Chapter 5. St. Paul’s School, Darjeeling 1937-38

On 10th March 1937, Shahed and I arrived at St. Paul’s School, Darjeeling, along with other students who travelled with us from Calcutta. (Incidentally, these lines are being written on 10th March 2011). Initially failing to find our names on the notice board – there was no K.M. Sayeed or K. M. Shahed – we came across “K.M.S. Shahabuddin I” and realized that we will henceforth be known by our surnames.

Soon we learnt that Shahed had to go to the Junior school where his name appeared as “K.M.S. Shahabuddin II”. I then looked for and found my dormitory in Lyon Hall. My bed was near the door, covered with a red blanket as were all the 25 or so beds in the dormitory. It was very cold and I shivered under four blankets. While I was still awake the Rector, Mr. L.G. Goddard came on rounds and stood for a while next to my bed.

I was very raw not having had much practice of speaking in English, and cannot remember how I answered his questions. I kept thinking of Shahed, he was only nine years old, and wondered how he had got along. I was not going to see him until Sunday when boys from the junior school were allowed to come up to the senior school, after lunch, to meet their brothers. I cannot remember how I spent the first few days in the school, particularly, my feelings and reaction  about attending the service at the school Chapel.

It was compulsory for the whole school, without exception, to attend Chapel twice a day, before breakfast and before dinner. If I remember correctly there were over 200 boys in the school of which about 35 to 40 were Hindus, and only a handful were Muslims. The rest were Christians, Jews and Armenians. I was the one and only Muslim in the Fourth Form class to which I had been admitted.

A month or so later, in April or May 1937, our cousin, Syed Fayyaz Alam, son of Syed Sahib-e-Alam (Kaloo Chacha) joined our school. Like Shahed, he too did his Senior Cambridge, and, did his Tripos at Cambridge University, England. He served Pakistan as Commercial Secretary in various Embassies around the world. He married Riffat (Riffi), daughter of Dr. Mahmood Hasan, and sister of Samee-ul-Hasan. Both husband and wife have passed away.

St. Paul’s was like a typically British public school, run on the pattern of Eton in England. There were four ‘Houses’ – Clive, Havelock, Hastings and Lawrence – with two Prefects in each house. Each ‘House’ had a place alloted to it in the large dining hall served by two bearers for each ‘House’.

The four ‘Houses’ competed against each other in Cricket, Hockey, Football, Boxing etc. I was in Havelock House. All games were compulsory and the names of those selected to play for a team were posted on the Notice Board, indicating the colour of shirt – red or white – they were to wear. Each House had its own distinctive colours. Whenever we went out we wore the school cap and carried an umbrella as it rained quite often in Darjeeling.

The Junior School boys wore an Eton collar, school tie, jacket, shorts and stockings. They also wore the school cap and carried an umbrella. Every Sunday the entire achool marched down to St. Andrew’s Church for the Sunday Service. They were lead by the school captain, L.H. Beard and two other prefects, followed by Junior school boys, then boys of Form One upwards with the Sixth Form seniors bringing up the rear.

After the service those who had relations, living in Darjeeling or on a visit, were given “Exeat leave” pass which had to be signed by the person visiting, and they had to return to the school by 5 p.m.. Rest of the boys marched back to the school. After lunch we were free to change into casual clothes play games or just relax. At tea on Sundays we had buns and later, went to the Chapel for the Sunday service. Twice a year when the Government of Bengal moved to Darjeeling, Chachajan (Uncle Nazimuddin) and family stayed in the house “Malden” which gave Shahed and me, and our cousin Faiyaz the opportunity to visit them on Sundays

From the big field we had a lovely view of the majestic snow-capped Kanchinchanga when it was not covered by clouds. We played games. Cricket from March till the beginning of May, then Football, and Hockey from September onwards. On Saturdays the school team played matches against other teams, one of which was St. Joseph School, run by Jesuit fathers from Ireland. They were our great rivals.

We used to call the boys of that school “Spadgies” (from spud), and we were known as “Paulites” and also “Chatawalas” because of the umbrellas that we carried. Some times schools from other parts of Darjeeling District visited us and we returned those visits. After evening Chapel we had dinner and then an hour’s study or home work in the massive “Prep hall” where each one of us had a desk allotted to do our work. It was the same desk that we used for examinations etc.

