Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Oak Grove used to be part of the Garhwal and then Nepalese Kingdom when it was annexed from the Raja of Garhwal. Pauri Garhwal and the Nepalese/British Garhwal wars.
Aunt Katleen Mother,who I met in Sikander hall with Mom and Dad in 1953..waz
Their grandmother was Ashgari Begum, a devote Muslim who said her prayers five times a day. She could only speak a limited amount of English,
History of Oudh
1857 Reigning Dowager Rani Begum Hazarat Mahal Iftikharun-nisa
She was with of Wajid Ali Shah, the last reigning king of Oudh, who had 40 sons and 32 daughters with his 250 wifes. Together with her son she lead an uprising against the British.
Died in exile in Nepal in 1879.
Oudh (Ovadh, Avadh or Awadh) More details in Women State Leaders
1739-96 Politically Influential Nawab Aliya Sadrunissa Begum, Nawab Begum of Oudh
She was the oldest daughter of Burhan-ul-Mulk, Subedar of Avadh. Married to her cousin and father's successor Mirza Muhammad Muqim (Safdar Jung) (1739-64) in around 1724. When her father died in 1839, Nadir Shah plundered Delhi in 1739, and the Avadh landlords and small chiefs who had been effectively subdued by her father, raised their heads and arms in the attempt to secure their individual independence. In his capacity as the Nawab of Avadh, her husband was hesitant to face them despite his superior military strength. Had it not been for Nawab Begum's forceful promptings which eventually culminated in success, there may have been no further history of Avadh. She lived (Ca. 1712-96).
1775-81 Politically Influential (Amat-uz-Zehra) Janab Aliya Muta'aliya Bahu Begum (Bahu Begum was) of Avadh
After her father-in-law' s death, she payed off the huge debts of her husband, Jalal-ud-din- Haider, (Shuja-ud-daula) , to the East India Company, thereby ensuring his succession. After this he seems to have decided to entrust his finances to Bahu Begum. After his death in 1775 she secured the succession for her son, Mirza Amani (Asaf-ud-daula) against the advice of her mother-in-law, Nawab Begum. Her son continously demamded money from her. In 1781 both the Begums were arrested by the British, two eunuchs, whose position at the court of Bahu Begum were unrivalled, were tortured until they handed over the treasure. Members of the royal zenana and khurd-Mahal were harassed, humiliated and made to suffer enormous privation. She remained illiterate all
her life, but it never seemed to hamper her perspicacity or tenacity in dealing with the outside world. Born i Persia and lived (Ca. 1747-1815).
1814-37 Politically Influential Badshah Begum
Her husband, Ghazi-ud-din Haider, preferred death for his son, Nasir-ud-din Haider, rather that his succession to the throne. Badshah Begum was childless. She, therefore, matched her husband's whim by having Nasir-ud-din' s mother killed (another wife of Ghazi-ud-din) , and by then adopting Nasir-ud-din. She brought up Nasir-ud-din as her own, and later took up arms against her husband. It was no ordinary confrontation. In 1837 King Nasir-ud-din Haider died of poisoning. The British Resident had already drafted a paper ready for the signature of the next King of Avadh. But Badshah Begum wanted Farid-un-Bakht to be king, and she marched at the head of some two hundred heavily armed men towards the Palace. Her troops removed the incumbent ruler and his
relations. The following day the British opned fire and most of the Begum's men were killed or wounded, and she were sent to the fort of Chunar which was in British territory, where both she Farid-un-Bakht died in captivity. (d. 1846).
1819-56 Subadar Nawwab
1857 Reigning Dowager Rani Begum Hazarat Mahal Iftikharun-nisa
She was with of Wajid Ali Shah, the last reigning king of Oudh, who had 40 sons and 32 daughters with his 250 wifes. Together with her son she lead an uprising against the British. Died in exile in Nepal in
Ca. 1990s The Begum Shehzadi Wilyat Mahal
It is not clear when she succeeded to the title of the state, which today is part of the state of Uttar Pradesh. Her oldest son is born 1961 and she lived in New Delhi (b. 1934).
On 17th March 1999 Brig. Michael Alexander Robert Skinner passed away in the UK. He was in direct line of descent from Col. James Skinner, the founder of the Regiment and St. James Church.
Brig. Michael Alexander Robert Skinner was born on the 29th Sept. 1920, and passed away at the age of 78. He was the second eldest of the family of six brothers and three sisters. Brig Skinner was commissioned into Skinners Horse in 1942. He saw action with the Regiment in the PAI Force and Italy during Second World War and was a member of the Regimental contingent at the Victory Parade in the UK in 1946. He also served with the International Control Commission in Vietnam but prematurely retired from service in 1966 to look after the family's lands in Hansi, India, which was granted, to his ancestor Colonel James Skinner.
When the British first started prospecting their colony and moved into India, they firmly incorporated friendship with the Moghul rulers. While the Moghul rulers considered the British as their trusted friends and advisers, the British carefully observed, and waited for an appropriate opportunity to take over the country from the Moghul rulers. This was the time when the intermarriage between the British and the Hindu princess, or Muslim Princess, took place and the Anglo-Indian community began. The intermarriage of the two races at the time started for political purpose. A good example was the founder of the Skinner family in India, Nasir-ud-Dowlah Colonel James Skinner Bahadur Ghalib Jhung. Colonel James Skinner, the legendary founder of Skinner's Horse, who died in 1841.
The last Moghul emperor was weak. During his time many new independent small principalities of the Hindu Rajahs, and the Muslim Nawabs began springing up. There was no unity amongst the rulers of the small principalities or kingdoms, they were frequently fighting with each other. These made it easier for the British to move in and take over the Delhi Durbar successfully from the last Moghul Emperor, and make India one of the colonies of the British.
Colonel Skinner's mother was a Hindu Rajput princess, and his father a Scot, the son of the Provost of Montros. Yet, for most of his life, Skinner lived like a Moghul and liked to be addressed by his formal Muslim title. He was brought up a Christian, of sorts, but kept a harem of Hindu and Muslim wives, and showed his open-mindedness by building not only a church, but also a mosque and a temple. Most of his children seem to have been brought up as Christians, but some converted to Islam.
As a reward for his services, the Moghuls and the Marathas both gave him huge estates. At his death in 1841, Sikander Sahib or James Skinner left his five sons 194 villages, several palaces, some Moghul gardens, a network of indigo factories and caravanserais, a grand townhouse, and several bazaars in Delhi. The family squabble indolence and extravagance whittled away the fortune, but by mid 1930s the family had 60,000 acres of land and enjoyed the status of a Maharaja. Despite Skinner's grand Moghul titles, to the people of Delhi he was known simply as Sikander Sahib or the reincarnation of Alexander the Great because his cavalrymen never lost a battle. Skinner commanded his own mercenary force of irregular cavalry, with whom he had fought both for the Marthas and the Moguls, before finally taking service under the Union flag. Skinner's Horse enabled the East India Company to secure
great chunks of Northern India for Britian. With their scarlet turbans, silver-edged girdles, black shields, and bright yellow tunics, Skinner's cavalrymen were, "reckoned to be the most useful and trusty, as well as the boldest body of men in India." They never lost a battle.
According to William Dalrymple, "during the Raj, both Indian and British tradition conspired to place people in rigid class, caste and religious compartments; there were few family who managed to break out of these communal entrenchments the way the Skinners did. But this success placed the family in a particular quandary at Partition: where did they really belong - Pakistan, India, or Britain? In the event, most of the Muslim Skinners fled to Pakistan, while many of the Christian Skinners emigrated to Britain, the USA, and Australia. Only a few remained in India to try and maintain the family estates, while also keeping a lifeline to Britain."
The Skinners spent their entire summer months at Sikander Hall, Skinners' hill palace in Mussoorie, and when the winter came they left the hill estates for Hansi. The whole family went down the road to the plains in great procession, with the boys on the horseback, and all the women in palanquins. The day they arrived in Hansi, Brig Michael Skinner's father would hold a durbar. Urdu was the first language of his father but he was just as fluent in English. Brig Michael Skinner's father preferred to keep friendship with the Indian landowners or princes rather than the British. He often said that 'the more you kick the British, the more you get out of them.' During the durbar he sat cross-legged on a bolster wearing an angurka (Nehru-style frock coat). The headmen of his villages would come and offer a nasr (symbolic tribute) of one rupee, and a basketful of dried fruit. After a lot of
speeches, the family would present quilts and ladoos to the poor, and then the bards would recite the genealogy of the Skinner ancestors. The family munshi or teacher would then recite a poem about the deeds of the Skinner ancestros after the genealogy.
During the partition in 1947, there was a terrible communal riot in Hansi. Hindus and Muslims, who lived peacefully upto then, started killing each other. All his friends became enemies of each other. Besides the news that the new Land Act would take away the landowners' estates made Brig Micheal Skinner's father terribly depressed and one evening when he was all alone, he took his twelve-bore and putting it into his mouth, he pressed the trigger and died.
