59er Golden Reunion Directory

59er Golden Reunion Directory
59er Golden Reunion Directory

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Secularity in Educational Institutions

(Posted on all my main blogs as this is one of my more serious postings meant to get the broadest reach.)

I learnt from the Times of India of 25th March 2010, Bishop Cotton school principals to resign, that my second alma maters, the Bishop Cotton's Schools in Bangalore, both the Boys and Girls schools, are going through a huge upheaval. The alleged interference of the Church in their running and the seemingly marginalisation of the Principals (also known as Wardens) into puppets, possibly all in the greed for the rich pickings associated with running a well-known educational institution, appear to have taken these two schools from reality into a fantasy world. Accusations are flying left, right and centre.

Sitting 7000 km away from that base, I do not know who is right or wrong. The literally hundreds of "Comments" in the newspaper make it difficult to understand the correct situation.

But it is such a shame to see the schools where my late father (he was also the Old Boy's Association Chairman for many years) and all his siblings, and a greater part of my generation of Matthan's, including my four children, being destroyed by these bickerings and the unfortunate media stories being put out.

A similar situation of the differences between the Church and the Principal is causing the rot of the fourth of my alma maters, St. Stephen's College in Delhi. The Alumni in different part of the world are taking actions, but that may not stop the rot.

However, my Mumbai alma mater, The Cathedral and John Connon School, seems to have overcome this problem, or is it that it has not yet come to the forefront.

Trying to remember my days in each school and college, I knew I was in a Christian Institution in all these three cases (and also my first, The Good Shepherd Convent School in Mysore).

In Bishop Cotton's Boys' School we had to go, being a Christian by birth, to the Chapel for morning service before the start of school, every single day.

In Mumbai, we had School Assembly every morning with the reading of the Bible by one of the Prefects and singing of hymns.

My 59er class consisted of Atheists, Christians (a handful), Hindus, Jains, Jews, Muslims, Parsis, Sikhs, Sindhis, and probably various other sects and sub-sects. Not once did it cross my mind that my classmates were from different religions.

The only time I was aware of a difference was we took our shirts off for PT. I noticed a few of my classmates wore quite different vests - the Parsis, as they had a sleeveless type muslin (?) vest quite different from the rest of the class. Other than mentally noting this difference, and I never even bothered to find out or understand the reason for this, we were all equal in every other respect during our hours in school.

The only differences were those imposed by the time table, as the Christians had to do Scripture as a subject while the non-Christians were exempt from this.

These secular values, and the continuation of the same which I imbibed in St. Stephen's College of the early 60s, has stood me in good stead through my life. I learnt to respect people for what they do and achieve and not because of their religion, caste or creed.

I wish this would be the universal philosophy across the world, as the wars that plague us today are based on these stupid artificial values, called as faith - be it by any religion anywhere in the world where the religious hierarchy fights for power and prestige, misguiding the masses along the way.

Friday, March 26, 2010

History of the School

I understand that for this year's Founders' Day, 2010, our Alumni Association is planning to release a definitive history of our school. They would do well take advice from an Alumni member, 57er Ashok (Tony) Jaitly, who produced a masterpiece for our college, St. Stephen's College, Delhi, when it celebrated its 125th year.

Three outstanding Jaitlys have passed through the portals of our school, 54er Ravi, 57er Tony and 60er Jotysna. All three were brilliant all round students.

From Jacob's Blog

All three, including Ravi's wife, Krishna, and Jotysna's husband, Siddarth Singh (who was my Stephanian yearmate at St. Stephen's College, Delhi), were present in the Delhi Cathedralite Reunion organised by 64er Deepak Deshpande (accompanied by his daughter Pallavi) when Annikki and I passed through Delhi on our Bharat Darshan at the end of last year. Others who attended were 49ers Jamshed Desai, Raj Bhandari and Yezad Kapadia (with wife Rati), 54er Rahul Bajaj, Savage House Captain and also a Stephanian, 55er Anil (Bobby) Bhalla, 56er Pradeep Anand, 57er Annelita (née Uttamsingh) Thadani and her husband, Ravinder K Thadani (Baby), 58er Maiti Sayal, 59ers Harmo Rani Malik (née Uberoi) accompanied by her daughter, 82er Priya, and Vijay Nayar, (and myself), and 60er Dellinder Kohli. Dellinder left early so is missing from the photograph.

Like a few others, Tony and I went through the second alma mater. Our years overlapped by just one.. His subsequent brilliant career in the IAS is well known.

