The Late Ramchandra D. Sathe
The Doon School, Batch of 1940
Kashmir House came into existence with the arrival of Jack Gibson in April, 1937, and I, along with my friend V. V. Bhide, were transferred from Hyderabad House to become the Head Prefect of Kashmir House. I was almost 15 years old, in the SC class and had been the captain of the school cricket team since the inception of the school. I was also in the school hockey, football, tennis and boxing teams. I had also participated in the school athletics team. I was a star performer in apparatus work and had been the senior leader in P.T. As a result I was generally walking on cloud 9, and to be suddenly elevated to Head Prefect of a House meant that I could really lock down my nose on those who became members of the newly established Kashmir House including Jack Gibson. I was proven entity and Jack had still to establish himself.
This was the background to my first contact with Jack. He, of course, had come with the formidable reputation of having been a candidate for the British Olympic Fencing Team, a keen skier and mountaineer and a general outdoors man. He enjoyed playing hockey, football and cricket, but had little talent for these games. I was one up. He played a decent game of tennis and ten quoits and we were evenly matched. He, however, hated being beaten at these two games by me and not above using rude but friendly language when he lost. Within a short time we had taken measure of each other and I soon found Jack to be the equal of Arthur Foot and John Martyn who till then had been the outstanding teachers at the Doon School and whom we all respected very highly and of whom we stood in great awe. However, it was easy for me to establish an excellent relationship with Jack partly because we shared a number of similar interests and the age gap between us was narrowed because of Jack’s friendly and unassuming ways. His meticulous attention to details, his unflagging energy and his capacity for transmitting his energy were truly remarkable. Another of his traits was his extraordinary kindness to all those with whom he came into contact which included not only the ten year olds who joined school but the uppity 15 year olds, their difficult parents, the fellow teachers, the administrative staff and above all the menial staff who took care of the numerous chores which made life so comfortable for us at the school. Jack also understood what it meant to delegate authority and responsibility. He not only permitted, but gave me and my fellow house prefects much freedom in enforcing discipline and in the organization of various activities.
Indeed he looked upon this as the essence of our education in regard to the art of leadership. If any of us prefects had committed some blunder we were not upbraided in front of the juniors but we got what we deserved in the privacy of his study.
My last year in school was spent in preparing for the competitive examination for the entrance to the Indian Military Academy. Since I was the only candidate from the school it was left to me to arrange my time-table in regard to my studies. One of the subjects I was expected to learn was Geography. And Jack was, of course, my tutor. He insisted that if I were to learn geography then the best way would be for me to teach geography. So, I had to take a few classes in geography under his watchful eye. This way he made sure that I had learned my subject properly.
My last three years in school were my real formative years and looking back on my life I consider myself to have been extraordinarily lucky to have had in this period a friend and a mentor in the person of Jack. Of course Jack and I got along extremely well and I recall spending many hours with him in his house or garden listening to music, learning the proper etiquette at the dining table or the bridge table, the fine points of photography (at which he was very good), planning outings for weekends and school vacations. In the winter holiday of 1937, he took me and half a dozen other boys to Gulmarg to be introduced to skiing. As there was very little snow that year on the Gulmarg slopes, the trip turned out to be a flop except that as a result of the trip I was left with a yen to see more of the mountains of Kashmir - a desire which was fulfilled as a result of my journey back from Kashgar in Sinkiang, to Leh in Ladakh, in the autumn of 1950. I doubt if I would have undertaken that trip in the face of much opposition from various sources, but for the seed of adventure and love of mountains and the outdoor implanted in me by Jack Gibson. There were many other aspects of my personality which took shape during this important stage of my life and which Jack helped to mold.
Jack’s contribution to the school has been commented upon by many of the old boys. Of this group I appear to be the only one who joined school in its very first term. Thus all those who have written about Jack are younger than me and the age gap between them and Jack was much greater than the age gap between me and Jack. It would therefore not be unnatural if this age gap were to cause a certain degree of hero-worship to creep in. Indeed as I write this, I begin to wonder whether it was possible that a man like Jack Gibson could have actually lived. Oh, yes! He did, and I confess that only one other person has had as much influence on my life as Jack did. I cherish my memories of Jack and I can never forget the extraordinarily warm and cordial welcome that he extended to me and my wife when he invited us soon after our marriage, to come and spend a couple of days with him in Chand Bagh. For our return journey to Delhi he personally packed a hamper of food and included in the hamper two silver napkin rings as a wedding present. We still have those napkin rings. They remind me of an obdurate but a kind man; a strict disciplinarian but full of understanding; loyal to Britain and her culture but capable of understanding and appreciating India; dedicated to his work but without pretension; of noble mind but full of humility; and weather beaten and tough as a nail but with the graces of a 17th century cavalier.