by Aneesha Baig (OS93)
As most gigs go, many would argue that mine is pretty much as good as it gets. I am not inclined to disagree. The last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to far flung corners of the country and the world, to eat the most unexpected things. Most of them delicious, some definitively not. And still, of the dishes I am haunted by, let’s face it, some of those served in the late 80’s at CDH count as the most memorable and the most dubious.
In fact, I am not entirely convinced, that it wasn’t that diet that is largely responsible for my obsession with the world of food today.
Here’s an example: my first S’na memory was in ’86. I was in Upper Three. Just 4 days into time there. It was a Sunday, and I was proud of myself for not crying, not writing heartbroken, homesick letters to my parents screaming at them to get me out of here. I then sampled (for the first time) the S’na scrambled eggs. My resolve crumbled, and I almost rewrote that first brave little note: how on earth would I face years of rubbery, watery, mildy smelly breakfasts like this!
Its nice to know now, how much things can change. School too picked up, as I made friends, greats friends, immersed myself in the campus, life became good. The food never did. As anyone who was there during those years will attest, there is no overstating how tasty it wasn’t.
And so perhaps, I can credit that with being part of the reason why, ever since I joined NDTV 17 years ago, I have inexorably moved towards more gastronomic pursuits. The first was a segment that I helped produce with the delightful Roopa Gulati for Good Morning India, then various experiments with culinary shows/ stories, till 3 ½ years ago I got to “Will Travel for Food”.
And of course there’s been no looking back since (for me or my waistline) as its been one spread after another. Elephant apples and pork fry in the heart of a Mishing Village in Assam, the pepperiest mutton fry imaginable in Vizag, big, black, not terribly pretty trotters at Shadab in Hyderabad’s Old city. The best chaat imaginable in the old bylanes of Benares, freshly caught snails in monsoon soaked Goa, ghamandi lassi and bhutta ka kiss in the heart of Indore. I’ve been lucky enough to take hot air balloons over Victoria’s Yarra Valley, to explore both farm and table in San Francisco and as I type I am gearing up for a trip where I will (gulp!) dive with sharks.
So, in sum (though from a recent trip I know the menu has improved drastically) if there is another bespectacled geek weeping over her Sunday eggs, I would say to take heart in the fact that sometimes life has a very strange sense of humour.
Aneesha Baig is Editor Lifestyle and Entertainment for NDTV 24/7.
She has been with NDTV since 1996. In 2003 she became the face of Night Out, a ground-breaking entertainment show,
and spent five years as its popular anchor. In 2012, she shifted gears and now travels and eats her way around the world
for the award-winning Will Travel for Food
UK Reunion and OSS 100th Anniversary.
By Aruna (Sharma) Mongia(OS67)
We held our reunion at the usual venue, The Bombay Palace, in Connaught Street near Marble Arch, London.
This year's reunion coincided with the 100th anniversary of the OSS which was founded in 1914 by the Reverend George Barnes. I would like to thank Prabhsharan Kang who informed me of this on the morning of the reunion.A nice bit of history - and a special year for our reunion too!
This was the 14th Reunion of the OSS, UK Chapter, and our 12th at the Bombay Palace.
I've been asked a few times about how we got started and how we run our reunions so I thought I'd give a brief history this time for the record.
I met Brinda Roy in 1996 and 1997 and a couple of years later she and then Rajvir Gulia asked me to try and set up an OSS (Old Sanawarian Society) Chapter in the UK. There was already an OSA (Old Sanawarian Association) in London run by Violet (Tilley) Good all for several years, which I had also been attending for a while - so we needed to decide how to proceed.
The first reunion was a dinner held in 2001 at my home in Northwood. We invited the post 1947 UK OS to attend and give their opinion on how we should run the reunions – whether to join up with the OSA (the pre 1947 group) or to have our own OSS reunions. We finally decided to have both, our own as well as attend the OSA reunions.
