Tag Archives: writer

“Living a Life” – memoir by retired IAS officer Ravi Sawhney, (Lefroy 1959)

Earlier this month, Former J & K governor N.N. Vohra unveiled “Living a Life”, a memoir by retired IAS officer Ravi Sawhney, (Lefroy 1959), in the presence of former foreign secretary Shyam Saran and former principal secretary to the prime minister, S.K. Misra (in 1990, when Chandra Shekhar was the PM. Our best wishes!

Memories from the battlefields of Vietnam, R&R in the Korean DMZ and much more… – by Joe Joshi

Joe Joshi (Rivaz 1954 to 1963)

I was in BCS for 10 years beginning 1954, as was my younger brother. My two elder sisters went to AHS (Auckland House School).
My parents, both successful doctors of medicine in Burma, said they wanted us to get a proper education in a British boarding school for children in India. My parents were born and educated in Burma, made a good fortune as a surgeon and doctor of internal medicine. They loved Burma, had many friends and family there. Life was good for us.

I got a good education after BCS, a B.A. degree with English Honors, a diploma in mass communication from Berlin, a commercial and combat pilot license and an honorary M.A. degree for excellence in journalism. I have travelled all over the world several times, having worked in many countries or been there and done that on vacation. I speak 5 languages fluently, have many good friends worldwide and a few ex-girlfriends.

I am a veteran editor in print and broadcast news, now writing a book on my experiences in the battlefields of Vietnam so many years ago that stunned friends and foes. I am sending a preview of that book:

I had to rework some parts of the full package on the fall of Saigon since I first wrote it for The Bulletin newspaper in Bend, Oregon, on the 25th anniversary of the fall of Saigon.
I ran a somewhat similar version, including other thoughts, on another anniversary when I was in Laredo, Texas, and for the Korea Times in Seoul. Yet every time I try to put this together, there are so many flashbacks of sidebar stories I wish to include. But as the years pass, a compulsive guessing game continues to which I fear finding answers.
For instance: where, I still ask myself, is the beautiful woman who has come to symbolize for me the lost world of old Cambodia? Offering a fruit in her hands, sheathed in an emerald-green sarong, she moved with the sensuous grace of celestial dancers carved on the friezes of Angkor. She came one Buddhist holy day to a 15th century temple as late monsoon clouds darkened the sky. Our eyes met fleetingly through a curtain of incense perfumed by jasmine, and then she melted into the vivacious swirl of worshipers.
Where is the lovely girl, who wrenched herself up from a hospital floor in the refugee camp of Aranyaprathet decked with flies and feces to tell me her story? An American pilot had mistimed his bomb drop by a few seconds, so her right arm was now sheared off, the collar bone jutting out naked and already greenish with decay. Her little body trembling with pain, she looked at me and smiled: the fathomless stoic smile I think saved Cambodia from collective insanity — and melted my heart.
And what about Mark Basinger. He was just 17 months old when his father died. He has no memories of the man who left on a train in August 1966 and never came back. His mother remembers, though. And when she recalls Capt. Richard Louis Basinger, her tears flow.
Mark still watches old newscasts from Vietnam and thinks: “That’s where my Dad died.” And he wants to know more. He has pieced together a Web site that pays tribute to his Dad, his more than 350 helicopter combat missions, and his death on May 12, 1967 when his helicopter was hit by an enemy mortar round near a Marine outpost at Con Thien.
Capt. Basinger was 24 years old, 14 years younger than the son who so desperately wants to connect with him. Mark now wants to go to Vietnam. He will, he hopes, visit the spot where that helicopter crashed.
“I’m just trying to feel a part of him,” Mark says. But his mother tells him he need not go to Vietnam to do that. “Look in the mirror, son,” she says, “and you’ll know your father.”
And where, I wonder, is Helen Nguyen — the stunningly pretty mamasan at a Tu Do Street bar in Saigon. She didn’t have any time for me because I wouldn’t buy her the $25-a-shot Saigon tea. Our paths crossed again shortly before the fall of Saigon and she didn’t want to let me out of her sight. She brought a mattress and slept outside my hotel room door.
And remember Ha Thi Tran? I left Saigon three days after the Viet Cong gained total control of the city. Helen joined me and one member from India of the International Control Commission on Vietnam as we made it to Bangkok via Hanoi. Ha didn’t want to go to Hanoi and failed to show up in Bangkok a week later as planned. Neither did she make it to the sprawling refugee camps of Aranyaprathet on the Thai-Cambodia border. She was not on any of the refugee boats in the years to come and I continue to search for her today.
“I am not going to Hanoi because there is more hell in there than the rest of this ugly war put together,” she said. And I understood why Ha, being a South Vietnamese feared going to Hanoi.
By Joe Joshi
Senior Editor, Korea Times