I am publishing here the review I did of it a few days ago for my Stephanian Blog, just to show what would be ideal in publication of a history. Any Stephanian would be proud to be associated with such a publication, which should be the target of our school history. Those who are well known are already well known, so why focus on them? Focus on those who are not so well known but have contributed much to society in their own quiet way.

(From my Kooler Talk, St. Stephen's Collge, Delhi Blog
I have written about the book authored by 61er Ashok (Tony) Jaitly for the 125th Anniversary of our College. Tony, like me, was a 57er Mumbai Cathedralite and then a Stephanian. The character of both these great institutions he graced do come through in this book.

Tony joined the college for exactly the same reasons as me - to save a year! Little did either he or I know at that time that we were joining to the most prestigous educational institution in India!

Yesterday, I completed reading his treatise for the third time. Although quite a slim book, it is crammed with the most interesting facts about our alma mater, that I have not been able to absorb it all in just one or two readings.

Almost everything that we need to know about the history and character of our college is included. The author has not blown his own trumpet in the book. He is an outstanding personality and was, during his time in college, on several fronts - on the sports field, in the theatre, in studies, and also as a Stephanian in Rez.

He has also not blown my trumpet ;-) , as although I get a mention as the 1961 JCR President and also the publisher of this outstanding blog (!!), he failed to mention that I was the only 2nd year student ever to be elected to the JCR Presidency, the organiser of the first JCR evening made up wholly of our internal talent in acting, music, comedy, and also the organiser of the first JCR indoor tournaments - chess, carrom, bridge, draughts, table tennis.

In fact, other than mentioning my JCR Presidency, Tony, covered almost every other institution in the college,  but forgot that the JCR existed as the main centre for the residents in college, the main meeting point for all residents in the evenings and also for day scholars who had to pass the time of day between lectures. The JCR President was the Head of all residents and served on various Committees including the all important Mess Committee! I did a lot of campaigning to change the quality of our food in 1961-62, but it fell back to old standards in 1962-63!

I was lucky to have Shanky (R. I Shankland) and Sircar (S. C. Sircar) supporting all my efforts and 62er Sarwear Lateef on the JCR Committee, who used his diplomatic skills to get many things done. We installed the first gramaphone in the JCR during that year. We installed colourful curtains. We allowed students to stay after 10 pm so that they could listen to Test Match Commentaries from places such as West Indies.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, the present JCR is quite a morbid place compared to absolutely electric atmosphere we enjoyed there in 1961 - 62. When 63er Norval Prakash (Sherwood College, Nanital), my classmate, succeeded me at JCR President in 1962 - 63, he did not have the same hectic agenda as he was busy with his final year studies!

Coming back to Tony's book, it is superb on all fronts except where it was outside his control - the publishing. The sequence of pages in my copy is as follows:

102; 109, 110; 107, 108; 105, 106; 103, 104; 117, 118; 115, 116; 113, 114; 111, 112, 119. 120: ...

Whether it is a simple binding error in my copy or one which has been carried in all other copies, certainly is a spoiler in an otherwise brilliantly written book.

The book is also lacking an all important Index and Bibliography, which are most important for any book purporting to be "A History". That again is not the author's responsibility, but the publishers! In this age of computerised editing, these should have been a couple of the easiest tasks to accomplish!

The amount of research Tony has done, not only from written matter, but meeting and talking to Stephanians of all ages, has been a heroic effort. His comments, like a true diplomat are guarded, but the importance of our college as a secular institution from Day 1 comes through.

I would advise the present Principal, Valson Thambu, to read this book to understand something about the college, as almost everything he has been doing for the last 5 years is diametrically in contrast with the hopes and wishes of our founding fathers and all the Prncipals that have preceded him.

Valson Thambu would do well to remember that the first four students of our college were 'Hindoos' (Sansar Chand, Har Gopal, Kirpa Narain, Ram Lal) and the fifth a 'Mohammedan' (Sajjid Mirza).

I was certainly not aware of the involvement of many of our past staff and students with all the drama that India went through during the last century.

I was certainly not aware that the massacre of Jallianwala Bagh was condemned by, in writing in the Stephanian 1920, by the editor C. B. Young!

As a public institution it is our duty to avoid taking sides on strictly political issues... (but) we are in emphatic agreement with the condemnation bestowed on the action of General Dyer... as Christian missionaries we cannot avoid the duty of forming and expressing a judgement on such a deed of horror as the slaughter in Jallianwalla Bagh.