Today Lillian Skinner and her brother Jimmy Skinner still live in India. Jimmy never married. His brother Mike, Brig Michael Alexander Robert Skinner died with no sons to carry on the name Skinner as an Anglo-Indian. That brings to the end of the Skinners in India, although there still are many more of them in Pakistan, USA, England, and in Australia. Their grandmother was Ashgari Begum, a devote Muslim who said her prayers five times a day. She could only speak a limited amount of English, one of them being, "damned swine." At the time Hansi was like a little colony of Skinners. The house was originally built by Sikhader Sahib as his officers' mess. There were various aunts and cousins living in the house. One of the grandmother' s younger sister was Nasira Begum, who called herself Fanny Skinner when she was with the Europeans.
There were armies of servants at the Skinners' palaces in Mussoorie and at Hansi. There were six guards at the gate and a jamedar in charge of them. There were syces to look after the ponies, whole families of sweepers, and bhistis who carried the water. After independence and the land Act of in 1947, no one was allowed more than eighteen acres. All their villages were taken away. They were to get compensation of about hundreds of thousands of rupees but nothing came to them, except the Sikander Hall in Mussoorie, and the house in Hansi near Delhi. The Indian judge at the court remarked that the Skinners were relics of the British Raj, and that they were imperialists who had plundered the country.
Brig Michael Alexander Robert Skinner was the Chairman of the Board of Governors, St Thomas' College in Dehra Dun from July 1988 to 17th March 1999, till the day he died.
Many other Anglo-Indians who possessed huge amount of land and properties during the British Raj faced the same plight as the Skinners family members left in India. Average Anglo-Indians at the time remained in the dreamland of the past. They never thought of the future, and what it would mean to them if India became independent. They continued living their stereo type life, content with their job, social life, and entertainment, while the British and the Indians were fighting for independence of India. The Anglo-Indians in India did not anticipate the glorious British Raj to end so soon, and were living with the hope that if it did happen, the British would provide for them, or they would immigrate to England. They were sure that anyway they would remain in the same superior and prestigious status as they did during the British Raj times.
The Gardners of Khasganj, India, are another complicated families. Some Gardners claim to have descended from Lord William Gardner of Coleraine, who commanded a company at the siege of Derry, and whose son also William, was a Lt Col in HM 11th Dragoons. Lord Gardner was a Methodist by religion and his descendants have remained Methodist.
Then there was a soldier Alan Gardner, an Anglican, who raised Gardner's Horse and died in 1828. He is buried at Khasganj. His relative was the Hon. General E. Gardner, a resident at Kumaon, who retrieved and captured Almorah with Colonel Nicolls in April 1815 for the English during the establishment and of British ascendency in India. Many of Alan Gardner's descendants also seem to have been soldiers.
Alan Gardner was married to a Muslim Begum by the name of Bibi Sahiba Hinga. They had a daughter, Susan, who married a Mirza Anjan Sheko, the son of Mirza Suleman Sheko, and grandson of Alam Shah, one of the later Mogul Emperors. Alam Shah was a descendant of Ghengis Khan. Alan's brother, William James Gardner, also married into the same family, his second wife being Mulka Humani Begum, sister of Mirza Anjan Sheko. Descendants of Alan Gardner and his brother still live in India. Mr Russell V. Gardner, Mr Winston Gardner, their sister Enid can trace back their family tree to Alan Gardner, William James Gardner, and Ghengis Khan. Both Mr Russell Gardner and Winston Gardner are Principals of Anglican schools in India. Mr Russell Gardner being the Principal of St Thomas Collegiate in Dehra Dun. Two of his sisters are married and immigrated to USA and UK, while his son, also Russell J.
Gardner, lives with his family in Melbourne, Australia. His daughter, Michelle Gardner married, Reggie Khanna, the son of an Anglo-Indian lady, Mauveen Carbery, from Dehra Dun, and a Hindu Punjabi pilot officer, Mr Ram K. Khanna. Mr Russell V. Gardner also has his own private Junior High School, St Jude, in Dehra Dun. His wife, Violet Lyons/Gardner is the Principal of their private school. Although Mr Russell V. Gardner is an Anglican, his wife is a Catholic, and he has a strong faith in Saint Jude, the patron of hopeless cases, that is why he has named his school by the name.
Mr Winston Gardner, the Principal of St George School in Ketty, in the Nilgiris, is married to an Anglo-Indian, Joan Daniels. They have two sons and a daughter and are living in India. Russell Gardner and Winston Gardner's one brother, Vivian Gardner was in the Calcutta police, but died early in his thirties leaving behind a son and two daughters.
There are many Gardners in the various Catholic registers also, mostly from Khasganj area, this being complicated by different spellings such as Gardener or Gardiner. The Gardner family tree is very complicated and many-branched. There were tremendous intermarriage between the different lines, and many marriages to muslims. Many of the names are of unrelated families. A missionary by the name of Gardner also lived in Khasganj and converted many Indians giving his surname, 'Gardner' to all those he converted to Chrisitianity.
Dehra Dun, a city close to Mussorie hill station, belonged to three main Anglo-Indian families during the British Raj times, the Skinners, the Hurseys and the Powells. The three families owned many villages and land in and around Dehra Dun area. After the independence of India, most of the land was taken over by the government of India, although each of the families have managed to retain a small portion of what belonged to them till the present time.
Members of the Hursey family eventually sold off their land and property and immigrated overseas, leaving behind no members of theirs to carry on their Anglo-Indian line in India. Jimmy Skinner and his sister, Lillian are still taking care of theirs, just as much as the descendants of the Powell family.
Mrs. Doris Powell left her land and property to her daughter, Mrs. Carbery, who in turn left it to her two daughters, Jennifer and Mauveen Carbery. At present, Jennifer and Mauveen have nineteen acres of land plus a huge farmhouse between them in Dehra Dun. The rest of the land and property were taken over by the Indian Government after the independence of India. The farmhouse belonging to them is built in the Californian style and has antique furniture and crockery belonging to their ancestors. The farmhouse is surrounded by huge expanse of land, which has orchards, wheat, and vegetables growing in abundance. The villagers work on the land for the family.
Jennifer Carbery is married to Mr Mann, and they have their own private school, Carmen Public School in Dehra Dun for many years. Their son, Greg Mann, also has his own private school, while their daughter married an Indian. Mauveen Carbery married an Indian Air-Force Officer, Wing Commander Ram K. Khanna. While Mauveen's children have immigrated to USA and Australia, Jennifer's family still live in Dehra Dun. The villagers around living in the land which once belonged to her ancestors, still look upto her as their chief and the head of the villages. They call her the Pardhani or the chief of the village. She attends all the village functions and gets a great respect from Indian villagers the same as did her ancestors during the British times.
(1) William Dalrymple's television series "stones of the Raj."
(2) 'Salaam Surrey,' an article on the Skinner Family by William Dalrymple.
(3) An article about Brig Michael Skinner in the School Magazine of St Thomas Collegiate after his death.
(4) A personal interview with a family member of the Gardners.
(5) Robin Volkers research on the Gardeners.
(6) Indian History book by Mukerjee about General Gardner of Almorah.
(7) A personal interview with Maureen Cabery.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Since we were there in the same period, nearly everything you write applies to us in the BS too except that as boys we would be naughtier and naturally have more pranks to recall.
For instance, one incident that always comes to mind when people relate "Orchard raids" was the "The Great Kitchen Raid" - '69 or '70, most prob the latter. I'm usually grey about those two years because they went in a whiz & I really enjoyed each moment of that period ! I'm sure I've related this earlier.
The Great Kitchen Raid as we called it came about on a day when the dinner had been exceptionally bad and we were all hungry ; so we decided around midnight to raid the 'larder'.
One guy got in thru the main entry via the ventilator above the huge door near the boiler and opened the Dining Hall door from inside ; we all trooped in - about a dozen of us. The almirah which had milk was locked so one guy made a long straw with a sheet of paper and......... . The biggest feat was the haul of a few dozen cans of condensed milk and a few KGs of dry fruit !
These lasted just a couple of nights so for the next 3-4 days there were quite a few cases of upset stomachs & queues in the toilet. The funny part was that the staff refused to admit openly that something like that had happened - so it remained a secret for the entire time! I remember some of the Milkmaid tins were hidden in a small ingrowth down to the poolside
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
I first heard about Oak Grove School from a neighbour of mine in a place called Chakradharpur. They were two boys whose last name was Malhan. Unfortunately their mother committed suicide one winter and they left school. But the first school I went to was St. Patrick's school, Agra. Some friends I had there later I met again in Jhigs...... but that's another story.So, in 1967 my Dad decided that I should move to Oak Grove ...... why? Because he thought the hills were a better place to grow up in.
