The Doon School, 120J, 1939-1945
"Come here you miserable Booby" was Jack Gibson’s affectionate address to us bumbling Doscos of yester year.. For those unfamiliar with old English, a Booby was a dolt, goof, a silly person and is still typified by the silly Booby that sits around the tarmacs of the world as commercial jets roar around it. This encomium accompanied me even after I left school. All well meant and no offence taken.
Jack Gibson, in turn, was nick-named ‘Gibby’ and ‘Gunda’ as a recognition of his unconventional ways. Out of the formidable quartet of Foot, Martyn, Holdy and Gibson, the latter left an indelible imprint that was quite unique in the annals of The Doon School. Gibby taught Geography in a manner that made a rather mundane subject come alive by pinning beautiful photographs on the back wall of his class- room. He must have spent a lot of time and effort in extracting these hand picked, beautiful, educational photographs from magazines and periodicals and we were expected to study these and their captions carefully and answer the barrage of questions that followed the next week. And woe betide if you’ boobed’, which earned you a whack on the behind from the meter ruler that was Gibby’s sceptre, pointer and dispenser of justice. One day he was teaching us The International Date Line and got all mixed up, much to the amusement of the class. One of my class mates exclaimed that he (Gibby) had qualified for a ‘whack’. Gibby agreed, bent over and copped it from the meter ruler dexterously wielded by the over zealous schoolboy. He earned a loud appreciative clap from the class. That was typical of the man. No airs or fancies, just down to earth good fun.
One of his major achievements was a huge plaster-cast relief map of the Doon Valley and its environs, which had pride of place on the landing outside the HM’s office in the Main Building. I haven’t noticed this monument and hope it still exists. Probably in urgent need of lots of tender loving care, which it justly deserves to retain its pristine glory.
Even though I was not in Kashmir House I had a lot to do with Gibby in one way or another. I took up fencing on Wednesday afternoons and was introduced to the subtleties of foil and rapier and happily joined in the exploits of ‘The Three Musketeers’. The fencing lessons were conducted in Gibby’s beautifully manicured garden at the back of Kashmir House. The’ pay back’ was tending to his beloved sweet peas which we trained to climb up the rickety ‘sarkanda ‘ fences.
Gibby introduced rafting in the Doon School. As a member of the rafting fraternity, we used to take a bus to Dak Pathar Boom at Kalsi. Pine logs used to be floated down the Tons River to the log jam at Kalsi, expertly sorted out and then re-floated down the Jumna River to Jagadhri where they were suitably dressed in the timber and saw mills. For rafting, the expert rafters would tie up a bunch of logs to form a rather wobbly platform onto which we would clamber with ‘a wing and a prayer’ and we would be launched onto the hair raising rapids all the way down to Khara or Ambari where we would stay overnight in the Dak Bungalow. Gibby faithfully tried spoon fishing for Mahseer but I don’t think he caught anything. He certainly taught me how to cast a line, which proved to be invaluable in my later fishing forays.
Gibby was very friendly with Maharajkumar Karamjit Singh and Princess Sita of Kapurthala and spent several weeks with them in the summer months in Mussoorie, my home town. He was also a guest of my younger brother, Rupi and his wife Roma, and stayed in our family home,’ Fenloe’ on several occasions.
To have known and studied under Gibby was a rare and lasting experience which I will never forget.
God Bless him and may he rest in peace, secure in the knowledge that he has left an indelible mark on all those who had the privilege of knowing him.