The “Prep hall” had a fairly large stage for school plays and other functions..One of the school teachers supervised us and was always ready to help us to deal with any problem that we came across. We then returned to our respective dormitories and went to bed as the lights went out at 9 p.m.

Most of the teachers were British, some Anglo-Indians and two Indians. Our Form master was Mr.Ouvri, from England, and others who taught us included Messrs. Henson, Clarke, Coombes, G.Elloy, M. Elloy and Bowen. Mr. Warren was the games master and also took Gymnastics classes. Mr. Dutta, from Calcutta, taught us Physics while Mr. Rudra, the Hindi Master, was from Saugar in Madhya Pradesh, then Central Provinces. Hindi, along with Latin, was the second subject.

I chose Urdu and Persian as did Anwar Afridi, from Kohat. He was much senior to me and a school prefect. It is difficult to imagine that the Rector made arrangements for the Principal of Islamia School, Moulvi Ahmad Hussain, to come twice a week to teach Urdu and Persian to just two students. Anwar Afridi and I were excused from playing games on those two days to do our lessons with the Maulvi Sahib.

This also gave me an opportunity to get to know Anwar Afridi, who, along with Amir Sultan Chinoy from Bombay were the other two Muslim students. I had another advantage. Being a Prefect, Anwar, who was known in the school as “tough”, had the privilege of going out of school if he had something to do. He very kindly asked me to join him early every morning for a run down the hills and climbing via the khud on the way back. This did me wonders in building up my stamina which became an asset for me in later years.

Anwar Afridi retired as Inspector General of Police (I.G.) Punjab, Lahore, and, for a brief period, was Pakistani Ambassador to Burma. He passed away a few years ago. Amir Chinoy married Anwar’s sister, Almas, and was a very successful  industrialist in Pakistan. He too passed away. It is a matter of great coincidence, I might mention here, that Amir’s daughter, Farhana, Anwar’s daughter Annie and my daughter, Nazli, are married to three brothers from Peshawar – Yusuf Shah, Tariq Shah and Taimur Shah respectively.

In the Fourth Form class I had three good friends. Ranendra Kumar Palit (Rene), Ranjit Sen (Minnie) and Rajkumar Seth (Mitchie). All of them were very bright and brilliant students. They helped me with the subjects, specially English literature, which I found very difficult due to the very high standard compared to what I had been used to in Dhaka. We spent a lot of time together, and I learnt a lot from them, particularly Rene who became my best friend in school and we remained friends even though we had not met for many years. He passed away a few years ago.

Mitchie (uncle of the famous author Vikram Seth) has also passed away. However, his daughter Radha Saeawal, who lives in London, keeps in touch with me via the e-mail. Minnie (Dr. Ranjit Sen) lives in Delhi. We keep in touch by e-mail and, in November 2006, both my wife and I met him and his wife, Gool, in Delhi, while attending the Dufferin Rajendra Old Cadets Association (DROCA) global meet. I had taken the opportunity to e-mail to Minnie the chapter on St. Paul’s and he very kindly took time to add a few paragraphs, reproduced below, to put the record straight.

There were no Sikh boys in our time. The first two Sikh boys were admitted in 1949, the two brothers, Inder and ‘Ambi’ Singh, sons of Sardar Karnail Singh who retired as Chairman of the Indian Railways Board. Even for their admission, Mitchie and I had to convince Mr Goddard, the Rectoer, that the boys could wear navy-blue “Pugri” (turban) with the School badge pinnd at the crest instead of the regulation school cap. Also they would make arrangements for washing and drying their long hair, when visiting friends in town on Sundays. There may have been a few Buddhists from Burma and Bhutan.

On the dress, from 1936 onwards Mr Goddard implemented the type of clothes to be worn and the number of each item that the boys could bring to school. Any items more than those indicated were sent back to the parents at their cost. We had to wear the correct shade of grey three-piece single-breasted tweed suits and on Sundays and special school occasions, a navy blue three-piece single-breasted suit. These were available only from the officially approved tailors, Whiteway Laidlaw, a large departmental establishment in Calcutta/Darjeeling (and possibly in some other cities). In case these suits were not available from wherever the boys came, they would be ordered from the School.