So anyway, Dad escorted me to OG the first time. And guess what... we met an OOG on the train who had come from Canada to have a look at the school. I cannot remember what his name was. He would probably be in his nineties now, as even then, he was a bald mid-aged man. So we arrived in Dehra station from Lucknow and took a taxi and went to school.... Uh hun... the roads were all done and ready by then.....and we paid Toll tax....
The first person we met was Miss N.C. David who seeing us arrive very graciously came out of her office to greet my Dad and me. My father was so impressed to note that the Head Mistress of the school cared enough to welcome a new student, that he was convinced he had made the right move in changing my school. It was the last day of February and a day before the actual reporting day so not all students had reached school by then. Miss David called Dorinda DeCamp, and told her to take me inside. I still did not know which class I would be in as I had to write an admission test.( I did get into ClassVII). Anyway Dad went away. I was ok as this wasn't new to me having been in a boarding school before. I was however, awed by the beauty of the mountains and the green surroundings. ...the chirping of the birds and the silence of the hills...... all made a lasting impression on me. Even today when I think of my childhood the mountains are my best memories.
The only thing that bothered me in the first few days was the cold. As it grew dark it got colder and God, was it cold!! I don't really know how we all managed to stay in that shivering cold with no heating! But except for the first few days I cannot remember ever minding the weather whatever it was....... The clouds in the monsoons months blew right into the class, the mist was forever filling the rooms, the dormitory was a ice box....... but we lived through it quite happily. I suppose we were so busy living life that we didn't notice anything else.......
A lot has been said about Mula Bux, so I shall not repeat the same except to say that never have I been able to buy stick-jaws,éclairs and buns like that anywhere else. I do however remember with great pleasure the many Socials we had. These were special occasions because boys were invited to come for the party. And we girls planned and planned endlessly what we were going to wear as we were allowed to wear 'colours' on those evenings. We exchanged clothes, tried out hairstyles and shoes and the Class-in-charge of the show also had to plan on games, music and food. Miss. Bibi, a cute looking house-keeper, arranged the goodies. The juniors were sent off to the dormitory early so they didn't get in the way. At one Social I wore a black saree....... and oh my God....... how embarrassed I felt all evening as some boys complemented me.In one such Social we had a fancy dress competition and Shubh Mehta of my class wore a maroon counterpane around her and had to announce herself as a 'beetroot' in case the judges failed to make out her costume. Of course we had to be very watchful of the teachers.... . particularly Miss Lyall. If she 'imagined' anything we did or say to the boys we would be given a very long lecture from her. When she read these lectures she often used the phrase 'boy crazy' . And when she said that it was the ultimatum. How we hated the lectures.Oh then of course the Socials were reciprocated and the BS also hosted them and we girls went there all decked in our best clothes again. Another occasion that comes to mind is the Janamashtami celebration. ..... that was a high point as it was celebrated at night and we trooped all the way to BS (or was it JS?) to sing bhajans and do Puja and Aarti and get back way past mid-night... ...
The regular fortnightly movies were another occasion. We had one movie on the screen and another going on in the hall........ boys and girls passing chits to each other....... looking back, its all so hilarious... .... but back then it was serious business. Oh and before I forget...... . chocolates and gifts also went back and forth along with letters..... Those who were grounded stayed back in the dorm and loudly whispered goodnight to the boys when they returned to BS passing the dorm windows. On one day Mrs. Mathur, our Senior Dorm Superv. stood right behind the girls as they waved good night to the passing boys........ but luckily she didn't say much. Her disapproval was enough..... more effective than Lily's lectures.... ..Lily was Miss Lyall's nick name in case you have forgotten!!
The girls went down to the Flats to play in the evenings. Oh how we loved that! There were 3 flats. The first was where we played tourniquet, throw-ball, badminton etc. The next flat was larger and we played basket ball, volley ball etc, the third and lowest flat was a small field and we played hockey there....... .... you are right Carolyn we girls did play hockey!! The games teacher was Mrs. Siddiqui.But unfortunately we did not have many days in the Flats as the weather was not always good. And in the monsoons we hated the leeches..... .
Speaking of leeches..... Ms. Kohli was a weirdo. She had some problem with her gums and she would stick leeches to her gum to suck the bad blood out of them...... or so she said. In my class, which was large by OG standards being 17 of us, there were only 2 girls who chose maths for ISC. Chitra Kapoor and me. And Ms Kohli was our teacher. She may have been an intelligent person herself but she had no idea about teaching methods. Oh how we suffered at her hands....... . she just didn't care about our classes. Sometimes she took the class on the pushta outside, sometime in the dining hall........ and till the end we did not know what to expect in our exams.
That reminds me.... dining hall. I hope the girls remember the stage in the dining hall? It used to be our dance floor. The late Ranjana Lall, knew all the dances and we learnt to do the jive, cha cha and fox trot from her. Oh how we danced to Binaca geet mala songs and the 45rpm single records (recs, we called them) we played on the record player. Primrose Raikhan was in charge of the music. There were two very distinct groups..... the Elvis fans and the Cliff fans, and there was no compromise between the two. It had to be one Elvis rec and one Cliff rec........ else all Hell broke loose.
Our class teacher was Miss Joshi, who taught us Biology. Miss Tandon taught History, Miss David- English Literature, Miss Bhattacharya -English language, Mrs. Joshi- Hindi and music, Miss Lyall-Geography, Mr.Verma-Art. Mr. Verma used to give us work to do in the Art Class and sing all the Mukhesh songs....... he had a good voice!!
Once we represented OG for the inter-school Rotary Debate Contest held in Muss. In the English section I got the 1st prize and a SGC boy got the 2nd. When it was over the SGC boy came over to congratulate me and I almost fainted with fright in case someone reported me to Ms. Lyall.... so great was our fear for the lady! And as we walked back to the school bus, the late Anil Bhakri, a fair and lanky guy then, walked up behind me and passed me a chocolate in front of the Chic Choc shop....... I was sure I would be reported ...... couldn't trust being lucky twice....
I could go on endlessly... ..... I have a head full of memories of all my years in school...... .. and I loved being there. The best years of my life I have spent in OG with friends who I can still count on today....... ..All I can say is a big Thank you. All of you have made my life so much more meaningful.
The other day an unusual thing happened. I grilled some food outside and decided to eat it inside, where the stereo was playing old Indian music. The combination of eating a hamburger and listening to "jo vada kiya vo nibhana parega" struck me as extremely incongruous and got me thinking. It was not just a quick flashback but rather a deep retrospection. Oak Grove figured quite prominently in those thoughts. And, rightfully it should – I did spend almost eleven of my most formative years there. I have always known that it was an important part of my past, so as I reminisced I decided to pen some thoughts - actually I banged them out on a computer keyboard.
I arrived at Oak Grove in March of 1954, barely five years old, not speaking a word of English. I clearly recall that I was speaking it in a week, at least enough to get by. The fact that everyone - kids and teachers spoke only English, no matter whether you understood it or not, must off course have been the key to learning it so rapidly. My teacher in lower kindergarten, Mrs. Regalini also certainly had something to do with it. The academic program at the time consisted of lower and upper kinder garten, followed by ten standards. Tenth was Senior Cambridge. Somewhere along the line it was reorganized, the K.G'g were done away with and the entire program was collapsed into eleven classes. In 1963 Senior Cambridge was renamed to Indian School Certificate (ISC). Junior School used to be up to fifth grade, due to overcrowding, in 1958 the fifth grade was moved to the Boys / Girls school.
While I was in the Junior school some of the teachers I recall were Miss D'Colis (headmistress) , Mrs. Haslam, Miss Lyall, Miss Gifford, Mrs. Regalini, Mrs. Neelam, Miss Gandhi, Mrs. Carol, Mrs. Arnold, Miss Luke, Miss Spencer, Miss Fernandez. Some of my early classmates were Jasbir Singh, Billy Gomes, Brian Regalini, Mohinder Midha, ( ) Bewtra, Baldev Singh, Clifford Tims, Winston Tocher. Some of the girls were Attia Ahmed, Priscilla Ralph and Anita Verma. On Priscilla I had the greatest crush a little boy could ever have! Later that was followed by crushes on the Verma sisters – Preeti and Anita, and one of the six Kaur sisters. The Kaurs must have been the most beautiful siblings ever. They were followed by a lone kid brother. While I'm writing I wonder how that boy turned out – an extremely spoilt brat, effeminate or just a regular guy? There were no organized sports in the Junior school, but lot of supervised playtime. Marbles were my favorite, gulli–danda was frowned upon and quickly stopped when noticed by the teachers. Food at school though wholesome was painfully dull and tasteless. I was a fussy eater and one evening when I didn't touch my plate Miss D'Colis forced the food down, only to have me throw up right on her. She probably didn't ever try it again on any other kid. To this day there are foods I detest because they were served so often – porridge comes to mind. Occasionally a kid would have a birthday and a lucky few would be invited to the center table, while others looked on enviously and longingly at the delights laid out there.
