Now & Then at
So what is it like to come back after 17 years to the same job in the same rooms? You too remember those strangely shaped tables in Room 33: and the elegant chairs with armrests to write on. Much of the place is exactly the same. The Quad, the dining room, the Girls' Study Hall, raised to the status of "Quad Auditorium", the romp, the indestructibly ugly High School, with an elegantly refurbished Parker Hall. It is a long time since any students lived in the Quad, now home to the Middle School as well as the Elementary, and a Quad Library with daylight! Overhead projectors are a happy asset in classrooms. Video players on every teaching floor are a wonder. White boards do not help old hands like me, who learned to write with chalk. There are computers everywhere, especially the new and shining Media Centre. They threaten to make hand writing redundant sooner than we think. But they also help to justify the generator, which ensures a constant supply of electricity in school and residences, which brightens life. And ... the telephones work! It is EASY to telephone any building on campus - and to make fast, clear long-distance calls. That still strikes me like a conjuring trick, after nearly nine months.
The senior residences have taken a battering - or perhaps they just defy maintenance. All boarding meals below the Tehri Road are served centrally in Alter Ridge (the round building). No doubt the food is hotter, but Midlands and Hostel seem less lived-in because nobody eats (meals) there. Edgehill is now part of the junior boarding establishment and makes a pleasant place to live, with its unforgettable view of the Doon Valley from my verandah.
I knew I would find some of friends still here - but I did not expect so many. I caught Surat's final year in the High School Office. Anwar keeps a much more extensive A-V facility running. Who else but Diana Biswas could rule the music practice cells? Brij Lal still raises enthusiasm for cricket - and there are still Indian cooking classes for all. Attend a Wednesday concert in the new Music Rooms and find Doris Datta playing the tablas. Who else could "fill in" between Food Services Managers but Violet Sherring? (And the kitchen bearers must have been much younger than I thought.) Malcolm Shepherd celebrated [++Page 6] his 25th wedding anniversary last December. Bob & Ellen Alter arrived at Oakville in time to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary where they were married, in Parker Hall. Dick Wechter gave me my introduction to Indian food at Suncliffe years ago. He is still working on the environment - and he would still like to introduce me to hiking and peanut butter - and help me surf the Internet. The some dhobis still plod the hillside. Omi is still in business, complete with a microwave. Mr Abhinandan and Mr Prakash were protesting their antiquity in 1981, but are going strong. All that lends the place a great sense of continuity. It seems not at all out of place that Susan Downs should be presiding over the Middle School and Sharon Seto running social activities (and the staff relay race): but they do recall some very odd things at times.
The best thing about the "Woodstock Experience" was the open friendliness of the place. That has not changed. The student body is very different, almost 20 years on. Last time round, I reckoned I had found the Columbus trail. Set out for India and discover America. Many of the students still want to discover the Land of Promise, but far fewer of them have ethnic roots there - although there are still two or three to keep the Woodstock family tree in blossom, who are second or third generation in school. The school had 37 nationalities on the books in 1981 - and in 1999. But the intake is much more Asian. Indian students as always: but Nepalis and Bhutanese abound too. The largest single group is Korean, determined to make the sound of the Korean language familiar. All that ought to change the atmosphere of the place? Not so that you would notice, except for the rumour that I have mellowed somewhat in my old age. Music is still a great strength. The singing in Parker Hall can still rise to the old full-throated levels. Shakespeare may not have written "The Taming of the Shrew" for a cast with second language English, but it made a splendid major play all the some. The cut and thrust of classroom discussion is - dare I admit it? - as hair-raising as ever for somebody as ill-informed as I can be. And U. S. history is more of a mine field than ever. Last time round, most of the students were American and there was always somebody to keep me more or less right. Now, out of a class of 24, there are 3 or 4 Americans - and far too many who think I know what I am talking about.
I came for a semester and wondered how it would be. I resisted as a dangerous delusion the impression that I had never been away. But the students treated me as if they had known me for years. I felt very much at home again: just as you would do too.
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