On Monday, April 28, 1975, a late-afternoon thunderstorm rumbled outside the open balcony windows of Saigon’s Independence Palace as 71-year-old Tran Van Huong, lame and nearly blind, clutched the arm of an aide and stepped slowly away from the microphone. He had just given up the presidency of South Vietnam after only six days in office. Another aide scurried forward, removed the red-and-saffron seal from the rostrum and replaced it with another, the outline of an apricot blossom containing the Yin and Yang symbol, an Asian sign for the combining of opposites to make up the universe.
Only then did ex-General Duong Van “Big’’ Minh, chosen as president to make a last desperate plea for peace, begin speaking. He appealed, as expected, for an immediate ceasefire, unconditional negotiations and national reconciliation.
Later, as war correspondents stood on the palace steps to watch members of the new “peace government’’ drive away, a correspondent for the Hongkong Standard said: “Perhaps now we can have some hope in this catastrophe.’’
He was wrong. The Viet Cong’s answer came less than an hour after Gen. Minh’s speech when a series of explosions buffeted the city. Communist pilots flying captured American fighter planes were bombing Tan Son Nhut Airport, though no one knew then where the planes had come from or who were flying them.
The heavy flak guns at the palace balcony opened up and there was pandemonium as policemen and soldiers all over the city began blazing away at the sky. The firing lasted perhaps a half-hour and then sputtered out. Soon the nervous city began to move again, its people hurrying through the dusk to get home before the 8 p.m. curfew closed in.
We could not know it them, but the bombs falling on Tan Son Nhut signaled the last battle of the Vietnam War.
Before dawn Tuesday, when artillery, rocket and mortar fire began pounding the airport, government resistance quickly evaporated.
That day, under the guns of Marine helicopters from a naval task force offshore, the final evacuation of U.S. Embassy staff and other Americans began. In the rush to get out of a city going mad, many desperate would-be refugees were seen clinging to the landing gears of the “iron butterflies’’ and babies were thrust at departing Americans by mothers hoping to at least get one child to a carrier of the 7th Fleet.
But most Vietnamese began to lose hope of being evacuated when U.S. Marines and American civilians used pistol and rifle butts to smash the fingers of men, women and children trying to claw their way over the wall of the U.S. Embassy. Those who didn’t make it also saw that helicopters landing on ships of the 7th Fleet were quickly unloaded and heaved overboard to make room for the next one.
Refugees who used sampans to reach the U.S. carriers sets their boats on fire to keep them from falling into communist hands. It was getting dark now and the tranquil waters, as far as the eye could see, was covered with burning boats. It looked like a vision from hell.
Those who made it to the ships, and those who didn’t, wept.
At that point, my life changed… Something died in me. I was on the waterfront with an arm around Ha Thi Tran, my Vietnamese girlfriend. Amid the clatter of helicopter blades, she silently wiped away her tears and I was shaking.
I had seen many horrible things in Vietnam, but could always turn to Ha for comfort. She was a breath of fresh air, a pretty girl of 22 with a quick, natural smile that made others smile. And she loved to wear the ao dai (Vietnam’s traditional flowing tunic over trousers with slits up to the waist). Ha always was so focused on whatever she did and could analyze situations others could not even comprehend. She made me feel there was some hope in this crazy Asian war.
We returned to the Caraville Hotel and sat by the window of our third floor room. I opened a bottle of beer as Ha pleaded on the phone with the operator to get us a line to Washington, Hongkong, Bangkok, Singapore, Tokyo… anywhere.
Amid the chaos on the street below, we could see Vietnamese women offering money, gold or sexual favors for sponsorship promises and refugee documents, but nearly all the foreigners had left Saigon by then.
Ha and I stayed up most of the night talking about how our lives had taken us in different directions since we met in early 1969 under a hot, cloudless sky at My Khe beach near Danang. Most Americans remember it as the GI oasis called China Beach.
We also recalled our daily trips to Vietnam’s media centerpiece, the MACV (U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam) center in Saigon where Ha would translate the daily command briefing which put information (true and false) on the record during the 5 o’clock briefings.
There were several hundred reporters in Vietnam and competition was fierce. There also were would-be journalists, actors, teachers and some characters of dubious background with ambition and a taste of adventure. Many were frequently wounded. In the end, more than 70 were dead or missing.
Ha also was with me a few days earlier when 76 infants were killed in one of the first flights of Operation Babylift.. The C-54 Galaxy cargo plane was loaded with 300 infants, toddlers and caretakers when it plunged from the sky near Tan Son Nhut Airport.
Memories of that tragedy tore at our hearts as we talked about it that night, even though we were already numbed by the war’s horror.
Operation Babylift was authorized to evacuate 70,000 Vietnamese orphans, many fathered by American GIs. Some 2,000 children, with toddlers placed in cardboard boxes along the isles of the aircraft, made it to the U.S. before Saigon was lost to the communists.
Although Ha’s parents were not rich, they helped their only child acquire an education. Ha was studying business administration in Philadelphia.
We finally went to bed exhausted and dreamed of the country she had lost.
The day after that, Wednesday, April 30, Saigon surrendered. The gold-starred red-and-blue liberation flag fluttered over the palace.
After 30 blood-soaked years, the Vietnam War was over.
Filipinas forced into sex trade
By Joe Joshi
Senior Editor
Korea Times
June 2, 2003

Dongducheon – Shirley, a young Filipina, stands in front of the bar where she works in vampish boots and a skirt so short it leaves little to the imagination.