Dormitories had their own rituals. Communal baths were followed by an inspection. You had to stand in the nude on a stool or chair and be inspected by the one of the matrons (dorm supervisors) - gee I'm blushing thinking about young Miss Spencer checking me out. She was barely out of her teens then, but then I was just six or seven. By the way, I actually exchanged some emails with her a couple of years ago courtesy Bert Payne, who put us in touch.
In 1958 we moved to Boys school. After the protected, cocoon like existence of Junior school, Boys school was a shock. We were the littlest kids around and easy pickings for the bullies amongst the older boys. In big things and small we were fending for ourselves, where till now all these things were done for you or closely supervised. Hoofing (kicking), slapping etc by prefects was common as were other forms of harassment. Looking back though, I'm surprised it wasn't worse. This is the age when cliques and groups started forming and if you didn't belong you were subject to various torments. Although there were class teachers – more for administrative reasons, we were taught each subject by different teachers. The teachers I recall were Mr. Edwards (headmaster) , Mr. Gomes (math), Mr.Regalini (English), Mr. Fletcher (geography), Mr. Midha(history) , Mr Ahmed (English and history), Mr. Dina (Hindi), Mr. Kelkar (science), Mr. Chimwal (chemistry), Mr. Luther (woodworking) , Mr. Swing (physical Training) and Mr. Meston (dormitory). As Messers Fletcher, Regalini and Kelkar left, they were replaced by Mr. Kukreti (English), Mr. Banerjee (physics) and Mr.Rawat(geography) . Inspite of their individual foibles, I think collectively they were the best bunch of teachers a student could ask for - dedicated, caring and knowledgeable. With one exception – Kukreti.
Kukreti was a very fine teacher of English, but had to be the most mean spirited person I have had the misfortune to come across. As someone from the old American West might say "them's fightin' words". Yes, they are. I have a very laid back temperament, but I get so angry more than forty years later when I think of that person. Have you ever met a teacher who could revel in the failure of his students with words like "When you will fail, then I will laugh", when some kid(s) laughed in class. Or, would threaten them "with a stroke of my pen I can make or mar your future", this last because in those days if you failed English, you flunked the class. And believe me he used that power. On several English essay exams I would get 39/100, when the passing grade was 40. How does one get that score in an English essay? Did he count every missing comma or period or wrongly constructed sentence – no, I don't think so. It was pure malice. Fortunately this malicious grading was seen through by Mr. Edwards or Mr. Pasricha and was overridden. I am sure that many a kid was not so lucky. For the record I got a grade of A2 in English in the ISC final exams. There, I feel better after that venting.
I was an above average student for the most part, but did have my ups and downs. In the upper level classes (9th grade onward) I chose the Mathematics and Science group. The sound early grounding I got at Oak Grove, stood me at good stead years later, both at NDA and engineering school in the US, where I did pretty well. I did participate in sports but only at the fringes.
In my early years the school was mostly run by Anglo-Indians, which included the principal -Mr. Love, heads of the Junior, Girls and Boys schools – Miss D'Colis, Miss Garlah, Mr. Belew and most teachers. The Anglo-Saxon/ European names from the early years will confirm this. Many students were Anglo-Indians too. After all Oak Grove was a Railway school. No history of the Indian Railways would ever be complete without Anglo-Indians. They were completely intertwined. Indianization started when Mr. Pasricha arrived as principal in 1959. Independence Day and Gandhi Jayanti began to be more formal and we began to appreciate their importance. The renaming of houses at the Boys school from Roberts, Kitchner, Haig, Wellington to Asoka, Tagore, Shivaji and Patel was great. Who needed bygone era British generals anyway. Similar changes were made in the Girls school. Not sure of the original names but the new names of Sarojini and Padmini do come to mind. However the changing of the school crest from a dignified one to "Kamal ka phool" was an unmitigated disaster. I don't think Oak Grovians of that era can easily shake off or live it down.
Jharipani was very remote. How did the British come across this location? I can't begin to imagine how those massive steel beams and other heavy supplies used in the construction of the schools reached that area. To get to school we took a bus from Dehra Dun to Kulukhet. From there we walked the two or three miles up to school. Our luggage, large tin trunks and holdalls of bedding were carried by sturdy Gorkhas/Garhwalis on their backs. This was the preferred method of getting to school till the sixties. The first bus service between Mussoorie and Jharipani was introduced in 1954 or 55. This was just a seasonal skeleton service as the road surface was washed away by the ferocious monsoons, making it impassable by vehicles. In reality the road was an unpaved mule track of stepped construction to prevent erosion. In later years the paving of the road, first with concrete and later with tar greatly increased vehicular traffic between Oak Grove and the outside world. The Dehradun – Mussorie motor road ran to the Library side of Mussoorie. The connection from Kincraig (spelling?) to Masonic Lodge/Picture Palace was only opened around 1960. It remained a one way road for quite a while. In Mussoorie affluent people moved about in push/pull rickshaws. In areas where rickshaws could not operate due to road conditions or steep inclines, they were carried in a "dandy". Children were carried in a basket like chair. The principal of the school, then Mr. Love and his wife used a dandy occasionally, but I don't recall any one after him using it. The use of dandies disappeared by the late fifties, but rickshaws continued. Looking back dandies seem almost medieval.
I was a very sickly child and must have the dubious distinction of being the most hospitalized kid in Oak Grove's history. You name it; I had it – chicken pox, measles, mumps, German measles and numerous bouts of fevers. When I see people wince at the sight of an injection I smile and think of those days. Thick, blunt, re-usable needles were poked into my arms and bottoms more times than I want to remember. I guess it was penicillin. Somehow it always did the trick. In 1957 there was a world wide influenza epidemic. Out of about 180 kids in the junior school all but twelve were hospitalized. The wards were over flowing, temporarily the verandahs around the hospital were filled with beds, some kids were moved to other hospitals. Off course I was not among the lucky uninfected twelve. With each outbreak of some disease came a quarantine, further isolating us from the outside world. During those early years, I recall Dr. Nakra, Dr. Banga and nurses Caston, Morris and Dewar. God bless them all.
Saturday was what we looked forward to most. The Tuck man, Maula Bux would arrive with several boxes of goodies - peanut toffee, jaggery stick jaw, sugary pastry and cream rolls. I've had the best French and Italian confectionery, but somehow they don't compare to Maula Bux's. Another vendor by the name of Motilal, who ran a general store in Jharipani would also come, bringing ladoos, jalebis and dal-mot. In a few minutes we would blow our entire weekly pocket allowance of eight annas (India started using decimal currency in 1959), later increased to a rupee. Then there were movies. The boys with their Brylcremed hair, drain pipe pants and pointy shoes trooped over to the girls school rain or shine. Movies were in a covered shed. Girls and boys sat separately and exchanged furtive if longing glances across the isle, occasionally a crumpled note was thrown over by some one, professing undying love for their beloved. It was the age of innocence. Since the girls and boys schools were so segregated it was difficult to really get it on with the girls, but many an affair ensued however tame or lame by today's standards. Once a month we were allowed to go to Mussorie. In the early years we walked, but later preferred the bus. Movies at Rialto or Picture Palace, roller skating and a meal at Kwality or Neelam's were the thing to do. A few friends and I would take pony rides on Camel Back road.
Sports day, Prize day and Fancy Fair were days for fun, showing off and ogling the girls! Inter-house competitions for sports and other activities were intense, the air always thick with rivalry. However, we all came together as one when competing with other schools – mostly St. Georges, Allen and Woodstock. We would shout ourselves hoarse cheering our side or jeering the rivals.
There are so many things one can recall with great fondness about their school years, but some things stand out more than others. Those memories collectively are what I call the "Wonder Years" – yes there was a TV show of that name.
I did not complete my ISC from Oak Grove, but finished from St. George's (long story that – for another time). My siblings Ravinder (RN) – `60 and Jitender – "Jackie" (left in '64, completed ISC from St.George's as well) were in Oak Grove too. My mother was a teacher/head in the Junior school from 1954 to 1975. People who have been on this board for a while may remember a piece I wrote about Jackie several years ago. I'm not sure the old articles were archived when the site was moved.
Led by Mr. Edwards was a great team of teachers such as Messrs Ahmed,
Bannerjee, Chinwal, Dina, Fletcher, Gomes, Kelkar, Kukreti, and Luther. Mr. Ahmed could never be interrupted from his teaching. Even while he was lecturing in class, being the Master on Duty on that day, he went out to the corridor to investigate a disturbance, but continued with his lecturing while walking to the disturbance and back. He enticed many into reading newspapers by tantalizing us with the titillating details of the Nanavati case unfolding in the Bombay courtrooms. Got me addicted since then, to the eternal consternation of my better half and children. I similarly did my bit of introducing Leslie Tocher to the Hindustan Times by bringing to his attention their carrying the Comic Strip Buck Ryan on Page 2. There was no stopping Leslie after that from charging out of the Dining Room after lunch, beating everybody to the Library to get first crack at the days' Hindustan Times.