We the OSS Chapter held our reunions in October/November to celebrate Founders / Diwali, and the OSA held theirs in May.We invited the OSA members to our reunions and the OSA invited us to theirs as they had been doing thus far. However, the OSA later closed down as Violet was not able to run the reunions any longer. They had their 60th and final reunion in May 2008, bringing to an end another chapter in the history of Sanawar. A good number of the pre 1947 OS regularly attend our OSS reunions and we are very pleased that they do – in fact they make up around 50% of the total number of attendees every year.
Our 2nd reunion was a dinner/dance held at the Hilton in Wembley. We needed to have a hundred people in order to break even on the cost but it proved to be too ambitious and unfortunately we did not even make 50 so we ran it at a loss and I personally had to foot the bill - but that's how one learns! It also involved a lot of work in collecting money upfront and organising the disco, flowers, raffle prizes etc.
So now, from the 3rd reunion onwards, we just book the date and advise the Bombay Palace an estimated number who will attend a buffet lunch and pay for the actual number of people who attend. Payment is by "cash on the day" and we hand over what we collect – much simpler. It involves less work and less stress – even though you have the inevitable last minute bookings and cancellations – but that is to be expected – nothing unusual. What was unusual, however, this year, is that I did not reckon on the trend of the younger generation not to carry cash. Will have to be better prepared next year!
Enough history and background information – back to the reunion of Sunday 18th May 2014
It was a lovely sunny day.
As usual there were several early birds awaiting my arrival, ready with cash in hand eager to make payment even before I had set up shop. From 12.30 onwards we had a steady flow of OS arriving for the reunion - mostly regulars but a few new ones too.
Drinks and chit chat in the bar area was followed by a few announcements and a few words from
Sir Henry. Then it was time for lunch and we ended in the usual manner with singing of the first verse of the school song.
There were 43 attendees this year – not a bad number but would be nice to have had a few more.
We were honoured again to have Sir Henry and his daughter, Isabelle, attend the reunion. Also present amongst others were George Browne and Derek Boddington who we often hear from on Sanawarnet.
I'd like to thank all those who attended this year's reunion and hope to see them all again next year and hopefully a few more.
Date for the next reunion:
Sunday 17th May 2015 – 12.30 – Bombay Palace, 50 Connaught Street, London W2 2AA
List of attendees.
"Never Give In"
Aruna (Sharma) Mongia
Report of the 14th Annual Old Sanawarian Lunch in London on Sunday 18 May 2014.
By Harbans Nagpal – NBD 1964.
The Annual Old Sanawarian lunch in London was once again a great success! The sun was shining brightly at midday on Sunday 18 May when we arrived at our usual Indian restaurant in central London. It was reminiscent of those glorious sunny days in Sanawar when classes would be cancelled at Assembly, for us to enjoy the light and the temperature. (Does this still happen? Did it happen pre 1950? Does this happen in other schools? What a sense of fun at the top).
Anu Mongia our hardworking secretary greeted us all and handled the formalities at the entrance: 25 pounds, a sticky name label and you were in, into the bar of the L shaped restaurant. The attendance was excellent - a total of 43 persons. The cancellations were made up by an equal number of late comers. We thank and congratulate this large attendance, and Anu Mongia and her team for making it happen once again. It is no easy task and Anu is a busy business woman. She and her husband run a medium sized high tech engineering company. We are lucky to have her. This is also a good place to announce that these annual London lunches will always be held on the third Sunday of May every year. So please make mental or physical or digital note in your diary: 17 May 2015 next year. If you are in and around London, do come. You will be surprised, happy, rejuvenated.
But back to this year: first to arrive, at 12 o'clock, were again some Old Timers (pre 1950): David and Betty Barfoot and Gladys Spencer - in fine summer attire, David in a cream blazer and a stylish hat. And shortly after arrived all the others, thick and fast, in all shapes and sizes of Sanawarians. But let us describe them in their groups of seniority.