On class days, the grey suit was worn with the waistcoat or with a half-sleeved maroon coloured wool sweater, also obtained from Whiteways. The shirts had to be white cotton or wool (for the cold weather) with detachable collars of the same material or detachable semi-stiff collar. The collars had to be changed when the neck of the collar got dirty. With the grey suit we wore our “house tie”, and when wearing the navy-blue suit, white shirt was with starched collar and “school tie”. No casual clothes or shirts of one’s choice were permitted. Perhaps when boys visited parents/relations in town then they could, at home, change into clothes other than prescribed, I don’t know. During the two short breaks from classes in the year, we could, instead of the grey coat and waistcoat, wear the navy blue school blazer with the school crest on the pocket and the maroon sweater.

Some years after I left school, I had asked Mr Goddard about the strict dress code, and he told me that in school all boys had to dress alike, and have the same amount of spending money, which was till 1939 six annas per week (sisteen annas made the then Rupee), up to Fourth Form, and increased to eight annas (1.2 of the then Rupee) for 5th and 6th Formers. These “Rules” were to avoid any complexes developing about the wealth of their parents. Any money brought from home or sent by the parents for extra spending had to be kept with the House Master who, at his discretion, gave the amounts to the boys. With our weekly “pocket money” we were able to buy chocolate bars, toffees, sweets, meat/vegetable patties/pies from the school “tuck shop”, whose proprietor was fondly known as “Blackie”. Of course the amount of pocket money per week was increased from time to time to keep up with the purchasing power.

Mr Goddard told me that these rules about dress and pocket money were made, as prior to 1936, two Indian brothers from a wealthy family came to school with a dozen silk shirts each and much too much money to spend with which they “showed off”.

Our daily routine started with “chota hazri” consisting of bread/butter, a banana and tea. Then PT and morning chapel was before breakfast. After evening chapel, the last meal of the day was called “supper” not dinner, as this was a light meal, then homework and bed. On Sundays after chapel service we had supper and then letter-writing to our parents etc before bed and lights out.

Many thanks, Minnie, for making corrections and putting the record right.

One day during lunch Mr. Warren, the games master, was seen going from table to table with a piece of paper and pen in his hand. He came to our table and addressing me said: “Shahabuddin, you have been selected for the School Athletic Team. Report for training at 5 a.m. tomorrow morning.” I was surprised but, quite naturally, felt very happy as it was a great honour to represent the school for a sporting event. I guessed that he must have been impressed observing me running during the P.T.

The following morning about 14 of us, me the junior most, met in the Dining Hall where we were served tea and biscuits and then went out to the big field to start our training. We were preparing for the Darjeeling District Sports (D.D.S.) which was to be held in October 1937. I was in the Under 14 group along with Hill (an American) and Sherman both of whom were better than me.

However, I qualified for the finals in both 100 yards and 220 yards and, on 3rd October, the day of the finals, I came fourth. In addition to Hill and Sherman, Charlie Dunn, of St. Josephs beat me. The seniors in the Open and under 16 groups also did well. Our school team came first wining the Dewar Challenge Shield. A framed group photograph of the Athletic team with the Challenge Shield hangs on the wall right in front of me. Later that month, at the School’s Annual Athletic Sports, the result of Under 14 group 100 yds, 220 yards and 440 yards read: Hill, Sherman, Shahabuddin. However, the result of High Jump was: Hill, Shahabuddin, Sherman. I thus won the runner-up cup for High Jump.

Darjeeling used to be crowded with visitors from the plains during September and October as that was the “Holiday Season”, and very interesting events used to take place. As in every year our school staged a play at the Darjeeling Gymkhana Club. In October 1937 it was Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” which, incidentally was also the text book in the Fourth Form. We also had ‘Durga Puja’ holidays in October.

