A School Which Is Not Just One – Dr Graham’s Homes

dr. graham's homes
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“My thirteen year old daughter: Mumma am never gonna forgive you!

Me:.  ButY?

My thirteen year old daughter: You studied in this Hogwarts lookalike n sent me to the city school!”

#exploring #mummaschool #dgh #loves

A Facebook post that speaks volumes, the school that we all love did look like a Hogwarts to a millennial but we did not do magic there, nor did we learn magic but magic it was, this school of ours nestled right below the majestic granduer of the Himalayas, quoted so often by the late Bernard T Brooks our principal in his morning prayers. He always thanked God for it and we did too with our bent heads and folded hands.

I still remember my first day in school though it must have been eons ago, that checkered blue and white dress, ballerina shoes – I hated both the dress and the shoe and it was a long walk uphill to the Kindergarten or KGs. The first sight that I took into my five year old self was the engraving of the queen and a gentleman laying his coat for her to step on. This stayed forever. The classroom was filled with kids wailing their lungs out and as my grandpa left me at the door I too had just flexed my facial muscles to let out a wail when a lady rushed into the room with a hysterical kid in her arms, so hysterical and so loud that immediately all other kids stopped their wailing and I never cried in my first day at school. That hysterical chap was Raja Banerjee – our headmaster Mr. Banerjee’s son! Later that day we were given play dough called plasticine in those days to play and we were even allowed to put our heads down and sleep on the tables. Oh! I started to love this school and that too stayed forever. Mrs. Siddique, Mrs Eder, Mrs Daniels, Mrs Sampson, Mrs Lama and of course our dear Harilal with his big bell that tolled to give us joy of a class getting over. I still remember his room at the corner where he lounged on a wicker chair right at the door and never allowed us in. Another thing that I remember of Harilal was his headgear – it was a topi like the ones that the politicians wear nowadays,maybe it was a Gandhi Cap with a difference. The years in the KGs could never be complete without a trip or you could call it a hike to the Upper KG classroom, it was really in the upper, atop a hill overlooking the school. A scary place, we played ghost ghost and also formed secret societies trying to solve mysteries at the Upper KG premises, drawing our inspiration from the “Secret Seven” books by Enid Bylton. We had our very own “Secret Seven” group and of course no one wanted to be the god Scamper since we could not get a real dog to the school. And of course the Santa Claus and his presents and we singing “Jingle Bells” and “Silent Night” – The Santa even had a sack with cracker shaped presents, this school sure did care for us I swear!!

Then came Junior High – we not only moved up the ranks but moved physically to higher grounds and the classrooms were bigger, the teachers looked bigger too. Mrs Ohme, Mrs Freeze, Mr Xavier, Mrs Roy and the interns from the TTC training school at Mt. Hermons, they were the best of the lot, young, sassy full of stories and lots of fun. We loved their classes and wished they never went back but they did go after a month, leaving us sad and flustered till the next batch came in. Junior High is very faint in my memories since we probably did a lot of learning but the one thing that I remember of these three years before moving to the senior school was the Annual Class Projects. Each class was given a topic or a theme and we had to transform the entire classroom into that. When we were in Mrs. Ohme’s class our topic was “Kinds of Transport” and I remember building railway tracks, rockets, cars, matchbox coaches for the trains, all those match boxes, coloured chartpaper, fevicol, water colours, paint brushes and the noise and chaos in the classrooms, it really used to be one of a kind. And as a topping we were also taken on a walking trip to town to the “Syndicate” to gather information on transport. What a trip it was with lunch on the green lawns of the Kalimpong Park and softies which we were allowed to buy from the ice cream wala down by the motor stand! There were also the visits to the school farm, yes this school had its own farm with the cows, pigs and the works, I still remember some of those pretty names that the farmhands had given to the cows, “Desdemona” “Portia” being some of them. Quite a Shakespearean lot I would say!! Then there were those “cucumber picnics” where the day scholars would carry those huge kalimpong specialty cucumbers with the red hot fiery chili paste and dollops of salt, and we would trudge up the khud side to the cheesery, yes, you heard it right this school had a cheese making unit as well. Just after a tour of the cheese making process we would all sit below those huge trees and eat the cucumber slices for lunch. Coming back to school would entail a stop at the school bakery for a teatime snack of freshly baked bread slices with smoked, milk laced tea in those striated glasses. And yes our school did have it’s own bakery too, one of a kind I must say again!!