It was nice to see again our oldest OS, George Browne (Havelock 37) carrying his 95 years as if he was 60: slim, sharply dressed in school blazer and school tie. The usual suspects were all there: Bob Massingham (Hodson 1947), Derek Boddington (Roberts 1947), James Coombes (Nicholson 1954) happy, circulating, standing each other to pints of beer. Derek runs a very interesting and nostalgic website on Sanawar. You can find it by googling "LRMS Sanawar" or clicking on
It has many wonderful black and white pictures of the school from the earliest times. Historical minded Sanawarians such as Prabh Kang should take note and be in touch with Derek. James Coombes became a maths teacher in England after Sanawar, despite being told he was no good by Mr Kemp. Mr and Mrs Kemp were two fine teachers who straddled the two generations between the Old and Middle Timers. They stayed in Sanawar till their retirement and in India till their end. We salute in passing their devotion to the school and to India. Their three children Andy, Peter and Tissa studied with us and all three are in England now. We managed to meet up with Tissa and her husband Roger the day before the OS lunch. Their boat was moored on the canal at Rickmansworth, for the Rickmansworth Canal Festival, and as it was too good an opportunity to miss, Subhash, Aruna and I went along to visit them. We spent a pleasant afternoon with them and thank them for their hospitality. Tissais a nurse in the NHS. She was happy and remembered Sanawarfondly.
We are lucky to be a coeducational school of long date, some say the oldest in the world. And so every year many pre 1950 lady Old Sanawarians come, often without their husbands, thereby helping our male female ratio. And so it was nice to see Stella Owen (Hodson 1947) and Pam Turner (Lawrence 1946), beaming like happy school girls. It was fun to listen to their girlish talk. Gladys Spencer (Nicholson 1945) let fly a long diatribe against a certain mistress who had it in for her: "she punished me for this and then again for that two days later…made me stand outside the class….and I hadn't even done anything….the witch", managing to avoid the b word, but the anger was fresh and present, 69 years later! As we know, Sanawar memories are not all pleasant: there were punishments, bullying, wet underwear, lonely times in hospital, and these lunches are a safe place to share them.
The Middle Timers (pre 1975) were well represented again. The Kadan brothers were there early, smartly dressed, the older brother Yashvir (Siwalik 1957) looking a bit tubbier than younger brother Rajvir (Siwalik 1962). Arvind Sikund, modest and soft spoken, was sporting a fashionable beard. In small talk he confessed he starts his days even now with a Sanawar style chotahazri of bread and margarine. He was not the only one. We have all integrated into our lives many elements of the Sanawar routine. These semi-religious, shared routines are also of course what binds us together. Partha Biswas (Vindhaya1964) was back from a world cruise, full of beans and gave us a tip: don't put off enjoyment to later. Start now. This was a lesson hard learned from the recent and early death of his sister Minakshi (Siwalik 1961). Minakshi was bright in class, a great sportswoman and later a fine doctor in England. RanaTalwar (Vindhya 1964) arrived dressed in a smart, tailored, grey Koti with a red patti on the inside of the collar. From the breast pocket flourished a handkerchief. He was as chummy as could be, with arms around your shoulders as he spoke. Head Boy Kamal Katoch (Nilagiri 1962) was faithfully there again, full of names and stories, and wearing a very stylish, modern jacket with a Sanawar badge. (He told us where to get one: not the Tuck Shop but HarjeetKochar's shop called Giggles, in Connaught Place, Delhi. Worth remembering). And in this group was also your reporter (Nilagiri 1964), in his trademark pinstripe jump suit, designed to hide his girth, but not succeeding too well.