All the characters that I knew are portrayed with great accuracy throughout the book and it is a credit that Tony was able to write it without causing offence!

I was not aware of the close connection of our college to Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore and many more historic personalities of the world stage.

I will be using this book now to put many of my blog posts in context, in future. It is something which has been at my bedside for the last 3 months, but has now been moved to my office table so as to be of service to the rest of you.

I recommend that you get yourself a copy, also! Certainly worth every rupee I paid for it - just Rs. 365 (€ 6!) in New Delhi. They had to order it from the Publisher and I was able to pick it up just hours before I left the city.

Tony went to the right archives, met the right persons and corresponded with all those who could contribute. He did not focus on his years, although those were probably some of the most exciting times of the College. He went to the meat of the matter, such as the association of the College with great leaders as Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore, as well as those Stephanians and staff who held by the values they associated with the College.

The Cathedralite Alumni Association would do well to get in touch with established historians when contemplating such an important document.

I think we 59ers lifted the bar as to the quality of publications with both our CD and the Coffee Table Book which we brought out during and after our reunion. Those that follow will have to really make superhuman efforts to do even half what we 59ers achieved. I am sure that some years will greatly surpass what we did, and I can probably predict now which years they will be.

But let us wait and see!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Pande unwell in Mumbai

In 2008, thanks to Deepak Deshpande, I was able to ring and speak to Mr. Jagdish Pande, who was a teacher in our school from the mid-50s. Not only was he my Marathi teacher, but he was also an outstanding sportsman and was in charge of our school hockey team.

When I spoke to him, he sort of remembered me as I was an absolutely useless student in Marathi. The reason was quite simple. In school I had to study English, French, Latin, Hindi, Marathi and German - besides having had to keep up with Kannada (which I had started while being brought up in Bangalore and Mysore, and Malayalam, our home language).

That was just too much. I had to consciously shut off some languages. Kannada, Hindi and Marathi were the first to get a chop. We were the last batch in school which did not have to Hindi as a compulsory subject for our Senior Cambridge examinations.

I later dropped Latin, as it was also too much for me. Mr. Glynne Howell, who taught us Latin, was a bit disappointed that I decided to drop it!

I stayed with French, despite being taught by the masochist, Mr. Ribi, but later mastered reading German text, enough for my technical studies in England.

Rajiv Bhatia, former Alumni President, informed me that Mr. Pande had been admitted for observation to hospital. He later visited him and said he was progressing.

Let us hope for a speedy and full recovery. We all love Mr. Pande, who though tough, is wonderful personality.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tips to catching a cat burglar

First advice to everyone reading this is "Don't try it!"

However, in 1960, the year after I left school, I had six months to spare before joining college. Along with a few friends, we used to go to the open gymnasium near the Bombay Gymkhanna and do an hour of really tough excercises. I did not do weights as my intention was to keep fit and remain speedy for hockey.

Those who went regularly were my 59er Cathedralite classmates, Arvind Thadani, Noel Ezekiel, Viney Sethi, late Ashok Kapur and myself.

However, as a few of them went back to school to do the HSc, only three of us were left.

I used to pick up Arvind and drive to the gym. Then we would go back to his house, listen to records, have something light to eat, and then I would go home. Noel used to come home with me often and we would play some childish games to pass the time away!

In short, both Arvind and I were physically very fit, both six footers, and we were quite a terrible fearsome sight!

I lived on the second floor of Meher Mansions. It was a beautiful apartment, large, with three bedrooms, and a fourth bedroom, which was a dressing room converted into a bedroom.

I lived in the back bedroom. When I went to sleep, I had my black labrador in the room. I used to bolt the door at night so that no one disturbed me in the morning, even though it was usually me that got up first!

One night, I had been reading quite late, and I swtiched off the bedlight around midnight. I was in a very light sleep, actually, half awake. As I lay in this stupor, I heard a faint sound from the attached bathroom.

I lay still and looked at the bathroom door, which was slightly ajar.

In the streetlight, which was coming through the window, I saw a small figure emerge from the bathroom. I held my breath.

The figure tried to gently open the Godrej steel cupboard. He found it locked. He turned to the large wooden clothes horse where I had hung my clothes. He started to go through the pockets of my trousers.

The initial shock of seeing the burglar in my room had passed. I was breathing very easily and in a flash of courage, I shouted at the top of my voice "Chor" which means "Thief".

