There was an incident [1942] where he [Sharifo] was burying a fellow officer Andrew McKenzie, he mentions the Lord’s Prayer and  how  remembered  the prayer from  his days  at Bishop Cotton School Simla:

Additional reading: Quoted from THIS webpage

In 1944, Khojak Brigade on Baluchistan frontier was disbanded.  In March 1945 Tal Brigade was disbanded and some of its units were assigned to Kohat Brigade.  In April 1946, Indian army Commander-in-Chief Field Marshal Claude Auckinleck presided a high-level conference at Peshawar.  It was attended by Governor NWFP, Agent to the Governor General Baluchistan, British counsel at Kabul and senior military and civil officers.  A unanimous decision was reached to replace regular troops in tribal areas with scouts and khassadars.  It was to be gradual withdrawal in five phases and to be completed in two years.  It was with this background that Pishin Scouts were raised and decision was made to raise Central Waziristan Scouts and retrain Malakand battalion.  Khyber Rifles was re-raised on 26 April 1946.  The nucleus was from war time raised Afridi battalion.  Lieutenant Colonel Muhammad Sharif Khan ‘Sharifo’ (5/10 Baluch Regiment) was appointed commandant of Khyber Rifles.  Khassadars were to be trained and disciplined to make it a reliable partner of scouts.  To achieve this objective, in 1946, a new position called district officer in charge of Khassadars was created.  In 1946, in North Waziristan about two thousand khassadars were put under the command of Frank Leeson.


Passing of Mary [Ramani] Varughese

Dear Anna,

Thank you for your message which has come as a shock and a surprise.
Emotions overwhelm you on such occasions.

My earliest memories of Ramani, which is the name we knew her by until she
changed to Mary, is of a little girl immaculately turned out playing in the
garden just above the basketball court which is where your parents first
resided when they moved to Simla. Your parents did not hesitate to display
their affection for this little girl who always seemed shy. She found it
easy to constantly attach herself to her mother and then peer at you from
behind her mother’s sari. She would then smile with hesitation. Small and
casual images but they remain such clear memories etched in my mind. Trivial
and insignificant as these are, they take you back to the happy days of
places, people and events that happened so long ago.

There is now a graphic contrast from that little happy girl to a grown woman
who just past on in life. Two starkly different events more than 50 years
apart strike you as collective memory and you say to yourself, “What
happened ? Did this passage of time move so quickly ?” Disbelief.

I just called and spoke with Sara a few minutes ago. This is another hard
blow after the passing away of your mother in June this year. Ramani’s
photograph bears such a close resemblance of your father, Mr P M Varughese.
Suddenly this family comes back and we can only think of them with affection
and gratitude for the fact that they touched our lives.

On behalf of all those who remember and knew her, The Old Cottonian
Association, we offer our deepest condolences to your families and you. May
her soul rest in peace.

With kind regards

Sincerely,

Vijay

—–Original Message—–
From: A. Siromoney
Sent: 28 December 2017 12:07
To: Vijay Khurana
Subject: Death of Mary d/o PM Varughese

Dear Mr Khurana
I know that my older sister Mary (Ramani) Varughese kept in touch with the
old Cottonians. She was suffering from terminal lung cancer diagnosed in
July 2016. Thanks to the efforts of the doctors at CMC Vellore she enjoyed
fairly good health for nearly 16 months; but the cancer eventually overtook
the available therapies by September. I regret to inform you that she passed
away on 20th November in Delhi at my other sister Sara’s home.

The funeral and burial was conducted in at her church in Coonoor, Nilgris
Dist, Tamil Nadu on 24 Nov.

She studied up till Std VI in BCS, VII -IX at Convent of Jesus and Mary,
before my father moved to the Nilgris where she completed her schooling in
1969.

I am attaching the PDF of the obituary in the Hindu (all editions).

Yours sincerely
Anna Siromoney

(nee Varughese)