But most enjoyable to see and meet were the New Timers (post 1975). Well dressed, well- mannered and full of joy, it was a pleasure to see them stream into the room. It makes your heart melt when they stand to attention and present themselves, in sharp, succinct sentences. You want to say to them, at ease young man, at ease young woman! Instead you find yourself straightening to attention yourself, as the old Sanawar drills come to life in you too. And so it was lovely to meet Manmeet Poonia(Vindhaya 1993), in smart turban,standing very straight and tall, parade ground style. He had a big job in Shell, the oil company, and had been there many years. Also present was Nazeer Datoobhoy (Himalaya 1991) who attended after a long absence but promised to come more often in the future.Much younger were Dilawar Singh Gill (Nilagiri 2012) and SamarjeetMahurkar (Himalaya 2012). Recently passed out from Sanawar, they were at university in England, studying Management, and hoping to go back home to their family businesses. Divya Srishti Mahajan (Nilagiri 1995) is a slim and slight young lady, with a big job. She promised to help our secretary Anu Mongia. She was also acting as photographer for the day. Richa Ranawat Pathania (Himalaya 2000) was there too although her handsome husband Abhimanyu Ranawat was unable to attend this year. Both husband and wife have heavy jobs and two children, but stillmanage to attend these reunions. Ashish and Shivaani Puri were another young couple where the non OS husband Ashish was putting up with us Sanawarians. Of the same generation was tall and slim Komal Dhillon (Siwalik 2000), dressed in a short yellow dress, adding a splash of colour to our gathering. She was talkative with her friends but clamped up when your reporter approached her. No doubt the talk was too juicy to share. We thank them for taking the trouble and expense of coming, and welcome them warmly.
Also present once again were Sir Henry Lawrence, with banjo and salt and pepper beard, gone more salt than pepper this year. Also present was his pretty film-producer daughter Isabelle Lawrence, dressed in a hugging black dress and what would be called hockey shoes in Sanawar. They are the ancestors of our founder Sir Henry Lawrence, but they did not expect ceremony or special attention. They come every year now with genuine affection for the school and to see how they can contribute in this day and age. Isabelle went to the Lawrence School, Lovedale, and so is almost an Old Sanawarian herself.
Special mention should be made of the guests of Old Sanawarians, who come to these lunches: friends, spouses, children of OS. We thank you for coming, for putting up with our boring talk about Sanawar. We know that your school was just as nice for you as Sanawar is for us. One such guest is Maureen Winders, guest of Ron Bailey (Nicholson 1947),who comes regularly and was present again this year, dressed in pale colours to match her eyes. We want to know more about her all girls boarding school and the naughty things that went on.
So this was some of the crowd in the bar area of the short arm of the L shaped restaurant. At about 1 30 pm we moved into the sunny long arm, where many tables were finely laid out for the buffet lunch. Our various groups found tables, keeping mostly to our respective batches. At one table there was a slight hesitation as the Middle Timers wanted to be on the same table as some of the Old Timers, and the table could not take both groups. With the utmost ease, Bob Massingham broke into impeccable Hindi: "Saab aapaaramsébaidhiyé. Humariphikar mat kijiyé". (Sirs, please be seated comfortably. Don't worry about us"). It was a deft touch and for this Bob will be mentioned in dispatches (in the big battle between Good people and Bad people).
As we settled down with generous helpings of the several starters offered, the conversation flowed on each table. Happy memories were exchanged, names of people we knew came back, questions were asked about their whereabouts. No doubt the New Timers talked more about the present and the future and the Old and Middle timers lingered more on the past. Funny old nick names came back to us (Maddy, Tusky, Jugnu, Bhoosrie…), together with exploits, incidents, lessons learned. Punishments were a common topic for the Old and Middle Timers. The worst things had probably stopped by the time of the New Timers (post 1975). On the Middle Timers table we heard stories of canings by teachers (Kemp, Somdutt, Bhupinder Singh, Salim Khan) and other punishments by prefects ("knocks", slaps). All those who were caned were eager and proud to report their mischief. The prefects here present who meted out some of these punishments were less forthcoming: a nice reversal. On mischief, a juicy story came from RanaTalwar about how he and two other boys walked from Vindhya House dormitory (Havelock for Old Timers ) to the senior girls' dormitory in GD, via Short Back, a huge distance, in the middle of the night! There they were received by their three eager and waiting girlfriends (the prettiest, brightest girls of the class). Who then fed the boys coffee and biscuits through a hatch in the wired window and chatted with them for long hours into the night. And this went on several occasions, till the lucky boys were caught, caned and the affair hushed up. Rana recounted this delicious story in a calm and satisfied voice, and it was time for the main course. Your reporter found himself heaping his plate and wondering why he was never invited to coffee and biscuits, even in the day, never mind the night. Back at the table Rana had finished his first course and decided to skip the main course. Nothing could be more clear. If you can taste the illicit coffee and biscuits fed to you by your sweet 16 year old girlfriend, who needs a heavy second course?! And so such dramatic conversations continued. The whereabouts of old friends, especially old flames, was a favourite topic. Facebook searches were on our minds.