The burglar reacted like lightning and jumped feet first to escape through the second floor window next to the Godrej cupboard. I did not think, but jumped, Flash Gordon style, feet first, and got my legs dead centre around his waist so that he came crashing down to the floor just a few inches away from the window.

My hands went round his throat and I got up very quickly, lifting him up along with me. I could feel his greasy body writhing against my sweaty chest, trying to get away from my firm elbow grip around his neck.

The burglar was really short, so that when I stood up, his feet were off the ground. As a result he had no propulsion place to use his energy and power.

People had woken up around the neighbourhood at hearing my cry of "Thief". My parents had come running down the corridor, wondering whether the commotion was coming from within our house.

My mom was almost in panic when I told her through the closed door that I had caught a thief! She was worried that the fellow had a knife or some other instrument to harm me.

I reassured her that I was safe and I would come out in a second. I called my "guard dog, Blitz, who had gone under the bed the minute she had heard me yell! :-)

I walked to the door and pulled down the latch which was at the top. The legs still dangling, I walked with this guy to the living room. The thief was begging for mercy to let him go.

In the light I saw I had seen this guy before. He belonged to the Churchgate street gangster Chotu's gang. I did not say anything to him but told my dad to call the Police. He rang the Police and then asked whether he should go the the garage, about 200 metres away to bring the car.

I assured him that I could manage this guy till the Police arrived.

By this time, many neighbours had come in to see the burglar. The burglar was acting most cunningly. In a desperate attempt to get out of my grip he told all of us that he wanted to go to toilet.

I knew that the minute I let him go, he would be off like a bullet. No one would be able to catch him.

So I told him to do his business on the spot.

Of course, he was bluffing!

It was a good 20 minutes before the Police arrived. Once they saw the guy, they told us that he had already robbed two houses not far from our house and he had got away.

It was third time unlucky.

They beat him on the head with a rubber truncheon asking where he had stashed the loot from the other houses. He was not ready to speak!

They asked me to come to the Police Station to register the complaint. My dad and I drove down to the Colaba Causeway Police Station and I gave my complaint.

The guy was sentenced to 6 nmonths for his attempted robbery.

I joined St. Stephen's College in Delhi in July 1960. When I came home for the autumn holidays in September, as I walked to Marine Drive to meet my friends, at the corner near Eros Theatre, I was accosted by this guy.

He smiled and greeted me. He told me that it was the first time he had been caught by a victim! He congratulated me, shook my hand and said no one would ever try to rob our house again!

Word was around that there was someone who was a professional cat burglar nabber. ME!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Orbituary of Mr. Nagia

Former President of our alumni, Rajiv Bhatia, informed me that Mr. Nagia, who was once the physics teacher in our school, had passed away.

 Mr. Nagia was obviously well after my time in school.

I have conveyed the condolences of Seventh Heaven readers to Rajiv to pass on to the bereaved family of Mr. Nagia.

If someone could tell me about this worthy gentleman, I would be pleased to publish his bio on the blog.

I have great respect for both Physics and Chemistry teachers, especially from our school, as it is they who gave me my lifetime profession by their enthusiasm and drive in teaching me these subjects.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Illustrious Cathedralite?

Sub: Cathedral alumni who have made a difference

Dear Alumnus,

You may be aware that an encyclopaedic history of Cathedral School, is, currently a work in progress - scheduled for release before November 2010.

We would like to include the names of alumni who have made a significant contribution in any way to Society, in any field.

We would love to have your inputs as to who in your decade you feel should be included in an illustrious list which covers JRD Tata, Salman Rushdie, Zulfikar Bhutto, Yusuf Hamied, Rahul Bajaj, Fareed Zakaria, Ratan Tata, Geeta Anand, Sharda Mukherjee, Mirai Chatterjee etc.

Please do write to us with names and a small profile on their achievement at cathedralhistory@gmail.com Your contribution will be invaluable in the creation of this book.

Your inputs will be very valuable to make the book as interesting as possible

Look forward to hearing from you,
Sincerely yours,

Mridula Maluste ('73) & Viral Doshi('75)

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Your very first day at school

Some join a school in the KG, some join somewhere along the way.

How many of you remember your very first day at school? Cathedral School!

I remember that I joined school in the 6th Standard in 1954. I had shifted from Bishop Cotton Boys' School in Bangalore, which had a different system. I had been promoted from the 4th to the 5th Standard, which was equivalent to the 7th Standard in Bombay.

