I requested the classmaster of Standard XIA in 1959, John Billington, to write the Guest Blog to coincide at the time our 59ers are joining together in Khandala/Lonavala on the old Mumbai-Pune Highway this week at our 60th year Reunion.
(You can see the picture of the unique "Golden Reunion", Directory of 1959ers which was released at the 50th year Reunion in 2009.)
Not only John, from UK, but also our Physics Teacher, William Shiri, and his wife, Pushpa, from Canada, did make it and attend what is now known as the Mother of Reunions! ".
The picture of most of those who attended oir 2009 Golden Reunion has been included in John's Guest Blog.
From our personal correspondence I learnt that John is still playing his morning game of tennis!
Thank you John for this Guest Blog contribution.
The Class of 1959 was my second year of teaching at CBS, as I arrived in Bombay in the middle of the monsoon in 1958 just days after receiving my degree at Oxford. I chose India for my first job because from the age of 16 or 17 in England I had been drawn greatly to India for its spiritual heritage. Young people are often interested in the great unanswerable questions (Why are we here? What is the purpose of life? Why is there so much suffering? etc.) but I was unusual in that I had read Jiddu Krishnamurti while doing my O levels in 1952, and Paramhansa Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi and Christmas Humphrey's Buddhism in the same year – closely followed by the works of Swami Vivekananda and Ramakrishna. So I arrived in India not just to teach but to learn.
From the start I loved India. In few (if any) other countries can you drop into a roadside cafe and find yourself deeply involved in a serious conversation on matters spiritual. Western males especially shy away from talk about the "inner life", preferring the safety of football or politics as topics for conversation.
The Indian practice of referring even to casually encountered people as bhai or bahaina (brother/sister) struck me as profoundly wise and right, and indicated a way of thinking about other people very different from Western practice. I gave a talk in London three weeks ago about relations between Tibet and China and found myself taking about our "brothers and sisters in Tibet" and the need to persuade "our Chinese brothers and sisters" of the injustice of their treatment of Tibet. I owe the locution to India.
I was enormously impressed by the CBS students. Their intelligence, commitment to learning and the inter-communal harmony they exemplified were admirable. 1959 was a good time to be in India for the idealism of a recently-independent country was still untarnished and India led the way for a high-minded grouping of non-aligned countries, steering a path between the communist USSR and the capitalist West. That idealism has long since gone and the world is poorer for it, but it was probably China's betrayal of the Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai catch-phrase and the 1962 border war that hastened its, and Nehru's, demise.
1959 also saw the flight of the Dalai Lama from Tibet to India. A notorious left-wing Bombay rag called BLITZ, probably funded by the communist party, lampooned him mercilessly and was vociferously pro- communist. I bought an old Grammar of Colloquial Tibetan from a bookshop near the Prince of Wales (as it then was) Museum and took the train to Darjeeling to find out more. Sixty years later I am still an advocate for Tibetans to have the right to determine their own future.
Bombay (as I still think of it) was a fascinating city culturally because of its rich ethnic, religious and linguistic mix. I visited all the temples I could get entry to, attended concerts of Indian classical music and dance, and was a fan of Ustad Vilayat Khan and Mrinalini Sarabai, among others. Oh, and I attended a talk by Krishnamurti at the J.J. School of Art.
I said I was highly impressed by CBS students. Names and years get muddled up but I enjoyed taking a small number of pupils for A level and among them Statira Guzdar and Yasmin Batliwala from the Cathedral Girls' School joined Madan and Hussain from the Boys' side. They were very bright and a pleasure to teach, as were the O level classes. First names now escape me in many cases but Sethi (Ed: Viney), Ashok Kapur, Parasuraman, Jacob Matthan of course, Dabolkhar (Ed: Vinay), Sabnis, Ajgaonkar, Cyrus Guzdar, David Colaco, Trevor Newnes, Choksi (Ed: Armeane), Stevenson (Ed: Abe), Venkat Kurma, Mark Sopher, O'Halloran and Peter Miovic all come readily to mind – as would others if I saw their names or photographs --- but I will certainly have muddled up people's years. (Ed: Names in bold are 59ers)
2009 Founders Day Service on 14th November 2009.
(Photo Courtesy 59er Hasnain Chinwala)
A number of your year I did, of course, meet again ten years ago at your Bombay re-union and Peter Miovic is one with whom I have remained in contact and met a year or two later in Wales, and again this year when he very kindly invited me to visit his native Slovenia – a lovely country, iridescently green from its Alps to the sea, and the highlight of my year's travels. With some staff also I remained in contact until they died, including Rider Salmon, James Clarke, Alberto Zavala and Olpherts Gregory; and I am still in touch occasionally by email with Willie Shiri, and regularly receive messages from Mohan Rao.
And I meet Pauline Salmon annually when I visit north Wales to see the Welsh Opera. I have always admired her cheerful outlook and in her late eighties she continues to paint and to exhibit with undiminished creativity. Which reminds me of Lady Marie Temple... But I must stop!
Faces and memories merge with age but are not forgotten – they are all part of life's rich tapestry. But I remember with affection how kind, polite, intelligent and well-behaved were the boys at CBS. That I have returned frequently to India and treat it as my second home is a measure of your hospitality. My Namastes and Salaams to you all! Floreat CBS!
John Billington (CBS 1958-1961)"