Thursday, 15 September 2016

St Thomas 100 Anniversary

About a year ago the current headmaster of St Thomas High School, located at Dehradun in Northern India, which I attended fifty years ago, sent me a message saying that the school was going to celebrate its 100 anniversary in 2016 and would I contribute a short piece recounting my memories for the book they were planning to publish for the occasion. 'Gladly', I responded and within a few days sent off some text and some pictures and without any further response forgot about the whole affair.
Imagine my surprise then when suddenly the doorbell rings and its the postwoman, with a registered package, a heavy object with a lot of stamps (864 Rupees) and all kind of postal gobbledygook all over it.

It turned out to be the book of the 100 anniversary from my school, and there it was on page photo and the text that I had contributed. The book contained an impressive collection of tributes from important people like Sonia Gandhi and other political heavyweights and folks in important positions, including one from the Prime Minister's secretary! Then there were sections devoted to teachers and past notables who were heads of institutions etc, however I was in a section of other past students listed in order of their attendance, who had taken the trouble to contribute some memories. So there I was at 1965 with this text:

Arvinder Bawa
St Thomas’ High School 1962 to 1965

I arrived at St Thomas’ in 1962 to continue my High School education while my parents built a life for themselves in Ghana, West Africa. It was already July and the principal Mrs Alexander took a risk in allowing me to start in the middle of the academic year. Arrangements were made for me to join several other boys whose families also lived in Africa, mainly Uganda, at the Nabha House based boarding school run by Ivan Mann.
My father left me in the care of an elderly uncle who lived in Dehradun, who I could turn to in emergencies. I had a monthly fund of fifteen rupees, a bycycle and a suitcase full of clothes. I would return to Delhi and Ghana during holidays when clothes would be renewed and progress reviewed.
At school I remember several other teachers whose names have faded but Mrs Mann and Mr Joseph (PE) come to mind. I remember also many of my classmates with whom I lost touch entirely and none of whom could be found in the Internet or social networks. Recently I found Ian Howard on Facebook through his nephew, who was also a student at the school in recent times. There were Samarendra Deva, Laxmidas Thakrar and of course they are all listed on a letter from the school informing me of my High School results.
In particular I have very fond memories of our Maths teacher Mr Khanna(?), who kindled a keen interest which resulted in my abilities with computer programming and mathematical simulations. Our Health Science teacher was also excellent and we had great results because of his efforts. One Physics teacher will always remain in my memory for a couple of remarks that he made which we found amusing. He once said to some of us ‘Come with me both of you three’ which raised a few eyebrows. At another occasion when marking my homework, which was often presented on makeshift pads and paper, he wrote on my work ‘This what type of exercise book is?’ We laughed then, but later I realised that this was a word by word translation from what one would say in Hindi!
There was also a teacher, or perhaps he was a friend of some of our teachers, who had an impressive collection of records, particularly records which were not available in India at the time such as the Elvis albums on RCA, and which we used to love listening to. The gang of Nabha House residents with African connections, we used to have a lot of fun since our parents were not on our backs, getting around the area on our bikes, with outings to nearby places such as Mussourie. We were also members of many of the sports teams which took us to many of the schools in the area to play matches.
In my last year at school I was elected a prefect and head of one of the houses (I think it may have been called Fraser) which gave me a certain standing at school and I do remember being given a lot of support by teachers and students alike.
After leaving St Thomas’ with an excellent GCE under my belt I returned to Ghana and continued my studies. Later I went to London (Imperial College) for a postgraduate degree in Engineering mostly related to mathematical modelling on computers. One day outside the college on Exhibition Road I was approached by another Indian student and we started talking and it turned out that he too had been at St Thomas’ two or three years my junior. After a few minutes he said ‘ I think I remember you. You used play football and once I think I saw you score an own goal!’ We fell about in fits of laughter but I do not remember having ever scored an own goal. But then that would be something I would want to forget.
Some years ago I returned to Dehradun and came by the School, but being a weekend there was no one about, however the main door was open and we went into the entrance hall and I was amazed to see my name on the honours board.

In my working life I mostly worked on mathematical simulations and Computer Aided Design (CAD) for Computer services and later the oil Industry, finishing in the Industrial Gases sector. Some of the companies I have worked at are Atkins(UK), Maraven(Venezuela), Shell(UK), Air Products(USA, UK & China). I took early retirement in 2010 and I now live with my wife in Spain.
I still write computer programs, mainly to generate digital images from mathematical equations. I have also written a book which has been published via and still love to travel and to be out and about. I can also be found on some social networks and I write a blog to keep in touch with many friends and family all over the world.
I would like to send many congratulations to St Thomas’ College on reaching the centenary milestone and may it continue to provide an excellent education base for future students. It goes without saying that it would give me a great pleasure to get news of and from folks who knew me at the school which has been the source of great experiences.
All best wishes.