Even in those innocent days OG had its own peculiar denizens such as Garmi the friendly waiter, Jhooria the taciturn waker-upper and bed maker, and the Husky Bhotu, more Polar Bear than dog, but gentle as a monk. Talking about monks, a high point of 1959 was the exile of Dalai Lama. The first place Nehru brought him to was Mussoorie, and I remember classes were cancelled, and we were all sent down to Kulukhet to welcome him. Coincidentally, I ran into the Dalai Lama again in the late 1990s on the street in Toronto. Disgracefully the Canadian Government of the time (and even today), worried about offending China, refused to accord him official status, so he was reduced to walking along with a retinue of one, but that didn't dim his smile. I did mention to him about cheering him on at Kulukhet, and he was gracious enough to say he remembered, but I doubt it.
One other diversion, while on the subject of the Dalai Lama and Tibet.
Carolyn mentioned discovering in the Hospital Library the book on which the film Great Escape was based. I had a similar epiphany during the major Chicken Pox, Measles, and Mumps epidemics of 1961, when I scored the Trifecta of contracting all three in succession. During my stay I came across and read Seven Years in Tibet (also made into an atrocious film starring Brad Pitt). What made reading the book so personal was the discovery that on his escape from
Clement Town prison in Dehradoon, Heinrich Harrier actually went through the grounds of OG, on his escape to Tibet. The other warm memory from the stay in hospital was a beautiful young nurse, among four brought in to cope with the number of kids in hospital due to the epidemic. She was in Love with me. Absolutely. No two ways about it. Every evening she brought me a toffee. If that doesn't convince you nothing will! She too went back to Delhi after the epidemic, taking my heart with her. Fortunately I managed to retrieve it shortly thereafter, but that's another story.
Back to '59, we used to be woken up each morning by Jhuria clanging the large, heavy, hand-held bell, up and down the dormitory. Those of us who weren't affected by the bell, got a rude awakening courtesy Mr. Meston's cane on our nether parts. (On my last visit in 2005, during the Reunion, I was taken aback to see the two-tier bunk beds, and TVs in the Dormitory. I know, I know, all us old fogies complain about how tough it was in our times). Quick wash-up was followed by two, at least, rounds of running around the back-pitch before breakfast. There was a 15 minute break before class, during which a student each from standards 9, 10, and 11 went to the Garden
in front of the Headmaster's Office, opened the Meteorological Box, noted the High and Low temperatures, and measured overnight precipitation, all recorded in a Log Book. Mr. Fletcher reported these figures on a periodic basis to the appropriate Government of
India authorities. I really regretted the dying down of this practice once he left to join Campion in Bombay.
In those days, and I am sure even now, OG had its very own peculiar slang. My introduction to it was when I was standing around in class and Francis "Mule" (after "Francis the Talking Mule" Comics and Movies) Samuels, the prefect told me to "perch". It took me a while to figure out that I was being asked to sit down. Other examples are not for polite company, but are very funny. Even now when I explain some of these I have folks in stitches.
In class rooms we used to have twinned desks. One bench occupied by two students, with a single top divided into two desk tops. Each desk
top was inclined, and hinged, covering a cavity for books and other study material. Each desk top was latched to enable locking them. Invariably, however, keys would be lost and latches broken. The problem was solved by hammering nails into the inclined top, in the edge abutting the other top, so that when the other top came down, both desks would be locked when the other was.
Trouble was this provided opportunity for great mischief, to the guy with nails in his top. He could always disrupt you by insisting on opening his top while you were studying, so that you were forced lift your top as well and could do nothing until he decided to close his lid. You get the picture. One time I had had enough of K.K. Sabharwal, my desk mate, doing this to me. We got into a major disagreement, and he poked the back of my hand with the point of his compass. Infuriated, I let fly with my right hand holding a pencil. I hit him on the left side and ended up breaking the lead in his chest, drawing blood. He started to cry, and I started to sweat, as we were both convinced he was going to die. Needless to say we both survived to tell the tale.
About this time we were introduced to Hydrogen Sulphide gas by Mr.
Chinwal, in the Chemistry lab. Given the possibilities presented by its smell, I promptly purloined a few pellets of Ferrous Sulphide and poured some Hydrochloric Acid in my Quink Ink bottle. The idea was to disrupt the after dinner study period. As providence would have it, Mr. Gomes, the best Math Teacher I ever had, was Master on Duty that night. Mr. Gomes had a unique way of wagging his index finger under his nostrils whenever he detected noxious smelling human emissions.
Choosing a quiet moment, barely had I opened the bottle of Acid and dropped in the Ferrous Sulphide pellets that the Chemical reaction started in full force. The concoction was bubbling and emitting the god awful smells sending Leroy D'Cunha, my new desk mate, into
paroxysms of giggles, thus alerting Mr. Gomes to come running. I quickly tried closing the bottle, but the tell tale smell continued to hover around my desk. Mr. Gomes's index finger went into full wag mode, and the continuing chemical reaction sent the cap of the half closed bottle flying. There was complete and utter
pandemonium in the class room. Guys were crying from laughing so hard. I single handedly sent Tagore House down to first place in the ignominy department with the Black Marks I earned that night.
Phew, and that wasn't even all of '59! Those were the days - Vipin.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Your memories brought back memories for me. The tuck boxes - wow - I remember that they were the most important. The gooseberry chutney and jam, mango pickle, tomato dorma, stickjaw and other goodies that my mother and grandmother used to make or buy for us. Everything had to be equally shared between my brothers and myself. We even counted the barly sugars so that we all had the same. It would all probably last about a week or two. I remember Pam Ayling. She had this powderd milk mixed with sugar. It was sensational. It got stuck in your teeth and lasted ages.
I remember when it was my turn to go to OG, I would get all the hand-me-downs from my sister Evelyn even though they were several sizes too big for me. The swimming costume was especially memoriable. I could not wait. My mother and grandmother used to mark all our clothes by embroidering our names on all our clothes. At school we wore black socks one week and white socks the next. We had to have our hair checked for lice and I remember the ayhas having to oil my hair and then they would tie thread around the teeth of my comb (three or four teeth together) as a make shift fine tooth comb and drag this through my hair. I had long hair at the time. Ouch.
I used to suck my fingers. They dipped my fingers in ink, put a sock on my hand at night and also put some bitter stuff on my fingers. But I still went ahead despite having a blue mouth (from the ink). I chewed through the sock!!!!. I stopped somehow.
I remember the Pereria girls. I still have some photos of them. How are they? I have seen pictures of them that you posted on one of your visits to OG. I also remember the Worthsworths. How are they all? I have a number of photos I would love to put on. I have pictures of my mother at school with her sola topy and another dressed in white along with about 6 other girls, getting confirmed; my brother Winston in a Shakespear Play and a couple of pictures of the boys school doing gymnastics in the valley - among others. Does anyone know how I can get them posted on our OG site? I am sure someone will recognise some of the boys or girls in the pictures. There is one of a group of us in the Junior School. I only recognise myself and Tara Malla.
I remember Mrs Marshall. I also rembember Mrs Haslam and Judith and Roy Haslam. In 1997 I went to La Martinere Calcutta for secretarial training. Over there I met relatives of Mrs Haslam - a big family. I only remember Delphine and Wendy Haslem. I was only there for one year. Small world isn't it? Miss Thomas - she corresponded with my sister Evelyn for several years and even sent her a beautiful red and gold sari. I still have it. Miss Wesley - we were all afraid of her. Miss Cleophas, Miss Nerona, Miss Garlah - Head Teacher. I remember Evelyn taking me to her to reassure me because I had swallowed a tooth while eating stickjaw.
Does anyone remember the name of our maths teacher? She was good at maths but unfortunately ............ ....
About the house colours - I was in blue house - I thought it was Meerabhai. I will have to check with my younger sister Yvonne who was still there after I left. Sarojini was yellow I think.
In years to come there were only a handful of Christians. We occassionally had service in the little chapel behind the dormatory. I remember receiving a Bible as a prize because I could recite the names of the books of the Bible. I had to - I was the oldest.
Two weeks ago I met a man who went to St Georges from 1960 to 1963/64. His father was in the army so they travelled around. His name was Trevor. Can't remember his surname. Does anyone remember him? I have waited all my life to meet someone from OG and I go and meet someone who went to St Georges. He remembered the inter school sports.
My sister Evelyn was School Captain and Spirit of OG. She came back the next year to study shorthand. Unfortuanlatelly Mrs Fowles (or was it Mrs Woolfe? who I think taught shorthand & business studies) left half way through the year and so Evelyn had to leave too. I can still remember her leaving with my father. I was devistated. I also remember the needlework and dressmaking classes we had during my early years. I still have a cross-stitch table cloth I made (the easy way out) and a linen bag my sister Evelyn made. It was done in proper satin stitch and back stitch etc. She was much better at everything than I was. I will have to confirm some of these names with Evelyn.
You mentioned the dandy. My mother remembers going to school in a dandy. She was in OG in the 1930s.