“Work,” she says simply, a helpless smile spreading across her pretty face. “Work, that is why I came. In the Philippines there is no way to make money.”

Prostitution is an old trade but not an honored one, so Shirley prefers not to give her family name. At age 21, she has a plenty of company in this U.S. military base town where bars have names like The Dungeon, DMZ, Sunshine, Papaya, Blackjack, Platinum and Olympia and young women loiter at every corner on the strip.

More than 99 percent of the bar girls are foreign, most of them from the Philippines. Others come from Bulgaria, Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. All of them cater to the sex tourism boom in this town close to the Demilitarized Zone that separates North and South Korea.

Lina, who is very popular among the soldiers who frequent the club where she dances, put Dongdecheon’s lure simply: “One-zero-zero-zero,” she said laughing, “instead of one-zero-zero” – indicating a chance to earn $1,000 a week instead of $100.

But the laughter can be short-lived, promised money illusionary and the human cost high. Scratch the surface in the bar area and a world of violence, xenophobia, disease and misery is revealed.

For the sex trade, the balance of supply and demand could scarcely be better. “The business of trafficking for sexual exploitation is booming,” said Lee Bong-chol, who manages a neighborhood convenience store. “It is an industry now worth several billion dollars a year.”

Some of the Filipinas come here without illusions, however reluctantly, that prostitution for a wealthier clientele is the only way to feed their families and fashion a future. Others come deluded, lured into thinking they will work as singers or barmaids, but are forced into unpayable debt and deprived of all freedom in the end.

Maria, a Filipina with so many curves, it made my head spin just looking at her, was waiting outside the nightclub for a soldier who had just paid a $200 bar fine for her. Maria told me she saw no alternative to her current work on the strip. Her parents are dead, killed in a car crash when she was 16 and still at school. She took a succession of odd jobs, but they were insufficient to support her 10-year-old sister. Hardship, dead ends, vague dreams of getting married and maybe finding happiness, brought her to this God-awful place.

She stops talking abruptly, saying she has to go, when the soldier comes out and puts his arm around her waist. Of the $200 bar fine, Maria will get about $33. The bar owner gets the rest.

Maria takes a wad of notes out of her bag and hands it to her bouncer who has a distant look, track suit, Adidas sneakers, gold chain and sleeves short enough to reveal the bulge of his muscles.

Lorna, 19, also from the Philippines, is standing outside a nearby strip club. Unlike Maria, she is in the second category of women, those deceived, trafficked and ultimately trapped. She came to South Korea believing she would marry a rich man. Her husband turned out to be a poor farmer.

Lorna says she was locked up 24 hours a day and escaped when she was allowed to see a doctor. She was recaptured by her broker and had her passport taken. She was then told she had been “sold” to the bar where she now works. She has no money, she says. Her gaze is vacant.

Some of the Filipinas at the clubs are undocumented workers, others have three-month tourist visas arranged by gangs that bring them under false promises. Their stories tend to resemble one another. The women may be teachers, farm laborers or unemployed, ages 18 to 30. Often they have one or two children to support. They receive false offers of temporary work and good earnings. Travel and visas are arranged for a large sum of money – the women’s debt to the gangs that organize their transportation and work. After arrival, passports and any money are taken and the women are deposited in small guarded apartments. Then they are told what their real job is to be.

The average rate in brothels is $200, but no more than a tenth of that reaches the women’s pocket. Their “owners” buy food and pay rent, and the debt becomes intractable. The women are terrorized because they are often unable to pay off the debts. And they are paralyzed, afraid to go to the police, terrified the gangs will do something bad to a member of their family back home if they try to escape.

The trade in women from the Philippines has spread throughout South Korea and is increasingly well organized. The gangs that dominate the business are slick, flexible and elusive. Everywhere, women are reluctant to testify because they are afraid.

If they are going to testify, these women need witness protection, often new passports and assurances they can remain in South Korea. But government authorities will not provide this. And the gang members are much more sophisticated than the police.

At age 21, Raquel graduated from college with a degree in business administration and left the home of her poor, widowed mother to come to South Korea and clean the houses of upper-class families.

For years she scrubbed the floors, washed dishes, hung laundry and baby-sat toddlers — all the while cowering as employers called her stupid and sexually harassed her. Now she is a nightclub dancer.

“Many times I had to leave my job because of the sexual harassment,” said Raquel who has no valid travel document or permission to work in South Korea. “I always had to eat after my employers did, on separate plates, as if I were a pet. In fact, I think pets have more privileges.”

