Sunday, February 22, 2009

Memories of a Principal - Part II

I happened to watch an old episode of NDTV's "Walk the Talk" with Shekhar Gupta this morning, and it kindled some more memories of Mr. Lewis. The guest on show was the inimitable Harsha Bhogle, a man who always brings a smile to my face when I hear him talk about cricket and life in general. (I bet the Aussies feel the same way about Richie Benaud). The venue for the interview was the Bombay Gymkhana, steeped in tradition and history (with due apologies to the Madras Cricket Club, the other 'club' I have grown to admire so much), as the first venue in India to stage a Test match.

Considering the silent, serene glory of the place, it was always my dream to play a game at "Bombay Gym", as we always called it. And play I did, not once but on three or four occasions thanks to Mr. Lewis. The results were embarrassing (score-wise and clothes-wise), but to a teenage boy who grew up literally worshipping the wood and the grass of Bombay Gym, the moments spent there were some of the most priceless ones. I am not sure too many of the kids who go to the Cricket Club of India (CCI)/Brabourne Stadium and Bombay Gym realize the historical importance of the floors they walk.

One of those games was an inter-house one, which was supposed to be rugby (or rugger as Mr. Lewis called it!) but was more like a free-for-all melee in the slush. I am sure a seasoned rugby follower would have been dismayed at what he saw, if he were present. All the same, the game never really took off at Campion in the mid-90s (possibly since it was seen as another "Cathedral" thing introduced at Campion), and I guess 1990-1993 would probably be the only time Campionites ever tried their hands at rugby!

In my first five years at Campion, we rarely saw any celebrities. But thanks to Mr. Lewis we had a whole set of high-fliers making visits to our humble 13 Cooperage Road. Vijay Amritraj had to watch his head when he ducked into our 5th std. classroom one afternoon, while WWF's "Macho Man" (aka Randy Savage) must have grimaced in agony when he was introduced as the "Muncho man". But the crowning moment was in March 1996, when the Windies cricket team who were in India for the World Cup, stopped by Campion for some chai and biscuits.

The dusty football ground was converted into a makeshift cricket pitch, and one Brian Charles Lara took massive swings at deliveries bowled by the Campion pace quartet which featured a trundler who went by the moniker of "Soultan of Swing". I could see the genial, bearded Andy Roberts (who was the manager of the team) shake his head in absolute disapproval as ball after ball disappeared into oblivion. Lara of course refused to sign autographs for us, dismissing us with a wave of his hands, prompting someone to ask if his initials actually stood for something else. Jimmy Adams on the other hand, signed every book that came his way, and probably missed out on his share of tea for his troubles. Jimmy was one of the most soft-spoken cricketers I have met, someone who always had time to chat a bit while signing autographs, and he's been forgiven for all the padding he did against the Indian spinners while amassing 500 odd runs in the test series the previous winter, earning him the sobriquet of "Padams". And oh yes, Mr. Lewis made the poor cricketers stand through our school anthem and some prayers, and ofcourse "ineez hands". It worked for the Windies, as they won all their matches from that point on, going all the way to the semi-finals, where they stumbled at the last hurdle against the Aussies!

PS: I suddenly think that this sounds like Tom Brown's Schooldays! A student's tribute to his headmaster! And oh, there's rugby thrown in there too!

1 comment:

Siddharth Vij said...

When we were in school, one of the few cribs always used to be that Campion didn't encourage cricket enough. We didn't have inter-house cricket (it finally started in 99 iirc), you couldn't bring bats and balls to school and PT periods were always about football and basketball. I always wondered why this was? I came across this article on the OCA website ( ) which seems to suggest that cricket was a big deal at Campion in the early days. Do you know how and why things changed?