the-south-asian Life & Times          October -December 2009



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A life inspired by the Doon School

By Nalni D. Jayal

I joined the Doon School in the Spring term of 1936 at the age of nine and remained for over nine formative years until mid-1945 in the cloistered and privileged environment of Chand Bagh. I was placed in Tata House, and as I grew to begin to understand the world around me, I realised the inspirational influence of my Housemaster, R L Holdsworth (Holdie), and the towering awesome personality of the first headmaster, Arthur Foot. They were my first friends, philosophers and guides who, I can affirm in retrospect unhesitatingly, set the course of my future life in terms of basic values, hard creative work, love for music, respect for Nature, spirit of adventure, virtues of austerity and simple living, but above all service to the lesser privileged of our world.

I was too young in my early years in school to grasp the full significance of the classic words of Arthur Foot at his first Founder’s Day address in October 1935 when he said, "Truly, we mean that the boys should leave the Doon Schools as members of an aristocracy, but it must be an aristocracy of service inspired by ideals of unselfishness, not by one of privilege, wealth or position". These words gradually surfaced in my senior years as I grew to grasp and appreciate Arthur Foot’s deeply felt liberal values, especially in the Indian context, far ahead of the times.

Foot, assisted by others, laid the foundations, in Doon School, of the ethos of a social service system "to instil in the boys the desire to serve the community" – something that still prevails. I can recall enthusiastically digging to make terraces for the Open Air theatre, planting and picking potatoes near Jaipur House to increase food production during war-time shortages, visiting the Military Hospital to write letters on behalf of the war-wounded soldiers, and many such activities which reached out beyond one’s own narrow concerns to others for the larger good of the community.

Read the complete article in the print issue of SALT



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