What: Old Paulite Association’s annual dinner 2012.
When & Where: December 28, at The Oberoi Grand.
Tug at the heartstrings: Carols in the background and backslaps and high-fives galore, the reunion was quite the affair to remember. For Gen Y, St. Paul’s School, Darjeeling, may be the sprawling campus where Shah Rukh Khan went back for his “unfinished” studies in Main Hoon Na, but the only British-era public school in Asia has a history that is as rich in tradition as in accomplishments.
The dinner was attended by ex-students from batches as far back as 1947 right up to 2012, and the old boys spent a gala time chatting about the “unforgettable” school song, From the low and steamy plains ‘Upward!’ the old School calls, and the traditional tug-of-war among the four houses — Clive, Hastings, Havelock and Lawrence. But the evening wasn’t just about catching up. One of the aims of the dinner was to raise funds for charity. Earlier in the day, the alumni members took part in the OPA-Abhijit Roy (’61) Memorial Golf Tournament at The Tollygunge Club.
Pages of history: The school was initially set up in Calcutta by John William Ricketts in 1823. “It moved from Park Street to its current location in Jalapahar in Darjeeling in 1864. One of the first buildings in Darjeeling was our rectory, built by an Englishman. The school came up later around that rectory,” said Tutu Bose, of the batch of 1952. “The school chapel is one of the most striking buildings and probably a heritage structure in its own right,” he added.
Others spoke of the school’s journey down the years. “In 1939, I belonged to a 10 per cent minority of Indian students. The school was meant for expats and the few Indians allowed in had to meet certain criteria. I had the good fortune of not just witnessing the Indian Independence but also hoisting the Indian flag while still in school,” smiled Dilip Chatterjee of the batch of 1947, one of the oldest alumnus at the dinner.
Forming OPA: The Old Paulites Association was founded in 1934 by one of the “strictest and longest serving” rectors of the school, Rector Goddard, with the aim of bringing ex-students together. “We had a very dynamic secretary at OPA in the 1990s — the gynaecologist Utpal Ray. He changed the OPA annual dinner into a fund-raiser. We have since collected money for the army welfare fund, cancer treatment and research, old-age homes, rebuilding of certain sections of our school...,” explained Sunil R. Gandhi (batch of 1969).
While the Calcutta chapter is the parent body, OPA today has branches in Mumbai and Delhi as well as in Europe, America, Thailand, Nepal and Bangladesh.
“The chairman of The Oberoi Group, P.R.S. Oberoi, is also an Old Paulite and the main host for tonight’s dinner,” said Sanjoy Chatterjee, the honorary secretary of OPA.
Arijit Dutta of Priya Cinemas with 1982 batchmate Daniel Ghaznavi (far left), who co-owns the restaurant Ta’aam. “Our batch was probably the most vibrant, the naughtiest and yet the best in sports and studies. My mother, who had been to boarding school herself, kept telling me that I would regret leaving school one day. She was so true,” said Arijit. For Daniel, who was the day’s golf champ, St. Paul’s was “home away from home.”