She has no pension plan, no social security, no health insurance, working practically in slavery. That’s because South Korea remains in the dark ages when it comes to the treatment of foreign workers, particularly the undocumented ones. This is despite repeated efforts by activists to reform antiquated labor laws and President Roh Moo-hyun’s promises to improve conditions for all workers.

One young Filipina outside a bar who refused to give her name, has a tattoo of a rose on her upper arm and a ravaged look in her big brown eyes. She seemed a waif broken before she could live.

She sells her body voluntarily. At least this is “voluntary” work in the sense that it is the only work that she has been able to find that allows her to make what she called a “reasonable living.” She plans to stop working next year.

“I met an American GI here who is my stable boyfriend and he wants to marry me,” she explained. “He understands why I have to do this. If things work out, I plan to go and live with him in America.”


3 Black Sheep and Me

A fantastic book on legendary School Captain – Hassan Agha (Ibbetson 1947) – who led the school during the dark times of the partition and had to leave BCS due to it. Written by his son, Jason Agha, the book primarily revolves around Hassan’s life and the countless adventures they had as a family, including a devastating tragedy.

A true Cottonian, Hassan showed great fortitude and lived a life with utmost humility and service to others. A very good and emotionally moving read! BCS is mentioned more than a few times, including some photos from school days! The book is available on Amazon

– Abhilekh Singh Virdi

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.



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?  

OC Raghuvendra Tanwar [Lefroy 1970 Batch] – latest book released:

‘Be Clear Kashmir will Vote for India’ Jammu & Kashmir 1947-1953
Reporting the Contemporary Understanding of the Unreported, 1st Edition

By Raghuvendra Tanwar
308 pages | 38 B/W Illus.

About the Author

Raghuvendra Tanwar has taught modern history at Kurukshetra University for thirty-nine years, superannuating as Senior Professor in 2015. He has been the University’s Dean Academic Affairs and Dean Social Sciences.


The central point that this volume makes is that much of what happened in Jammu & Kashmir in the critical first few years (1947-53) needs a more careful reassessment. It is argued that there were little voices of ordinary people that should have been heard but were ignored. The political discourse that took centre stage even as it appeared more assertive and representative of mass public opinion was, however, as is now clear only a clever and misleading political move.

Much of the source material upon which the author has based his study has till now remained unstudied and uncited – rare hard to find books, pamphlets, articles in journals, magazines and newspapers, official and party reports and so on. The volume takes the reader back in time to a kind of ring side seat. Kashmir’s cultural and historical legacy, the invasion, the issue of the plebiscite, the United Nations and the ceasefire, the Praja Parishad and most important of all the political scene and its key players – Prime Minister Nehru, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee and Sheikh Abdullah. Based on the nature of its sources the volume breaks free of a stereotyped approach to understanding the origin of what we commonly term today as the ‘Kashmir problem’.

The volume argues that contemporary views recorded as they are in the heat of the moment with natural spontaneity often contain hidden lines and new light. Not surprisingly contemporary versions tell us a story very different from mainstream conventional writings on Jammu & Kashmir. This timely volume will radically influence the existing discourse on Jammu & Kashmir.


Blog by Jerry Godinho

OLD COTTONIAN Jerry Godinho :

I graduated from Bishop Cotton School, did my undergrad from Hotel Management School, Les Roches in Bluche, Switzerland and have an MBA from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge.

My goal and motivation with this
blog are to help people live a balanced life in the 21st century. I believe that Faith, Family, Finance and Food are the columns of a balanced life.

Here is blog about BCS:


Newest book by Ravi Rikhye

Ravi Rikhye Curzon 1962 batch needs no introduction to many OCs. For those who are reading about him for the first time, here is what he has to say in the Introduction of his latest book “Analysis of India’s Ability to Fight a 2-front War 2018” :

I’ve spent 58-years studying defense, either full-time or part-time depending on the job situation. My output has been small for all those years, perhaps 30 books including four novels, ten annuals, two co-authored, and five refused publication permissions by Government of India. The reason is I study mainly what I want, and mostly that doesn’t translate into a monograph or book. I dropped out of college in my senior year; since I planned to go back I did not get my first degree until 29-years later. Subsequently, I’ve acquired a second bachelor’s and am working on a seventh masters. After completing one doctoral thesis (not submitted as I have been unable to pay the fees), I began another in conjunction with study for a third. Degrees are simply pieces of paper saying the holder has completed prescribed work. They don’t prove one knows much. Studying continuously has a negative side: the more one learns, the more one finds how little one knows. My intention was to have this up on Kindle by March, in anticipation of the next round at Doklam. For readers’ information, there will be no resumption of the Doklam crisis. China has built its road to Jampheri Ridge, which is where the trouble started in the first place. And China has moved in a combined arms brigade, plus reinforced its previously minimal fighter air presence. Meanwhile, GOI has been busy diplomatically and politically kow-towing to the Chinese. In my opinion, the next crisis will be at another point, perhaps…..”