I do not remember how many days. Since Chachajan and family used to be in Darjeeling then, Shahed, Faiyaz and I got “Exeat leave” every day. I normally spent my afternoons with Rene who used to join me at Malden and we roamed about and had tea and cakes either at Plivas or Swiss Confectionaries. One day, Sobhan Bhai, who was then married to our first cousin Hushmatara (Nanni Baji, mother of Rahman and Farooq Sobhan) was talking to me and showed a lot of interest in how I was getting along at school, and asked me what would I want to do after finshing schooling. I said I would like to join the Navy. He seemed to have taken me seriously, kept this in his mind and conveyed it to my father the next time they met.

Towards the end of the term, in November, the school was divided into six football teams for Micky Mug Cup Football tournament, named after the Rector’s son. The names of those teams I have forgotten,except the team for which I played, ‘Yorkshire Yokels’ and ‘Busty Bunglows’ – the winners and runners-up were treated to a fabulous tea party.

With the year coming to an end our thoughts were about going home and we kept singing the “Going home day” song, and some enterprising students would set about preparing a large placard almost six feet by three feet which would be attached to the front of the steam engine of the special train taking us to Calcutta on 25th November.

22 responses to “Chapter 5. St. Paul’s School, Darjeeling 1937-38

  1. Dear Friend,
    I’m Vikrom Suebsaeng, a Thai. Joined SPS June, 1952 and left in 1958. Life during your time was not much different from my time, only the School took in more Indians and people from neighbouring countries. The strict regimens were there. Pocket money ( Rs. 5 for Form 1-3 and Rs. 10 for the rest ). Got caned several times for being naughty or not toeing the line. Hurt so much and found way how to dampen the blows : sweater properly spread out smoothly below belt level. This was because I was told to come for the punishment at 14.00 hrs. There was plenty time after lunch to get ready. After this discovery I never had to fear 2 or 6 of the best. Had to be a good actor by wincing and twitching. Never told anyone until only recently, to Rector Howard. He laughed. The food was good those days compared to present ( went to visit 2007-9 ). The only thing most of us craved for was the extra thick toasts and a lot of butter the prefects and teachers got. But I had plenty of milk to drink by befriending those who didn’t like the stuff not only in Lawrence but also other Houses. Hastings was next to us and most of the extras came from there – an English boy. Fact not meant to boast : won Lt. Heavyweight School Boxing Championships 2 yrs in a row over much heavier Bengalis. This division was not represented by any one from Lawrence and something had to be done for the House. To qualify, I put many stones in my shorts and let the shirt out to cover the bulge for the weigh-in. Won 100 and 220 and long jump in 1957. Got sports colours in boxing, athletics, and gym. Got into fights with some Indian students and kicked them hard because they crossed or teased me and thought I was smaller ( yes you guys have bigger built ). There were times when I challenged some prefects to a fight which they didn’t accept. Instead they went to the Rector, Mr. Elloy, who called me in and told me that I was challenging his authority because the prefects were appointed by him. So I shut up. But that was fun, knowing that I won the fights hands down……Vikrom

    • Many thanks Vikrom for your response. Glad to know you are also an Old Paulite. I read your write up with great interest.
      With warm regards and best wishes,
      Sayeed

      • Dear Sayeed,
        Just to let you know that Old Paulites Thailand Chapter (OPTC) is planning to hold a meet on India’s Republic Day. First we thought only of Paulites in Thailand. But then an event like this, though few were held in the past 10 years, should be expanded. An idea is being floated to include OPs from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Burma, and vicinity. Doubts are there whether there will be OPs coming from those afar. The Thailand group is small and lacks cohesion. Very few come when there is a need to meet for a certain purpose or to eat the evening away. So comes a new idea : why not include past and present students of all schools in the Darjeeling area. There surely will be plenty of fire and spice amidst friendly teasing of rival alumni from North Point, Mt. Hermon, or Goethals, etc. The former Bhutanese Ambassador to Thailand always refers to us as Chattawalahs. Should this meet materialize I will let you know. 12 Thai OPs will meet next to discuss the viability. If not feasible due to the logistics or lack of resources then we’ll just drop it and concentrate on OPs only. May I know your age ? I’m 74 and will be 75 in June ’13.