"This is when I remember helping a young Jean Tocher with her costume". What costume did you help me with Carolyn? I remember Evelyn dressing me as a doll-in-a-box and a bon-bon for our Jha Jha socials only because I have photos of myself in a big doll box and a bon-bon (does anyone NOT know what a bon-bon is?). This was before I went to OG.
I remember the snow - the one and only time we had snow (while I was at OG anyway).
You have brought back so many memories. I will comment on the rest of them in my next episode.
Jean Gomes (Tocher)
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Indian hockey owes much of its success during its formative years to schools of Mussoorie, which have nurtured as much as 10 Olympic hockey gold medal winners between 1928 and 1936.
The dominance of players from Mussoorie during this period can be gauged from the fact that the 1928 team had six, 1932 team five and 1936 team had four players who had studied at Mussoorie. Notably, the Indian hockey team won the gold in all three Olympics.
George Marthins (1928), Maurice A. Gateley (1928), William James Goodsir Cullen (1928), Carlyle Carroll Tapsell (1932 to 1936), Ernest John Goodsir Cullen (1936) and Lionel C. Emmett (1936) were the products of St. Georges' College. Oak Grove school produced Eric Pinniger (1928 to 1932), Leslie Charles Hammond (1928 to 1932), Richard James Allen (1928 to 1936) and Richard John Carr (1932). In addition, N. Nugent after studying in St. Georges’ represented Great Britain and was part of their bronze medal winning team at Helsinki Olympics in 1952.
The most celebrated among all these illustrious players was Eric Pinniger, regarded by many as the best centre-half in the world. He was the vice-captain of the 1928 team and went on to lead the team in the Olympic finals against Holland. Allen, an outstanding goalkeeper, played three consecutive Olympics and in 10 matches conceded only two goals. It is also believed that one of these two goals was scored by USA while Allen was busy signing autographs! However, India won that match 24-1.
Tapsell and Hammond were both defenders and played two Olympics each. The Cullen brothers, William and Ernest, had started grabbing the headlines from their schooldays. William, a left-half, was knownm for his “rock-like defense”.
Marthins, Gateley, Emmett and Carr were all forwards who played as left or right wingers alongside Major Dhyan Chand, the Indian hockey legend. Marthins usually played as a right inside forward and formed an indomitable duo with Dhyan Chand.
According to Brother Xavier, principal of St. Georges’ College, the school has a high regard for these champions and the four “school houses” have been named after Cullen, Gateley, Marthins and Tapsell.
However, the Oak Grove school was oblivious of their illustrious alumni and facts were revealed only when The Tribune contacted the school and an examination of old records was made with the help of Bahadur Singh. Sadly, Brother Xavier does not seem very optimistic about future prospects of the game. “Earlier hockey used to be the main sport but now students are more into cricket and football,” he said.
He also believes that now students are more concerned about securing higher and higher marks in order to get admission to good colleges. “Having certificates in sports is no replacement for high percentages these days,” he said.
Keeping the deteriorating standards of Indian hockey in mind, it would indeed be worthwhile that the schools of Mussoorie nurture more such champions in future and give the much-needed boost to our National sport yet again.
I was not in Oak Grove for very long - however, my short time with the school was one of extreme happiness and has always remained a very important few years in my life.
It was the early 1960's when my mother enrolled my two brothers and myself in Oak Grove School, Jharipani. We were kitted out with the uniform all packed in the old metal trunks one used then, and the "tuckbox" full of edible goodies duly packed. I was not new to Boarding School as I had been studying at the The Convent of Jesus and Mary in Poona since I was about 10 years old - but my brothers were - they studied at St Mary's in Bombay.
It was going to be quite a long train journey from Bombay to Dehra Dun and I expect with the energy of the young it was something we looked forward to - also, we were travelling
with the Pereira girls
who lived in the same complex as we did, i.e. Lynette, Lillian and Lois and of course Leander - their brother. We boarded our train at Victoria Terminus - (that grand old station), found our carrriage and settled in in somewhat surpressed excitement. This was the beginning a new adventure, a new chapter in my Book of Life. My mother was a very brave woman as she was escorting us to school and helping her was Loretta Pereira. My younger sister and brother were also travelling with us this time - so we were quite a crowd of people really.
The journey had begun, t'was a long, long run - to that far off land where everything was grand. (From my poem The Journey). It was exciting and the best times were the stops at the stations where the hawkers cries of Paan, Bidi, Copi, Chai - garam chai were plentiful - and welcome. We dined in the dining car and even showered on the train - and I
will never forget the carrot hulva at Agra/Delhi. We eventually arrived at Dehra Dun Station, freshly showered and dressed - while mumma organised our luggage we took stock of our surroundings and the other students who were also at the station and were introduced to them by the Pereira's. Our journey had ended as over our luggage we'd bend recognising our friends at journey's end.
It was decided we would take the bus to Kulukhet and venture on by foot from there - and the coolies would take our luggage up to school. (In hindsight it sounds so terrible as these were human beings). Eventually we arrived and my first glimpse of OG was the valley - I was in another world altogether, this was heaven and I was in it!! We posed for photos of course (I have them in my album - they were on the website somewhere but are lost at this moment), and then we all traipsed first to the Junior school to deposit brother Francis with Mrs
Haslam, then the Boys' School where brother Bill was to reside (with some of the Senior boys already flirting with the girls and my mumma) and then it was to the Girls' School. My mother and Loretta were staying at the Halfway House for a couple of days prior to returning to Bombay.
After being shown our cupboards in the locker room and the dormitory we unpacked and got into bed - my mother was leaving the next day - I had a twinge of homesickness which grew rapidly as I heard Mrs Marshall shout rather loudly at her daughter - only at the time I was not aware it was her daughter and wondered why my parents had enrolled me here if this was how the students were spoken to!! I sort of inched lower into the bed hoping I would not be noticed by "the voice".
My mother left the next day after coming up to see me (I expect she did the same for my brothers). I wished her sadly as we were going to be apart for an
awfully long time and then wandered on to the hillside to watch her progress down the hill and through the valley...a million thoughts going through my mind. I was quiet for the rest of the day and reflected on home and my younger siblings and friends I had left behind in Bombay.
The House colours were Pink (Meerabhai), Blue (?Padmini) and lilac (?Sarojani). They used to be York, Gloucester and Kent and eventually these remnants of the bygone British era were gradually phased out post Independence. I was in Meerabhai House.
The school was thoughtful to the point of how much pocket money one could have - there was a limit both ways and this was really good. Once a week Mullabux would arrive with his box of goodies and we would buy what we liked out of the p/m doled out to us. rock cakes were the favourite. My dear friend Priscilla Wordsworth and I used to pool our resources and the one or two paisas
left over would go into a money box to be used at later date.
We had so much to keep us occupied at Oak Grove - and we never really had an opportunity to be "bored" - we saw movies every fortnight (provided the school was not in lockdown due to mumps, measles or chicken pox), our brothers visited us every week - or not for all of the above reasons, m/m/cp. The Catholics went to church every Sunday (in our lovely white dresses), and deposited/collected the letters from under the runners in the pews set up by the boys (for distribution later). Father would come down from St George to give us instruction in a "dandy" (I read years later he had been murdered along the route by bandits).
Exam time and we studied by "night" light. In some ways it was quite regimented - like polishing your shoes every second night and then the matron on duty inspecting them. One evening Mrs Fowles (nee Wragg) punished me for some misdemeanour - I had to stand outside her door. And then she promptly forgot about me - I was still standing out there until she had finished her shower etc and she must have been coming out to make sure were were all tucked into bed like the good children we were (she says tongue in cheek) and almost jumped out of he skin when she saw the spectre of her student outside her door and apologising profusely ordered me to bed.
There was swimming in the little pool we girls had and gymnastics in the hall up there - sports down at the sports fields where we tucked our sports bloomers under so they looked like short shorts!! We were given a character in history and all
the literature on him/her
so we could write our own play - lights, costumes, sound effects etc.etc... We designed out own flags for Sports Day in the valley - high secrecy - behind closed doors. There were the Girl Guides and the meeting we had in "The room" at the top of the steps - singing all our guide songs in 'harmony'. Founder's Day celebrations in the school and the down in the valley when we were allowed to wear mufti - or an invitation to the Senior Boys School for some celebration. Inter School Sports which was an event in itself.
On Saturday & Sunday afternoons we used to listen to music on the gramophone - (the old '78s(?) - Elvis & Fabian and Ricky Nelson and of course Connie Francis and there was Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue - and a few other hunks - it was our time to relax and we played board games like scrabble and monopoly and danced the jive and cha cha or even just listen to the Bugler on "Bugler's Hill"
There would be a social every month which each class took in turn to organise - and there had to be a theme. This is when I remember helping a young Jean Tocher with her costume. Our darling Mrs Edwards used to attend and used to request I sing Fascination or La Vi En Rose - she and Mr E used to go dancing into Muss. They were such a romantic and handsome couple - and they have never lost that wonderfully dedicated air about them.