[Editor: We are including a link to Amazon India, for those in other locations – please search by the book title or ASIN: B07HM5LKWG ].

Here is an excerpt from the book:

“The analysis asks one question and has one answer: Can India fight a two-front war against China and Pakistan? The answer is it cannot. Because of the China-Pakistan alliance, we cannot fight even a one-front war: engaging in a war with either adversary runs the risk of weakening the other front, leaving it open to exploitation. The solution, fortunately, is straightforward: build a 2-front war capability. The next problem is equally straightforward: The Government of India is determined not to spend money on defense. Today spending is down to 1.56% of GDP, lower even than in 1962. And we know how that ended. It takes little imagination to foresee what would have happened if 1962 had become 2-front: Pakistan would have walked over Punjab, perhaps all the way to Delhi, and we would have lost Kashmir too. If we chose to defend Punjab, we would have lost the North East Frontier Agency, now called Arunachal. If we tried to defend both fronts, we would have lost both.

For a strong defensive posture, we need to spend the 3 – 3.5% of GDP we spent 1963-1990, both to modernize and to raise eight more divisions that is the minimum needed. To negotiate from strength, we need 4%+ and to recover our lost territories we need 6%. Our spending is 1.6% of GDP, lower even than the 1.9% of 1962….”

Robin Gupta – book launch at Chandigarh

Dear Friends in the Tri city of Chandigarh Panchkula and Mohali; now Zirakpur too, I look forward to meeting you at the launch of my book titled ‘ The 70th Milestone ‘ on October the 1st , tomorrow, at the Chandigarh Press Club at 5.30 p m. Will be very happy to meet old Cottonians and Stephens alumni as well.

Robin Gupta

On the WAY, the PATH, on the Camino to Santiago de Compostela

Vivek Bhasin : Extracts from my incredible 350 kilometers walk on the Camino Frances  On the WAY, the PATH, on the Camino to Santiago de Compostela” 20 April 2018-02 May 2018Galicia, an autonomous community in Spain’s northwest, is a verdant region with an Atlantic coastline. The cathedral of regional capital Santiago de Compostela is the reputed burial place of the biblical apostle Saint James the Great, and the destination for those following the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. The western cliffs of Cape Finisterre were considered by the Romans to be the end of the known world. The Camino de Santiago (Latin: Peregrinatio Compostellana, “Pilgrimage of Compostela”; Galician: O Camiño de Santiago), known in English as the Way of Saint James ( and Jacobsweg in Swedish among other names, is a network of pilgrims’ ways serving pilgrimage to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great.   

Being neither wiser nor wittier, 19th April 2018 I departed Stockholm Sweden with some anxiety, apprehension and a little confused from both family and my own inner voice,  flying to Madrid Spain. That same evening I nearly missed the last train to Leon from ChaMartin a main line station in Madrid but thanks to a last minute cancellation I clambered on board with the last ticket and my rucksack.  It was around 2100 hrs when I arrived at Leon and searching, asking in broken espanol (Spanish) I finally located the Pilgrims office where I was officially given Peregrino Credencials, a special passport to trudge, stomp, heave, and surge my body towards Santiago de Compostela.  I was now a pilgrim and the geography of the region called me to start from Leon at 600m above sea level moving through various highs ( 1600m) and lows through Villadangos del Paramo, Astorga, Rabanal del Camino, Molinaseca, Cacabelos, Vega del Valcarce, Fonfria, Samos, Mogarde, Castromaior, Casanova, Arzua, St.Irene and finally Santiago de Compostela. I worked an ETA ( expected time of arrival ) as 3rd May 2018 into Santiago but with the weather gods predicting snow, hail, hard sunshine, hard rain, fog, low clouds, strong winds I urged myself to prepone my arrival a day earlier…02 May 2018.

… 20 April 2018 on the Camino..

There are many ways to lead you to the creator.. some indulge in studies of the divine, others wait to be preached, many sit on the banks of the Ganges whilst some on the Himalayan peaks communicating with powerful in chants and prayers and telepathy; many prostrate along the road full length and the repeat this from toe to hair a million times towards their true belief …

..and there are some like me; a trickling faith, a hundred temples and over three thousand chapel prayers at the Holy Trinity Chapel BCS and still I never got it…

The path from Leon to Astorga and the walk at 0710 this morning… I followed the yellow shell, the pilgrim with his staff bent forward, determined.. I followed the road and only once glanced back at the spires of the Cathedral at Astorga.. I never looked back but yet my psyche was not fully impressed with my faith nor was I sure of the end..

as someone told me.. “ never venture, never win “but is this really a win ?( a flood of memories and then a stillness ..)

When I looked back again.. all I saw was the sky turned red and the sun lifting upwards…

This is no game, no gold medal no pat on my back.. this is a path of true reflection; I follow my own … looking at the ground that changes from asphalt to stone and pebble and grass and back to stone … my shell and I, on the road to Rabanal del Camino…


Every evening I stopped to seek shelter…I lived in Church wings, monasteries, and pilgrim hostels called albergues…some were donativos ( you give a donation of a few euros and they allow you to rest your bruised body….. sometimes 60 of us wheezing, snorting and snoring…this was co-ed, yes we men and them women sleeping next to each other ( okay separate beds!) no adverse thoughts, never…. just a beautiful congregation of souls and that is what mattered….each on a camino….a path ..a way.