        Vikrom

    • Man y thanks. Please let me have your e-mail address to send you a chapter on St. Paul’s by Old Paulite Professor Rehman Sobhan from Dhaka, Bangladesh.
      Regards,
      Sayeed Shahabuddin

  2. Dear sir,
    Great to hear such stories about st. pauls school, well I seem to be the youngest amongst all of you. I joined st. Pauls school Darjeeling in the year 2001 at a tender age of six and left school in the year 2011 after successfully completing my I.c.s.e examinations.
    There are slight alterations now ,however many traditions still remain the same. I am now preparing to leave for the united kingdom for my undergraduate studies,however st. Pauls will always remain close to my heart and memories will only grow stronger with the passing sands of time .
    P.s (Chota hazri was the best time of the morning for me)
    Regards,
    Adwait(2001-2011)

  3. I have had a great reading time here in Nepal.

    I am Siddharth Rajbhandari and I joined SP in 1990 in the Primary Wing in Class 4 and graduated in 1999 with the ISC certificate for Grade 12. Except for the structure of the wings and new houses added, I do not think school has changed much. It sounds all the same. The houses you mentioned are in Senior Wing and I was Lawrence House prefect 1998.

    We have recently had OPA Nepal Reunion 2013 and it was good turnout. The highlight of the event was Paulites Forever 2014. Jashwant Sotey 1977 is heading the organizing committee and a date has been fixed this event.
    Details can be found at https: pauliteforever.blogspot.com

    School remains the same and memories die hard!

    I hope many of us can make it to this event and reconnect!

    Siddharth
    Lawrence 98

    • Please let me have your e-mail address to send you a chapter on St. Paul’s by Old Paulite Professor Rehman Sobhan from Dhaka, Bangladesh.
      Regards,
      Sayeed Shahabuddin

  4. I wonder if you’ll remember me! I do remember you very well and your brother was better known to me since he was only four years my senior
    .
    Your simple recollections of the lives we led in SPS has touched me deeply. It is as if I was back in school amongst only 200 others! Far cry from today! We may have suffered deprivations in various forms due to the onset of World War II but,, on hindsight, that only strengthened our resolve and made us tougher.

    Being one of a minority group amongst the majority English, European and Anglo-Indian community in school most definitely made us very cosmopolitan and open-minded. We never realized the differences till after leaving school. I confess that sometimes it was difficult to cope with some of the bullies that every public school like St. Paul’s is bound to attract but we weathered it all and grew to appreciate the toughening process. I had the privilege of hoisting the Indian flag for the first time in SPS on India’s first Independence Day. I was also witness to a mass exodus of my English friends who were shipped back to the UK and other places because their fathers had to leave their jobs in India. However, the bonds that that were forged in school endure till this day.and I have been lucky to have kept in close touch with my fellow Paulites all along. I cherish our reunions when either I travelled or when someone came here looking for nostalgia.

    Even at this late stage in life I would love to reconnect with old friends you mention in your narrative. My Email identity is ..

    Thank you for your reminisces and I wish you the very best in the future.

    Dilip Chatterjee 1947
    Lawrence/Cable Houses

  5. Another Paulite during this time was L I Parija and his elder Brother. Mr L I Parija narrated to me that his parents stopped him from going to school due to the onset of WW2.
    I had the privilege of meeting Mr Goddard in his last year in 1964 when he handed over to Mr D S Gibbs who was our Rector right through to my last year in 1972. In my assessment my Gibbs carried on the good work of Mr Goddard very competently.
    Souri P Misra
    Westcott / Havelock
    P.S Can anybody help me in elaborating what were Eton Collars? Another question? Does the practice of a post lunch nap continue to this day?

    • Many thanks.Please let me have your e-mail address to send you a chapter on St. Paul’s by Old Paulite Professor Rehman Sobhan from Dhaka, Bangladesh.
      Regards,
      Sayeed Shahabuddin

  6. Interesting reading. Great to know how vividly the old timers recollect events of the past. Will all this continue or things will just be part of the past memory.

    r.p.singh

    • Many thanks. Please let me have your e-mail address to send you a chapter on St. Paul’s by Old Paulite Professor Rehman Sobhan from Dhaka, Bangladesh.
      Regards,
      Sayeed Shahabuddin

