166-Kashmir House, The Doon School, 1952 -57
I can never forget Jack Gibson. He saved my life. I would have drowned in the Ganges at Shivpuri if he hadn't yanked me over his head and flung me onto the sand beach where I lay flapping my legs rather like his mahaseer did every time he yanked mahaseer from the river. Holdy always berated Gibby for using shark tackle when he went fishing. "Jack just yanks the fish out of the river when they bite, his line and rod is for sharks," he used to say proudly rubbing the shaft of his fly tackle. But I for one have always remained grateful that Gibby had perfected his yank the shark technique because that is what he did to me.
I hadn’t learned to swim. Brought up in Simla, I was more at home on skis and had never been to a pool. There weren’t any at Simla. Naturally I was blissfully unaware of dreadful forces called currents that the Ganges kept hidden for its special victims. And sure enough, as I was paddling about on the waters edge the evil current struck at the lower part of my legs and carried me with great surface tranquility into its bosom. I was able to jump up once from the sand bank well below my feet. A kind of spring jump that Arjun Singh had so diligently taught us when approaching the horse in the gymnasium. That really helped and Gibby heard the splash and moved across to the bank, caught my arm and catapulted me. There was no admonishing in words. I bent over the camp chair and was thwacked with the best. First you nearly drown and then you recover from the stinging pains on your wet bum. "You have 15 days to learn swimming otherwise we will come back here and I will watch you sink into the river."
There were four of us on this outing. Gibby had picked us up as the most lost looking of the new boys and he was taking us to Shivpuri to make us recruits to outdoor life. I had had my initiation. Next it was the turn of Bhargava. A staunch vegetarian from Benares. Kaddu had no idea what flesh eating monsters he was with that week-end. The canned chicken soup was served from Gibby’s stock of provisions and Kaddu drank it up like a good boy. Later, after some bread had been swallowed, Gibby asked Kaddu how he had liked the soup and naturally, it being delicious, Kaddu replied by licking his lips and inquiring about its receipe. "That’s chicken soup" replied Gibby. In an instant Kaddu had brought it out and soiled our beach, "What’s the matter with him" asked Gibby "Sir," I replied, "he is a vegetarian."
"What a nonsense thing to be. Come on Bhargava you’ll never get anywhere in cross-country with this vegetable nonsense."
Gibby was my house master, my geography teacher and once a guide for rock climbing.