I carried my body forward in slow steps and then at the summit appear to stand tall, looking at the horizon, but many weaknesses arise within me… will I be someone else tomorrow and the day after ? Only the Camino will speak to me and finally tell me .. or will it?

On the Camino 23 April..(4th day…)

There was thunder lightning and heavy rain last night at Molinaseca.. (I arrived on 22nd April 2018 after a most difficult walk…up steep gradients, down slippery and dangerously wet slopes with huge slippery rocks, my knees took a pounding, feet swollen and hurting as I limped in to  town) .. but today when I awoke in the dark at 0530 .. I saw 2 French Ladies in a hurry .. packing their “mochilas/rucksacks” with head lamps .. whispering in French …they were in a hurry and their briskness got me to lift my body after a hard sleep ..severe pain.

I hit the road 25 minutes later on the road to Cacabelos…The road was hard , the feet pounding … but the sweet cuckoo encouraged my drag to proper steps ..Alessandro the Brazilian was ahead and so was David from Barcelona …and 8 Km to Poneferrida …

I met many amazing peregrinos on the road to Santiago de Compostela ..Mat from England, Als from Holland, Trevor from Australia, Steve from the US.. ( ex Caterpillar engines been to India often.. he looked like Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam.. )Steig from Copenhagen who stopped every 45 minutes to gulp a pint, a glass of vino tinto and smoke cigarettes, a sprightly young lady from Edinburgh, Vaarik  from Lithuania, Juan Franco from Milan, Melanie from Germany, Lorenzo Grossi from Turino, Benedict  a young handsome dude from Frankfurt; he walked into the Albergue Fonfria at 2200 hrs, stripped down to his boxers, took a shower, spent another 2 hrs in meditation…by 0300 he was gone into the fog. I met Tina and Alexandra from Riga, Jessica from Germany too; I even met Senor Picasso, Ms. Galicia future Ms. Spain for Miss Universe, a mature and super intelligent ex.Ms.Greece who represented her country in Rio 20 years ago, young and bubbly Isabela a Danish flicka on her gap year walking fast and furiously and fabulously. I met  beautiful and intelligent Lady Regine at Vega de Valcarce, we had crossed paths earlier as I was always sitting somewhere panting out of breath as she passed me…but that evening she was in the same restaurant having a pilgrims meal and we talked about life and the camino for many many hours…Regine had come to the end of her camino and was breaking away at O’Cebriero the next morning; we lost each other on the path the next morning but met at the point outside the Church of O’Cebriero…she was someone very special on the camino…And Don O’Sullivan a fantastic person, a fantastically genuine person. Thanks Dan! Namaskar.

And I also met this guy ……I met “myself” and we talked of many things on the camino… materialistic and spiritual…I argued and once shouting at myself I ran short of breath; the body pleaded I needed to rest and so I did on a huge rock to calm myself …….and yes I did ..

As I walked through vineyards and even encountered a one-eyed cat… my feet aching … my body sweating…I still kept asking myself.. why but why..? Even Alessandro asked me what is my Camino ..to be truthful I still don’t know, except I wanted my body to hurt at all points and see it heal when I lay down at night to brace another day on this amazing Camino ..

Days went by….at the point of crossing into Galicia I was walking on the ridge of the mountain with the sun rising on my back; the camino walks westward. Ahead the sky was white with low clouds; the chilly blast sensed approaching rain, yet the Gods did not ordain this; instead the clouds stooped low and enshrouded me , the iciness  caressing my face and neck like freezing smooth velvet.

….Then I walked out of the cotton into bright sunshine and entered Galicia and amongst the richness of its natural beauty, encountering quaint villages, cows with bells, beautiful noble horses, sheep, pigs, dogs, cats and chickens ( and even 2 hissing snakes) I trampled over fallen pine cones, hard sharp stones, crossed streams, stepped on cow manure and mud and slush…. up the hills and down into vales, walking in country lanes, past vineyards, along the main autopistas ( the main highways)  , crossing fields and cutting through hedges, an entire forest blackened due to forest fires in some past hot summer.. and getting lost for hours as I could not find the yellow arrow, the stone with the yellow shell…….I felt the reverberations and the power of the Camino…on which for thousands of years pilgrims had walked the same way…plodding westward to the Cathedral…..   

The Arrival

..and finally on 02 May 2018 I entered the outer limits of Santiago de Compostela….the excruciating pain in my legs, my knee caps appeared to have drifted and I was limping. But I saw the twin spires in the distance and I knew my time was nigh. At 1415 hrs, walking in slow steps and panting I walked through the tunnel where a bagpiper played his tune….i closed my eyes and saw the world spinning by….and suddenly I was there at the massive courtyard and the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela…

Dropping to my knees…my eyes closed..the tears ran freely as I heard a voice…”Bienvenido Peregrino”..Welcome Pilgrim…!

