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December 2017

In Memorium: Anvar Alikhan

Yogen Dalal (456)
Mayo College (1961-1966)

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My friend Anvar Alikhan passed away on December 26.  He was only 66 and a year younger than I am.  His contemporaries at Mayo will recall a cheerful, smiling young boy who had a creative streak.  If we dig up old Mayoors from our time I am sure we'll find many articles by him!  I'm sure Gibson admired his creativity and articulateness. This talent led him into advertising, and then later in life he developed a wonderful behind-the-scenes investigative journalistic curiosity.  Many of you have read that he (and I for that matter) were at Cathedral High School in Bombay (Mumbai) at the same time as Salman Rushdie, or that Alan Turing lived in India.

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Anvar collaborated on the book An Indian Englishman and it was his idea to dramatically cut Gibson’s memoirs so that it would be relevant and readable today.

Anvar was a gentle soul who saw good everywhere and had the magic touch for storytelling.  He brought joy to those who knew him and to those who read what he wrote.


Dalal: A Walk Down Memory Lane

Yogen Dalal (456)
Mayo College (1961-1966)

In December 2016, my batch of 66-67 celebrated its 50th reunion during Prize Giving.  This was my third time going back to Mayo in those intervening 50 years.  Could 50 years really have gone by?  I didn’t feel like a 66-year-old, though I must confess that the aches and pains had grown, and when I looked at photos of myself with my friends there was so much more white hair, and we definitely looked old compared to those celebrating their 25th reunion, or the college monitors participating in the pomp and show of prize giving!

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But I didn’t feel old!  I felt more or less as I did when I was a student at Mayo! Walking around the campus brought back familiar memories.  In some ways, nothing had changed but the place looked more groomed and there were many new building -- part of the master-plan my younger brother Abhimanyu had helped develop and then designed some the new building like the amphitheater and tennis pavilion – all pro bono.  He had barely known Jack Gibson the way my brother Rajen and I had.  But he chose to give back to Mayo by ensuring the campus would continue to meet the needs of future generations of students, the way it had during our days.  The Rajasthani architecture, colors and style have continued to influence my aesthetic all these years.  What made Mayo special was the entire package – the classic and romantic Rajasthani architecture, the playing fields, Madar and Taragarh always looming, the paintings of Rajasthani royals in the assembly hall, the hospital, the art classes, the plays in the dining mess hall, 16 mm movies in the evening at Bikaner Pavilion, Safas on Sundays, and so many other unique expereinces.

While others before Gibson had set the stage for Mayo, and other since have continued its many traditions, I can’t help but feel that it was Gibson with his vision and experiences that helped crystalize the purpose for Mayo, and its unique philosophy and style that gave its students an experience not found anywhere else.

These were the thoughts rushing through my mind during those few days on campus with many of my classmates.  I hadn’t seen some in 50 years and I could barely remember what they were like way back then, but the warmth and camaraderie we once felt come rushing back.  Brijeshwar Singh and Rajan Saigal kept reminding me of things we had done, and I couldn’t recall them, probably because I have been gone from India for now 45 years and hadn’t had many opportunities to reminisce.  But we went to Ana Sagar and Foy Sagar, and had an ice coffee at Honeydew restaurant where we would go when a parent was in town. Memories!

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I watched the over-achievers receive prizes for sports and academics, the monitors looking very smart and ready for their next adventure in college.  And I thought back to my years there and wondered if I had been any different? I worked extra hard to get good marks, practiced my gymnastics routines in Ajmer House, and hoped so much to be picked as a monitor.  But this is what Gibson wanted.  He wanted each of us to excel in ways that worked best for our personalities and inherent talents, while at the same time being willing to explore new boundaries.

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Now I think back at the broad education I received and how I pushed hard on my talents to succeed in life, but I have also realized that the many pleasure I now get are in those areas where I didn’t have a natural talent but the explorations gave me an appreciation for what I couldn’t do and others could.  I feel so much more whole because of Gibson’s goal to make us all-rounders.

So, a chapter in my life comes to an end with this reunion.  I don’t know when I will be back or when I will see many of my classmates; already having lost quite a few.  I was fortunate to have been able to meet Raghu Raj Singh who as a teacher not only taught academics but the importance of being youthful and curious.

55 years is a long time and the first 5 of those molded me.

Thanks, Gibby!

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