  7. An amazing read. I was in SPS between 1983 till 1989 when I graduated after completing ISC. Just an important fact – in 1988, under Mr Hardeep Singh, our PT teacher and athletics coach, SPS competed with the clubs of the Darjeeling district in the DDS and emerged as the district athletics champions. I believe that would be the only time ever, SPS won at that senior level. Incidently, the undersigned was the best athlete having won the 100m, 200m, 4X100 m relay and the Shot put golds at the event. Interestingly, after winning the championship, our bus carrying us back to school was attacked by Spadgies near St Joseph and we had to be escorted back. I still dont know the reason – may be the fact that SPS won and NP never came near us. The reception we got in school that day and the holiday declared next day for winning this tournament will remain etched in my meory till a very long time. That year in 1988, SPS won the Edinborough Cricket shield, District Athletics championship, Inter-School athletics championship and also if I remember correctly, the hockey tournament (Pemba Shield if I remember correctly) – Diamond, one of the helping staff and the curator of the cricket pitch (of course cricket was played on mat) also participated in the hockey team. We had a number of Bangladeshi guys in our batch and a couple of them were very good cricketers. Mr Lahiri was our cricket coach and an amazing one at that. School will always remain a journey full of fun, responsibility and of course, a sense of belonging to the likes of me.

    • Many thanks. Please let me have your e-mail address to send you a chapter on St. Paul’s by Old Paulite Professor Rehman Sobhan from Dhaka, Bangladesh.
      Regards,
      Sayeed Shahabuddin

  8. I am deeply touched by the response from so many Old Paulites. I wish it had been practically possible for me to attend re-unions when and wherever they are held so that I could meet all those who have so kindly commented on Chapter 5 of my autobiography..
    Best of luck, kind regards and best wishes to All.
    Sayeed Shahaubddin
    Karachi, Pakistan

    • Please let me have your e-mail address to send you a chapter on St. Paul’s by Old Paulite Professor Rehman Sobhan from Dhaka, Bangladesh.
      Regards,
      Sayeed Shahabuddin

    • Many thanks. I too wa in Havelock Houe.Please let me have your e-mail address to send you a chapter on St. Paul’s by Old Paulite Professor Rehman Sobhan from Dhaka, Bangladesh.
      Regards,
      Sayeed Shahabuddin

  9. wonderful stories of days gone bye,I think you and your Brother knew my Father the Late Paul Raschid. We are 3 brothers (sons of Paul Raschid) Andrew .Neville,& David,. We are also old Paulites, having fiished School in the 70’s. I believe you may have also known Mr.Obaid Ahmad a contemporary of your brother from Chittagong /Dhaka,

  10. My Grandfather was Mr Leslie Goddard. I am interested in any stories anyone my have about him. It really sounds like an amazing school. I don’t even know why my own father – Michael – did not go to this school instead of going back to England. Would love to hear any stories anyone has to tell.

  11. I joined St .Paul’s in Junior Form II ( Anderson) in 1946 and did by Senior Cambridge in 1952 (Havelock). Saw the smooth transition from a predominantly `English’ to an `Indian’ public school with Leslie Goddard at the helm of affairs. Enjoyed reading the recollections of senior and junior OPs. Too many memorable events to recall right now. Our teachers made the school what it was at the time – each one was gifted in some way or the other and a real `character’. Rector used call me `Wisden’ as I devoured most the cricket books in his study. His favourite cricketer was Jack Hobbs while mine was Bradman. We were allowed in to his study to listen to the England vs Australia Test when an OP George Emmett opened for England in 1948. Recall meeting Rector in 1966 at `Jalapahar’ with my friend Dr Samiran Nundy on my way to the USA where I worked with Prof Rustom Roy, a distinguished OP who was Founder Director of the Materials Research Lab at Penn State. The last time I met Rector was at Haileybury in 1982, with Fazle Khundkar, when he was staying with his daughter Judy and husband David Hunt. Shared may wonderful memories. Tutu Bose

  12. Another grandchild of the great and always missed Leslie and Maisie Goddard! My mother Judy was born in Darjeeling and sadly I’ve never had the chance to visit. Mum and Dad have been back several times and I’d love to hear more stories of Granny and Grandpa to add to those I’ve grown up with. My godfather, David Gibbs who succeeded Grandpa has shared many stories as well and we are still in close touch with David and Sally who now live in Ireland.

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