( At mass that evening the priest announced…among the many nationalities of pilgrims that arrived today…” one pilgrim arrived from India and Sweden”…that for me for said enough).

(The local newspaper El Correo Gallego of Santiago de Compostela, tracked me asleep at the Seminario de Menor and flooded me with questions.  Why a 62 year old Indian Sea Captain having visited 120 countries wanted to walk the Camino…? Responding…The Camino was a path my wife and I had read about, I dreamt about and wished to be a part of my life; the thought of walking that difficult path was frightening. Many a pilgrim has broken a leg, smashing faces and splitting open knees; many young, fit and able start with great gusto and get spent within a few days, returning home. I walked the Camino with great conviction in my mind and soul and a great power walked with me and protected me. I could feel it on the journey.. The photograph and the write-up on Captain Vivek Bhasin , Old Cottonian was viewed by one and many on 4th May 2018.

The Mariner Vivek Bhasin having lived an intensive life through 120 countries finds this path-the way on an incredible walk ( 350 km) to Santiago de Compostela.

And a few hours later as I walked within the old city I met Gandhi! 

Gandhi handed me a note…” there is more to life than increasing its speed……..”

At Seminario de Menor Santiago de Compostela (5th May 2018: The Departure)

… I got up this morning at 0400 hrs exhausted … the exhaustion was not because of 18 days on the road since Sweden nor due to the completion of the 350 Km walk on Camino Frances and arriving at Santiago de Campostela ( actually in a fairly good physical state.). nor was it due to a flood of memories ( some were so specific that one even lasted an entire 10 minutes … as I unreeled the camera in my mind departing Monasterio Samos and the immediate start of a sharp gradient a steep hard uphill track towards Sarria… it was cold and wet and dark as I pushed upwards …every step had to be secure, no error as the stones were loose , wet and slippery and I could have fallen on my face and all my teeth shattered !..the forest was silent …except for my rapid breath and the fog that formed every time I exhaled ; the effort to reach the top took 105 excruciating minutes; my feet pounding and my body lurching forward, my eyes wide open and my soul..searching. Yes 10 minutes of concentration ignited the inner camera as I recollected that stage of the Camino…

No no.. my exhaustion came on as I stopped the camera in my mind …the exhausted system of mine increased when I left the Seminario Menor, the world of the Camino I was leaving, and returning to the hard road of the world I was going back to…. an immense hollow feeling created this tiredness..I felt concerned on how would the days ahead unfold… was I to immediately transform to the normality of sorts? … as the many sunsets would create flashes of blue on the horizon with calmer stillness so would the ache in my legs and my swollen feet subside, and …

I would re-emerge as another pedestrian in the maddening crowds of the world but with the security and sanctity of always keeping the Camino, the path , the way to Santiago de Campostela within me… and I will smile.

Conclusion ( Sweden 8th May 2018)

I was away from the  pace of today’s electronic and fast moving world where pressures are there to perform beyond your maximum heat beat.. stress is “in” …where people compete on how many million “ FRIENDS… (Friends??!)“ you have on face book but not a single genuine friend … the mobile is a bigger addiction than marijuana and cocaine … and you either survive after multiple heart attacks to increase your bottom line in the Corporate world or commit some other drastic act…

The Camino brings you back to great sensibility ….and you speak .. the Camino answers. away from the artificial jokes, scandals and corruption of the world..

I at least realised how Beautiful life is… on that Beautiful sometimes treacherous route..

I thank my immediate family ( Ann-Sofie , Dhani , Radhika, Daniel, Olivia, Jiv) my parents, my 3 Mums, my grandmother, my blood brother Sharat..and my  cousins … all of you…and some very special people I met in the 120 countries and on the Camino..

I am ferociously grateful to my Alma mater Bishop Cotton School Simla ( I wore the BCS Hat every evening on the Camino)…to all those who’ve gone before and those who’ve yet to come …. I learnt to convert happiness from loneliness, work and play under Team Lefroy and Team BCS…and go out to face the world, a world … at many stages, of scorn, rage, envy but with my solid foundation from all of the above mentioned … I sieved away those who created negative vibrations in me; you don’t need 16 Million Facebook friends in E-Space… you need a handful whom you can speak to, touch feel and love…


I donated a feather pillow at Seminario de Menor, Santiago de Compostela (SdeC)

…..May many  pilgrims on the ultimate arrival at SdeC get an opportunity to lay their heads down on the pillow sinking into the luxurious richness of feathers .. turning on their sides the pillow adjusts to accommodate their necks … closing their eyes may they open their inner vision to the path… the way… the Camino to Santiago de Compostela.. that an Indian -Swedish Sea Captain, a son of Bishop Cotton School… too walked in another world, their world… a more beautiful world…. that stays calling.. calling him to come back…..