Senior High was ofcourse a class apart, what we did not have, we had the best of the teachers, at fifty I still recall the lines from the “Merchant of Venice” and Mr. Sampsons erudite take on the characters of the play, we could vividly imagine Shylock with his miserly mannerisms at a time and place so far and displaced from where we actually were. “The Highwayman” still lots down my mind as “Bess the landlord’s daughter ties those red ribbons into her long black hair.” I still remember Mr. Lama’s “best of fives” on our backs as I can remember the capital cities and the rivers of the world, even today as I sit with my children to help them with their homework, I still perfectly draw the river Volga in its exact place as I dot the city of Cairo or shade the Baltic Sea and the highland deserts of Mongolia. Yes, Ulan Bator always used to be his favorite place to mark in almost all the exams that he took so often. Mr. Simick with his eccentric hand movements while explaining our fundamental rights and duties which have been so ingrained into my soul that even today if someone tries to overlook my rights I give it straight back to them, hook, line and sinker with parts of my civics lesson taking the forefront of my brain. The Skeleton in the Biology room and Mr. Tiwari’s oh so aesthetic pointers about the reproductive system while ending the same with statements about “the dogs having no social sense” definitely kept us in splits and also prepared us for our lives ahead of us. This narrate on our special teachers can simply not end without mentioning Ms. Parmer, the lovely lady who inspired generations of Grahmites to become homemakers with a difference. Her classroom was where we learnt how to handle our pots and pans, make the perfect cross-stitches, besides baking the right fluff in the lemon meringue pie and tying the bouquet garni to flavour our dishes. I swear I can still make the “Yakhni Pulao” the way she taught me and my kids love it.

Teachers aside and before you guys start to call me the “stickjaw” let’s talk about the beautiful “May Queen” with all her maids in a row, the Lucky Dip, “Sasta Bhojan” “Calcutta kathi rolls” the “Song Request” stall (almost always invariably manned by George Ross and David Royan – the school “Cupids” and “Agony Aunts”) and the works that we enjoyed in the biggest and the grandest fair in the entire town. Being crowned the “May Queen” was no less than the beauty pageants of today only a little less than the beauty queens to grace the Jarvie Hall stage during the “Deolo Delights” – the freshers from the boys hostel dressed up as girls with high heels and make up! Used to be a riot and of course it never ended there, the same freshers would land up in class with oiled gross hairstyles, pock marked faces while the girls started to get the cheesiest of “try letters” swearing endless love and the works. It was in the grapevine that if the girls fell for these letters and replied, these replies would grace the notice board of the “Frazer” and “Willingdon” hostel for everyone to peruse!

I could simply go on forever, an article does not give the Dr. Graham’s Homes story enough space, a book perhaps someday, how can one put to words the details of a school that celebrates it’s Birthday and not a Founder’s day. The Homes Birthday with its tradition of the “buns and jalebis” with smoked tea followed by the swimming gala and the birthday ball at night. It is said that today the Homes Birthday is celebrated on 24th September each year in more than 50 locations world wide with the buns and jalebis and a birthday ball to follow by the OGBs, now ask me what are the OGBs? Oh they are the “Old Girls and Boys” – Dr Grahams Homes does not have Alumni or the Alumnus, we are simply the OGBs wherever we go in the world!!

A school which is not just one, its a feeling, a belongingness that we the Grahamites carry throughout our lives, anywhere and everywhere we go!!!

Come on the Homes!!!

NB: This piece is a tribute to all the Grahamites in the world to feel for their school and help to save our Homes so that our legacy continues…For non grahamites to get the technical details of the school you can log into the following websites:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dr._Graham%27s_Homes

https://www.drgrahamshomes.co.uk/

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/india/west-bengal/kalimpong/attractions/dr-graham-s-home/a/poi-sig/1154795/356542

https:///www.drgrahamshomes.net/

https:///www.dghogbs.com/

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