Mr, Bernard Gunnery was the Principal. I went for an interview. My cousin, Peter, was in the 7th Standard, being a few months younger to me. Also Peter's brother, Sen, had been the Best Academic Student in 1953. So it was Peter's father, Mr. K. M. Philip (now 97, attending office daily, and still playing bridge daily at the Willingdon and also occasionally playing a hole or two of Golf ), who accompanied me and my dad, to see Mr. Gunnery.

For some reason, which Mr. Gunnery explained, there was absolutely no room in Standard 7, so I would have to drop a year and be in Standard 6.

My parents were not very happy, but I was quite oblivious to the implications of dropping a year, except that I was a bit disappointed that I would not be with my cousin, Peter, who was a great friend.

So, I joined in Standard 6 in the first week of February 1954.

It could not have turned out better, as I probably walked into the best ever class our school has produced - the 59ers!

But that is another story.

When I arrived at school on my first day with my dad, I was welcomed by Mr. Timmins, the Class Teacher, who later became a dear family friend. My dad did not stay more than a couple of minutes as he saw I was quite happy and he knew I was an extrovert and would make friends quickly. The class was next door to the Physics Laboratory. (The hidden Chapel was not discovered at that time!)

Mr. Timmins was a wonderful person. He sat down and talked to me explaining to me that dropping a year was not going to be a problem as I would probably find all the stuff very easy and I would be able to fit into the class quickly.

He got me a seat right in the centre of the room. I cannot remember who was my neighbour, but within 5 minutes, I was part and parcel of the class in all respects. After the attendance register, we were off to Assembly and I was fully part of the school and my class!

Mr. Timmins took special interest in getting me adjusted. He fired arithmetic questions at me which he knew were simple, as I had already studied them the previous year in Bangalore. This was a real ice breaker, as the other kids did not know that I had dropped a year.

The biggest disappointment was to learn that the school had no playing fields. In Bangalore we had almost 10 pitches - one for each XI!

But I was told by Mr. Timmins that sports was compulsory and that we would be playing sports at different pitches.

On the very first day we were taken to the CCI, where we were told to practice for the School Athletic meet. I was good at High Jump and soon showed my talents, crossing the bar at 4', more than any other classmate! But I was over-shadowed by my elder brother, who was a good high jumper and long jumper. He jumped 4' 3" and later set te record. Although I had been All Round Sports Champion in Bangalore, and had won a few medals and cups, I was not a good runner. But that did not stop me from attempting everything, as my mom's philosophy was to teach us to try everything and do our best!

But being at the CCI with many of my classmates quickly broke the ice as I was immediately part of the sports group as well.

I do remember that when I had sat down with Mr. Timmins that morning, he told me that I had been placed in Savage House, for which he was the House Master. I was glad, as in Bangalore I was in Pettigrew House, whose colours were Green and Black. So I had retained the Green in Savage.

From Cathedral School, Mumbai

So started a wonderful 6 years in Cathedral School where everyone of our class became dear friends. I was not a brilliant student, but a very average one, just enough to get  First Class in the Senior Cambridge Exams. (Ashok Kapur and I both got 15 points to get First Classes!)

Life in school was full and varied. I played all the sports for my House, even attempting the impossible tennis. I was in the Church Choir, I took part in the School Operas a couple of years, was School Hockey Goalkeeper for two years running, And in 1959 I became Savage House Captain, crowning my wonderful years there. (I am second from the right in te photograpgh above.)

But yet, that first day in Cathedral School where I made so many friendships which have lasted for the last 56 years, are still is fresh in my memory! Thank you School! Thank you Mr. Timmins!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Most unusual Cock House picture!

Recently, when I asked for data about Cock Houses from my readers, I had an interesting email and some photographs from 68er Ravi Nangia (Singapore).

Like me, Ravi belonged to Savage House [Apology: Ravi corrected me - he was in Palmer, not Savage; or was it that he changed his colours? :-)].

After finishing at Cathedral, like me, he also went to St. Stephen's College. (Ravi - just to tell you the Stephanians in Singapore are getting together - contact Ashok!)

So we have much in common. Ravi is a regular reader of my blogs and also a regular correspondent.

Among the photographs he sent me was this one.

I have quickly tried to improve the quality of this picture using my photo enhancement tools. But much more can and will be done.

From Seventh Heaven

Can anyone out there, excluding, of course, Ravi, tell me what is unusual about this picture?

And, for those who notice the unusual character, has this ever happened, in their memory, before or after this year?