One year, shortly after arrival at school we were all sitting at our desks and a terrible storm was erupting - pouring with rain and then hail and suddenly we could still see things falling from the sky only no sound. Snow! All the girls including Miss Noronha (affectionately nicknamed Minnie Mouse), ran to the window and jumped on to the low table by it - ( I did not as my desk was by the window) a few moments later Tootsie Garlah walked past the door and clapping her hands loudly ordered the 'girls' off the table and back to your desks!! and they obeyed - including Minnie. We were given a day off to enjoy the snow.
The hula hop was all the craze at this time and we were filmed showing off our expertise by the Railway Board for some promotion or the other.
At the end of the year we used to collect wood for an enormous bon fire and were allowed quite a lot of freedom in our search - it was quite a feat getting a chair to the top of the bonfire - and the crackers in between. We also had a farewell dinner and gave the teachers 'gifts' we made out of old badminton rackets etc... it was all taken in good humour - even by Miss Wesley (the strictest teacher in the GS). We also used to have a bonfire in the valley tennis courts - with skits put on by the Guides and Scouts usually about things that occurred during the year (like the Orchard incident). We were also given our pocket money to finish - those were the days when you could buy 100 walnuts for Rs1/- - and the going away songs we would sing - and the puri tac one managed to put away.
During my last year at OG I got quite ill following one of our midnight feasts - I had eaten some canned peas (needless to say I do not eat peas to this day) - I was sent to the school hospital and was on a starvation diet as I was being tested for amoebic dystentry - however, this came back clear and one morning the bearer came in really early advising me I could eat - so I had a great breakfast of parathas, cream and jam. At around seven the Nursing Sister came and said Carolyn, you can start eating again - and I did. It was whilst in the School hospital I read The Great Escape - under another title and it all came back to me when I saw the movie years later. Of course I got many parcels of sweetmeats from my admirers in the Boy's School via my brother Bill - which I shared with the other patients naturally. I think of them often, Joseph Samuels - great swimmer, Oscar Matthews and Daryl D'Cruz. I remember with great affection Roy Haslam and
Indru M (yes, Indru, I knew who you were too).
At the end of the year there was entertainment put on by the students in the valley - plays and poems and satire and one year a play called The Crimson Coconut was put on by the boys - starring Oscar M and Roy H as the females in the play - it was quite hilarious as every time Oscar turned it was quite sharply and his skirt would fly up giving us a glimpse of these really hairy legs.
I remember so well our birthdays in school, when we were allowed to order the food for the
day - Kofta Curry was a favourite and puris at night. We could also have a little party with our close friends and the school catered (at our parent's expense) - and one year I had a cake in the shape of corn on the cob - it was quite exquisite with the green leaves pulled back and the little yellow kernels of corn.
We shared everything - I even remember the fantastic sauce Priscilla's mum used to make. And you never carried tales or you would be sent to Coventry. Flagging on the hillside. Watching the boys play cricket.
I guess OG gave us the confidence to move forward in our lives - it gave me a passion for reading and Shakespeare ( I joined a Shakespearean Group later ). I often think of those teachers who in some ways were responsible for the wonderful feeling OG brought out in us - Rani Thomas, Miss Raffin and the staff she used to walk uphill, Miss Ganjur and Minnie Noronha, Ella Wella Wesley, Miss Cleophas and how could I ever forget Mrs Wolfe - the teas we had with the Edwards, Mrs Kelka our dietitian and Tootsie Garlah.
The year I was in the school hospital was the last time I was to be in OG - my mother had to come and collect me as I needed my appendix out - I must have known I would not be back as I wept copiously on Tootsies ample bosom - circumstances had changed and I never did return to my beloved Oak Grove as a student.
And the students - the Gomes girls, Sherril and Susan Nogg, Savitha Mathur, Veena Bhatia and Cookie Yashpal, Lynette D'Cruz and Diana McDonough Alison Pushong.In 2005 I caught up with Sharmila Mansukhani, Swarch Bewtra, Joan Beaucasin and of course the Wordsworth family were there too - as was Bert Payne. I remember Priscilla Ralph (Rose Red) and Priscilla Coelho (Snow White). I have such wonderful memories of that wonderful Shangrila that is Oak Grove - unique - one of a kind - serendipitous.
The bit about the "learning" stage as in 1995 reminded me of what kids we were in 1970 - and thats when we were "passing out". And if you take kids of the current era - perhaps they could teach us a lesson or two !
In any case,on a different subject, one aspect that I feel really pinched anyone who sufferred was being "gated". For the uninitiated (the practice may no longer be prevalent)- being gated meant that every place beyond the BS boundaries was out of bounds for the duration of your gating. This meant that while trips to Muss were fully verbotten, worse - even GS gate was out of range - meaning no movies, socials etc.
All major misdemeanours resulted in gating.
The one incident that comes to mind was either of 1979. It was a Sunday & the news came in that a Gattu had overturned at the culvert in Jhids just after the climb up from the village ended & a kuchha road took off at the fork. Everyone wanted to take a look first hand.Now, going to Jhids "officially" was out of question so we decided to bunk.
The entire 'SC batch trooped out - I was coerced into staying back as I was the POD. naturally such a gang would'nt go unnoticed & the news travelled resulting in a SOS "roll call" in the covered shed. What happened next need not be detailed except that the entire batch got gated - leaving me alone! I think it was for a month.
The long faces became a common sight as the period seemed endless. Worst of all a scheduled social went off unchanged & the guys could'nt attend - which really hurt all of us .
On our way to school I was part of what was called the school batch. The train from Howrah went through Jha Jha where I lived, at about 1.00 a.m. I remember my mother waking us up at about midnight and the walk to the station to meet the train. The journey took the whole of that day and night and arrived at Dehra Dun some time in the morning of the following day.
We went through a station that had these red faced mondeys (red bum monkeys). We had to be careful because they were so bold they would steal anything they could and grab anything from our hands if we were near the window. We also went through a station that sold these incedible sweets - not sure what they were called - rowries I think. They were covered with sesami seeds.
When we arrived at Dehra Dun I remember we would go to the book stand to buy books (Mills & Boon I think) that would be passed around for the next few days/weeks and sometimes got confiscated when the teacher caught someone reading during the study hour (book hidden under the material we were pretending to study).
At Dehra Dun we would buy a lemon dipped in a spicy concotion that helped with the travel sickness several of us felt as our bus wound its way up to the junction where we all had to get off and walk several miles up to the valley. We were advised to stop walking if we wanted to look up or down - and not to do this while we were actually moving because someone had fallen to their death while walking and turning to wave at the same time (when leaving to wave to the Cambridge Exam students). How far this is true I do not know. Perhaps someone may enlighten us.
The school batch was also the last to leave. On the last evening the teacher on duty would take us for a walk where we could see the sun setting -this was a tradition - (later on we would stand and watch the sun going down). As the sun sank over the horizon we all chanted -going, going, going, going -gone - because the next day we would be going home. (Why do we miss OG so much now? We could not wait to leave it.) Now I believe they go home after Founders Day for how long I do not know.
Lots of memories - Father Rice (with his white beard). He visited the Junior School when I got these religious medals that made me feel good even though I was not a Catholic; visits by our brothers on Saturday when I was in the Senior School and totally depended on them and was devistated when none of them turned up - Leslie or Winston; the tuck man and his stickjaw; Mussoorie trips; Inter School Sports; dancing to 78s with our gramaphone and rivalry between Elvis Presley and Cliff Richards fans and lots lots more to come.
Do they still have the badminton and basket ball courts where we went every evening? Do you remember the leeches we had to avoid during the monsoon season and the only way to remove them was to put salt on them? Do you know that the girls did at one time play hockey? The first time I played I had my thumb hit and I never played it again.
This chapter may be skipped by the young, the squeamish and by the morality brigade, but this chapter portrays something that is important in any boarder at a residential school, which his lily-white innocence comes face to face with the truth of the world. For some, it happens early, and for some, late. In my case it was early; in fact very early by any normal standard.
A boarding school is the worst place for any contagious disease. As I have mentioned, just about six months back, the chicken pox had run amok in the school, and hardly anyone was left untouched. In September 1995, it was mumps-the malady of swollen necks and boiled food. What was worse that it guaranteed a month long siesta in the hospital, hardly the reason for any celebration. So everybody tried to avert it, but how long could one run from one’s own breath. Once more, half the school was hospitalized, and familiar faces were disappearing quickly. To my ultimate horror, I awoke one morning feeling a little funny in the neck. Off I ran to the mirror, where further shock awaited me. My chin had disappeared and my neck was almost twice the normal size. I came back to bed and shut my eyes tight, trying to sleep. I hoped this was some nightmare and will go off the next morning. It wasn’t, and it was soon brought to the notice of the authority. I remember trying to get off it by making lame excuses that I had been punched by some class V boy at night, the swelling resulted from that. I don’t know how I ever thought of such a dumb excuse, but it maybe that desperation makes morons out of the brightest. So once more I was packed off to the hospi , and found bed in C ward. Two more from my class were admitted- S K and V K, both from A section. I had met both of them before actually joining the school, and hence we were a bit friendly despite being on opposite sides of a bitter strife. So three of the beds in the ward were accounted for. The left bed was occupied by somebody, because some bedclothes were strewn over it. We did not meet our ‘ward-mate’ till later that evening.