At dessert came delicious creamy Indian sweets and an occasion to change tables. And so we moved about a little and caught up with news from the other groups (mostly already mentioned above). Gladys was still angry with her teacher. Comrade Sir Henry, as he likes to be called, was talking in a fast clip and with a slight stammer about his upcoming trip to Sanawar. Isabelle Lawrence joined New Timers Bharat Bhandari, Priyam Patel and SamarjeetMahurkar,at a table on which there were no girls, to give them sisterly and glamorous company. Maureen was trying to convince Bob and Derek and others about something, possibly that girls from single sex boarding schools are not randy all their lives, as is commonly believed. Pam Turner was caught on camera eating double helpings of the dessert. Stella was caught on camera looking stellar.
And so there we were enjoying our ourselves with our old and new friends, lost in the Simla Hills, oblivious of time, when suddenly it was time to end, time to sing the school song. Up we stood. Anu led the way. Hesitant at first, by the second or third line we had all found the words and the tune. And by the end of the song you could say it was being sung, if not with gusto, at least with confidence. Pleased and relieved we turned to each other, but hark! More music! Three or four nightingale female voices were continuing with the last stanza of the school song, the one few learned by heart. We listened with admiration and pleasure. It was an elegant finale to our Sanawar afternoon. Reluctantly we gathered ourselves and left in ones and twos and threes, savouring the food, the friends, the hill–top memories and the high ideals of the song we had just sung. As we stepped into sunny London, we could smile and say, let the world come! I am ready. I have reserves, a hinterland.
OS Chapter Kathmandu Nepal
by Varun Rana(OS2001)
The OS chapter in Nepal was the brainchild of Mr. Prabodh Shahi (V-2002). With a growing OS fraternity in Nepal it was but logical to begin an OS chapter in Nepal. The oldest OS in Nepal General Gaurav SJB Rana (H-1972), Chief of Army Staff, Nepal and his wife hosted the event in their magnificent residence. The organizing committee had decided on this date so as to involve the present Sanawarians, it was done so that the momentum gained by this event could be carried on further by future Old Sanawarians.
On 11th July 2014, the OS ball began at the residence of the Chief of Army in Kathmandu. Attendance was more than expected, besides the obvious Nepal contingency, we were very excited to have Old Sanawarians from India grace the event with their presence. Primarily we were very thrilled to have Mr. Mohanbir Singh (N-1981), OS president and his wife attend. Along with him we had Ms. Simran Singh (V-1996), Capt. S.S. Brar (V-1984) and two members of the Everest team from Sanawar Mr. Fateh Brar (V-2014) and Mr. Prithvi Chahal (V- 2014).
We had 32 OS, 13 PS and 2 Parents. Registration took place whilst the guests enjoyed catching up with one other. Commemorative T-shirts were for sale, which managed to raise a total of NPR 42,000, that evening. The event was meticulously planned, thanks to the undeniable efficiency of the Army team that was involved in organizing it. After registration, Varun SJB Rana (H-2001), welcomed the guest to the first OS Ball in Nepal, Prabodh Shahi (V-2002) then updated the guests as to the purpose of the chapter. Gen. Gaurav Rana (H-1972) then followed welcoming our Indian guests and expressing his love for the institution and willingness to further develop the events organized by the chapter. He then welcomed Mr. Mohanbir Singh to say a few words, after which the OS Nepal chapter was declared open.
Least to say the night carried on with a flowing bar, absolutely delicious dinner, and the DJ throwing beats to the swings of the sanawarians feet. We were very happy with the outcome of this event and hope we can host many more such events to get the OS community together in the beautiful Himalayan Country of Nepal.
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