Mitra: Memories of Mayo
Aravind: Recollections of Mayo and Gibson

Hasan: Mayo College Revisited

Sirajul Hasan
Mayo College, Batch of 1966-67

Siraj&Sultana Hasan When I left Mayo in December 1966, I never thought that it would be another 43 years before I would go back there again! Several times I came close to visiting my alma mater, particularly to show it to my wife Sultana and our son Sharik. I had narrated to them a few of my experiences at Mayo, especially about Jack Gibson, who was one of my heroes. Several years ago, when we lived in London and Sharik was just a few years old, we saw a television documentary on Mayo. I still remember the look of amazement on Sultana’s face when she said “Why didn’t you tell me that you went to such a spectacular school?” Unfortunately, despite my best intentions, that historic journey had to wait till the prize giving of February 2010, when I went to receive the JTM Gibson award for excellence - 2009.

It was a nostalgic visit and I was determined to savour every moment of it. We decided on the morning of February 21 to drive from Jaipur to Ajmer, a familiar route that I often took with my parents during the 1960s. We stayed at the Mayo Girls Guest House and reached in time to snatch a few moments to visit Colvin House, my Middle House during 1961-64. Colvin House looked in impeccable condition and I had no difficulty recognizing my old rooms. Many memories of that period flooded my mind, particularly those of our housemaster B. C. Gue, an accomplished artist and a fine human being. Just as I was telling Sultana, about life at Colvin House, we received anxious calls from my friend and batch mate Dinesh Bhatnagar, summoning us for lunch with the Mayo College General Council at Oman House (one of many new additions after I left school). It was really embarrassing to realize that no amount of rocket science was going to help me figure out the way there -- it needed the help of a little boy to guide us to our destination! As we wandered towards lunch, crossing manicured gardens and grounds, many familiar fragrances and sounds resurfaced in my memory.

At lunch it was wonderful to meet my old history teacher Mr. Nahar Singh --- interestingly, despite all these years, we chatted as though we had met only yesterday! Another teacher and now a good friend, Mr. Raghu Raj (affectionately RRS), who taught us General Science, unfortunately could not make it. It was a real pleasure to meet HH Maharaja Gaj Singh of Jodhpur, who was the Chief Guest for the Prize Giving. After lunch, we went straight for the equestrian competition and polo match, which were most impressive. My wife was seated next to a lady who, otherwise somewhat low key, whispered that her son had bagged all the prizes! This was really a most enjoyable event and I couldn’t help thinking how fortunate this generation was to play polo and ride horses unlike ours.

We spent part of the day going around the school as well as making a quick visit to the Dargah and later to Pushkar. We rushed back in time to attend a delightful dinner hosted by Samar Bhaduri, the Principal at his house, where we met several parents and old boys.

The next day was Prize Giving – it was preceded by lunch at the Principal’s house for recipients of the JTM Gibson awardees and other dignitaries. After lunch we went to Dinesh’s house to get our safas tied. The piece-de-resistance was, of course, the prize giving ceremony with all its fanfare and vibrant colours at the Bikaner Pavilion – this brought back many childhood memories when I witnessed so many eminent personalities such as M.C. Chagla and Karan Singh giving away prizes. On a personal level, it was a real honour to receive such a prestigious award from HH Gaj Singh.

Our whirlwind visit to Mayo seems a wonderful dream that faded away far too quickly. I had not expected to find the school looking so resplendent, and especially having achieved such a high academic level and still going from strength to strength. As we drove away, the silhouetted turrets of the Main Building and Lord Mayo’s statue against the sunset filled me both with nostalgia and a deep sense of pride.

Comments

Padmanabhan Krishna Aravind

Dear Siraj,

Thanks for the nice piece. I was a year junior to you, and so share many of the same memories of people, places and events. I was glad to learn that Mr.Nahar Singh and RRS are still there. They taught me history and botany, respectively. I wonder if you, or anyone else reading this, can give me any news of Mr.N.C.Sharma. He was my mathematics teacher and a most inspiring man. I would like to write him a letter of appreciation, if that is still possible, and send him a maths article I wrote that he might like. He would always call me 501 (my roll number) and never by my name. Since he was the closest approximation to Pythagoras I knew, I regarded this as a high compliment.

I did once write to Gibson in the early 1990s, if I recall right, after I learnt that he was not doing well. I told him about myself and then enquired about him and my other teachers. I didn’t really expect him to reply, because of his indifferent health and the many more pressing matters he doubtless had to deal with. So I was pleasantly surprised to receive a charming letter from him – apparently dictated to an assistant – some time later. I read and reread the letter several times, and it filled me with the greatest delight. Then I put it away safely, so safely that I have never been able to find it since that day.

Towards the end of his wonderful essay “Mountains and Rivers of the Himalayas: Then and Now”, Gibson writes

“I end in an attempt to describe the pleasures I have had from expeditions. One, a vanity, has been in making first ascents. The opportunities for this are diminishing, but there are still many unclimbed peaks and numerous new ways of getting up those already climbed … Valuable, I think, is the sense of satisfaction and achievement in reaching one’s objective, and this is so particularly for the young beginners you take with you, be it a summit, a pass or just a trek.”

That’s as eloquent a statement as any I’ve read about what kept Jack Gibson going, whether he was scaling a real mountain or one of the other peaks that life presented him with. Those of us who were fortunate enough to be touched by Gibson, and even those who weren’t, can look back at his words and actions and continue to find inspiration in them.

Cheers,
Aravind

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