A M looked like the guy next door, and did not strike as somebody to be taken seriously. Still , God had destined him to mark out one great landmark of our life- the end of innocence. Soon after our first meeting, we were assigned our nicknames for our stay in the ward. S K became Kaalu, V K became Chinky, and I became Golu.
Then the conversation veered towards the usual tales and jokes. When we were a long way into jokes, M suddenly asked us, “Do you know what non-veg jokes are?” We replied in negative. He then asked us, “ Do you want me to narrate one?” This time we replied affirmative. His joke was not so funny by our present day standards.( For those who are itching to know the joke, it was the common joke about two frogs, one lady, a spitting serpent and a raincoat.) However, the concepts that joke formed into our minds had profound implications. Till that point of time, we three (or rather whole of the class) had a rather childish and innocent explanation for the question most parents were terrified of-“ How are babies made?” The most hopeless duffers and babies of the class said-“ The good God makes the babies in high heaven and sends them hurtling downwards for birth.” We, the knowledgeable and scientific elite of the class said-“ Rubbish… Babies grow in their mothers’ bellies after marriage, just like the mangoes fructify in summers.” The guys our age in the west must have been believing in the stories of the stork and the bees. That was quite natural for our age. But M decided it was not, and set forward to tell us the truth, in the most abject manner. He had noticed that we did not really get the punch line of his “non veg” joke. So he went for it directly. “What are you supposed to do with that thing?”, he asked, pointing towards our crotches. We replied quite innocently-“We pee with it.” “And…”,he asked. We were silent. We knew of no ‘and’s. From that moment he began educating us to the smallest details the fundamentals of human reproduction. We listened like good students, with eyes and mouths gaping wide. We went into all the dirty details, each and every one of them. We were astonished-“ How does this guy know so much.” Some refused to believe him. They were too horrified by the thought-“ Was I too……?” However most of other guys believed in the ‘new knowledge’.( We were now about 10-12 strong group, as the class IV boys from other wards too were now regular students in Professor M’s lectures.) Armed with the new knowledge, we began to see the world in a totally new light we began understanding what the guys in the movies were making so much fuss about. We started understanding the reason behind marriages and honeymoons (though in a very skewed manner-for about 5 years from then, I thought of marriage as nothing but a legal screwing permit!!!) We started understanding the double-edged jokes common in movies and soaps. In other words, a whole new world view had dawned upon us, and for that everybody felt grateful to M. Even though he was an ultimate duffer and a scoundrel of his class ( as we came to know later), we used to regard him as a sage. When there were rumors that Lord Ganesha’s idols were sipping milk,( some of the readers may be remembering that, September 1995) , we all gave him all our mess milk, so that he may offer it to the Lord. Such was the extent of our belief in his sagacity!! When we were discharged, we brought the ‘new knowledge’ to the JS. We started observing our teachers’ rooms, and if any of them had their husbands staying overnight, we listened for any suggestive sounds at night. We even tried to spread the ‘new knowledge’ amongst the ignorant masses but very few of them were ready for that. So we gave up after a few of the pioneers, who were hell bent upon sharing the facts, were promptly reported to the authorities. We did not want ourselves to be labeled as heretics!!
Thursday, June 11, 2009
In the late 19th century, when British Indian Railways were spreading its network across the country, many Englishmen were involved in the effort. These English employees of Indian Railways, were part of the typical middle class of 19 th century England.
Staying far away from their homeland, these Englishmen pointed towards the lack of British schools for their children in India. Their argument was that while they were prepared to work in India, they couldn't afford to send their children all the way back to England just for studies. Even some of those who could financially afford to do so, didn't want the children to be in England, while they worked in India.
To address the concerns of these Britishers, the Railways decided to have a school in India itself where the English education could provided, much to the satisfaction of the employees. Considering the torturous summer heat, Britishers had already set up what were known as hill stations in the early 19 th century, when Marquess of Hastings was the Governor General. It was felt that area around one of these hill sations could be well suited for the proposed school, where the students and teachers, more used to the cool climes of Europe, could stay unhindered by weather-related hassles.
When the Britishers zeroed in on Jharipani, near Mussoorie, they noticed there was one glitch. Most inhabitants of the area were Garhwali Hindus. Memories of the revolt of 1857, were still fresh in the mid of the British. During this revolt across north India, Hindus and Muslims had fought side by side against the British. The general perception was to heed to the old Latin motto, Divide et Impera, or Divide and Rule, as proposed by Lord Elphinstone, the former governor of Bombay and Madras presidencies.
One of the cornerstones of this divide and rule policy was to not to have a single, cohesive group belonging to one religion or caste in a place of work or administration. To get around the glitch in Jharipani, it was decided to bring in Muslims from sleepy little town of Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh, to physically contribute in the establishment and running of the school.
Thus, many Hindu Garhwalis who worked as labourers in construction of the school in the 1870s, were later absorbed to do work of bearers and guards. Muslims from Shahjahanpur were taken in as tailors, khansamas (cooks), masalchis, carpenters and other types of skilled labourers. Britishers had a special liking for Muslim khansamas.
In this way, began a tradition, while Britishers studied and taught, Hindus and Muslims performed the non-teaching jobs. Gradually, the lines got blurred. A special, lovable bonhomie developed between the students, teachers and non-teaching employees. To this day, various entities mingle, without even once, a thought crossing one's mind of origin and class.
After India's independence, most Britishers left the country and school's control was taken over by the Northern Railway. The school got Indianised. Not only did the Indians started teaching and studying in the school, many other changes were made. In the 1950s, Boys' School Headmaster, the venerable Mr Edwards initiated the change of name of Houses from English personalities to Indians - Ashok, Patel, Shivaji, Tagore and Mirabai, Padmini and Sarojini.
Overall, memories have always been sweet. The distinctions which were there at the time of origin have faded. During Oak Grove's centenary celebrations of 1988, when Britishers came back for the celebrations, various generations met, as long lost brothers and sisters. It was an occasion, which was to be seen to be believed.
More than a century later, several generations down the line, Oak Grovians of Jharipani have maintained contacts with their roots in Shahjahanpur, though many have bought houses and settled down in Dehradun.
Oak Grove has been an oasis of peace, love and camaredrie for ages. It is a unique case study in several ways, but it also reflects and represents the ethos of our country. During the morning assembly in Boys School, in 1980s, the then Head Master, Mr K. C. Kukreti used to call Oak Grove as Mini-India, in special context of the national cricket team, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, or vice versa. This Mini-India element is true in other aspects as well.
Hindus of Garhwal and elsewhere and Muslims of Shahjahanpur have lived as One entity in Oak Grove, ironically brought together by an imperial policy; sharing each other's happiness and grief. Notwithstanding the political and social conflicts and upheavels in rest of the country and world, this rock-solid bond is expected to stay there forever. As Ruskin Bond would say, "Our Trees Still Grow in Jharipani".
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
I am putting in the link to the blog of one pre-Independence student - Mr.Maurice. Portions of this blog were published in the 'Overseas Oakgrovians' section of the school magazine when we were at school. In fact this article really got me interested in OG history. I hope you too will find it interesting.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
This is a passage from an attempted ebook - In Gray and White. It is put here verbatim. The curfew vacation was a significant event in our Class III year - 1994. Please note that what I have written is based on personal experience and hearsay. It may be total hogwash!!
It was on the September of 1994 that we got the first idea of something strange going about. Actually something fishy had been going on for the past 2 weeks. For the whole of the last week we had been getting bread slices instead of chapattis, which implied shortage of cooking gas. Normally it resulted from landslides, which were common during the monsoons. However, this time this shortage had gone a bit too long. Then came the real signal. One day, the teachers’ day cultural programme of JS was cut short, to make announcement for an urgent combined assembly in the auditorium. Combined assembly meant aggregation of all the three wings of the school under the command of the Principal himself. It meant something really important. Soon the audi was jam packed. Some distinguished looking men attired in khadi occupied the dais along with the principal. They were discussing something called Uttarakhand Movement. Actually the renegade factions and hardliner political activists of the hills were demanding a separate state for themselves, which was to be carved out of the northern head of the
You can post anything that might tell about how OG lived and worked at your time - routine things, traditions etc. You can also post significant events which happpened while you were at OG. In case sensitive issues are involved, you can blank out the names of the persons involved - we do not want just the clean stuff, do we??
However, whatever you post, kindly be in the limits of decency - no moral policing here - but just some gentlemanly precautions.