Vivek Bhasin

Lefroy 1961-1970

(walked an average of 27 km every day for 13 days..)


Additional photographs…and additional Thanks….
[all pictures can be clicked for a larger view]

I must expressively Thank the following.. without whom I would have surely failed


  • BCS: School Cap
  • H&M (Label of Graded Goods):check shirt/maroon pants/grey jogging pants
  • Mizuno : Walking water proof shoes
  • No Name: Bath Slippers
  • Dobber : All weather jacket
  • Wenger: Rucksack
  • Happy Socks: Socks
  • El Corte Ingles:Belt
  • Björn Borg : Boxers
  • Jockey : undervest
  • Levi’s: Sweatshirt
  • Timex: Wrist watch with luminous dial so I could rise at 0500
  • Nano-b: Toothbrush
  • Folk:Toothpaste
  • Negro Jabon: Soap
  • Interprox : Inter dental brush
  • Profimed : Dental Floss
  • XXL: Cotton sleeping case
  • XXL: Trekking Towel
  • Spanish Vaseline
  • Mum’s Mustard Oil ( Calcutta)
  • Costa Rica : Bandana
  • Dhani : Rain Sheet
  • Dhani: Cotton /Linen stole
  • Trigger: Walking Sticks
  • Camino: Weather Hat
  • Olivia’s woollen gloves
  • Ray Ban: Specs/Shades
  • Samahan: Herbal powder
  • Peder Persson: Hunter’s survival bag
  • .. my hair brush..


Vivek Bhasin writes again “Dear Headmaster Sir”

Good Evening to you.

It’s late at night and I shiver with excitement ( the crispness of November adds a zest of life running through my body..)sitting on my bed in the Sixth Form cubicle writing to you..

It’s surely is the last day of the year or sooner than later it is.. I stare out at the glow of the First Flat and through the Tara Devi gap I see lights twinkling…

It’s quiet in the dorms as lights out happened many hours ago; Lefroy House Master completed his rounds seeing us all tucked in. I should be in cloud cuckoo land but the radium in my watch casts a green glow under the quilt and I struggle to sit up and grab pen and paper..

Another nine months went rolling by Sir. I am now an inch taller and all my gym shoes are holed. My tie is hanging on the peg; last untied was never. The loop slips past my head and I tighten it; that’s at least 60 seconds of effort saved for 60 seconds of extra sleep..

I think back hard on the days that went; yes coming full circle from winter kit past summer kit to winter kit again. It’s time to go down to the plains and the maddening crowds; the trains and buses and lanes and by lanes. Last Saturday’s movie at Irwin Hall was aptly named “ Home from the Hills”… I must confess Sir, with exams all over, my steel trunk packed locked and sealed; loaded on the truck must be halfway to Calcutta ! …Yes Sir I must admit our gang was out about town and we saw two movies; one at Regal the Two to Five Dr Zhivago ( at interval the hall played The Stones Jumpin’ Jack Flash); we then ran back to School for Supper and caught the movie in the Irwin Hall; we panted past Sudden Death and screamed through the Mall to see the Ten to One with a new phenomenon called Rajesh Khanna in “ Aradhana”… later we crept back via Knollswood on the short cut so sure footed back to School. Three films later a bloody splitting headache I must confess to.

I must confess again for the record I was on your walnut tree; no walnuts but orange coloured hands and my knees bruised.

My Grandma returned to Delhi after bathing and adorning new clothes to the Gods at Kali Bari, Prospect Hill and Jakoo… she was my local Guardian since I was five in Linlithgow Sir; you granted me “ sleeping out” once a month so I could trundle up to see her… my Father had an account set up for me at Gainda Mull… I could buy goodies like fruit gums, fruitella and condensed milk for five rupees at every town leave and sign for the good stuff … that’s where I learnt how to sign my name with great flourish..

On other weekends my Grandma came down to see me; we we were seen picnicking at Council Rock; I was barely five. When she left in October the last four weeks were rather lonely but Jai Singh the local baker at J.B. Mangaram always met me at the school gate with a freshly baked muffin! He truly was a great saviour those last four weeks Sir..

The twinkling lights at the gap suddenly fade and are gone.. it’s School Party to Calcutta.. it’s always been the Kalka-Howrah Mail Sir..

But a certain yearning becomes an ache .. a confused ache. I strain to understand what my body is saying… on one end it’s the pull towards my parents in Calcutta … after nine months.

There is a certain steadfastness, a magnet pull beneath the steel bed, the voices of all the guys on the first flat, the Irwin Hall and in unison in the Holy Trinity Chapel of ours…

It’s the next day Sir; a new day.

It’s time to leave with my bedding roll and attaché case Sir.

I am writing to let you know, I am leaving…A final Goodbye Sir.

But I left a part of my soul, my strength ..in Bishop Cotton School.

Vivek Bhasin
Lefroy House
Class of 1970