Big B’s ‘Alma Mater’ completes 150 years of its existence
The prestigious residential school in the “lake city” Nainital where the great Amitabh Bachchan spent some years as a resident student turns 150 years old this month. The school is Sherwood College, founded in July, 1869. Bachchan has extremely fond memories of this school where he first discovered his acting talent.
Through the imposing corridors and classrooms of this school passed the likes of “Sam Bahadur” (SHFJ Manekshaw) and Major Somnath Sharma, recipient of the country’s first Param Vir Chakra. Actors Kabir Bedi and Dalip Tahil are Sherwoodians too.
The idea took shape as the Diocesan Boys School, Nainital, as Sherwood was once known. It was founded by Bishop Milman of Kolkata in June 1869 and after being moved to several places in and around Nainital, it was eventually shifted to its present site in 1897. It was in 1895 that the school was named Sherwood.
A Christian school, Sherwood has daily worship at the College Chapel which is viewed as the source of its unity and strength.Till about three decades ago, it was an all boys school.
The idea took shape as the Diocesan Boys School, Nainital, as Sherwood was once known. It was founded by Bishop Milman of Kolkata in June 1869 and after being moved to several places in and around Nainital, it was eventually shifted to its present site in 1897. It was in 1895 that the school was named Sherwood
A large number of old Sherwoodians are settled in USA and UK and come back for the annual reunions. Sherwoodians in their smart dark green and grey uniforms can be seen on The Mall road in Nainital during their outings to town.
The campus is an estate with wide open spaces, rolling lawns, huge orchards and a shooting –range (now, the Golf Links). Sherwood was born in July, 1869. It grew out of a need for a good school in a salubrious climate for the education of European boys of modest means.
The early years of the school were marked by ill luck. Disaster struck the school in the winter of 1895 and for a long spell ill-luck dogged the school. In 1873, the Sherwood estate with house and magnificent grounds had been purchased by the committee for the boys school.
In 1895, the school received notice to quit ‘Sherwood’ in order that a new Government House might be built. . As a temporary measure, accommodation was provided at ‘Barnsdale’ in the vicinity of the present-day Secretariat. In the early hours of Easter morning in 1896, the boys were rudely awakened and told to evacuate the building which was on fire. Although there was no loss of life, the building itself, largely made of wood, was reduced to ashes.
But that was not the end of trouble for the school. It was decided to move the school to the ‘health resort’ of Khurpatal.
Here cholera and enteric swept through the school, claiming among their victims the then Principal, the reverend E Munro who died of enteric in Ramsay Hospital.
Eventually, some land on a spur of Ayarpatta was acquired in 1897 and at last, the school found a permanent foothold.By the turn of the century, the school was making itself felt in the field of sports. It was not long before a fearsome reputation in sports was built up – a reputation zealously maintained to the present day.
In 1922 electricity came to Sherwood. It was in 1937 that the name of the school was changed from the Diocesan Boys’ School to Sherwood College.
Sherwood’s influence on Amitabh Bachchan’s life was tremendous. He wrote once, “The school that influenced me most was Sherwood College in Nainital. If I had to talk about Sherwood I would write book on it! Those three years were by far the happiest times of my life. Or maybe one feels like now. What I am now is largely because of Sherwood.
It taught me to be independent, fearless, loyal and truthful. It taught me values and these, I think, have stayed with me through life.
The spirit to face life in whatever circumstances came, I think, from the boarding discipline at Sherwood.
In fact, it’s things we picked up at boarding school that I am using even today… And little things contributed to this. A lot of personality traits, I think, were formed in those impressionable days. Boarding – school taught me self-sufficiency, independence and how to fend for myself. Even the more refined details like how to dress, how to conduct oneself, how to treat a lady were all a part and parcel of public school grooming.”
When Bachchan fell ill in 2005 and 2008, special prayer services were held at Sherwood for his recovery. Students and staff participated in the prayers.
Not only does Bachchan love the school greatly, the school loves him as much too. In a speech he delivered at Sherwood College as the chief guest in 1969, Manekshaw admitted that Sherwood had played a great role in shaping his personality. “Sherwood has taken me to my present position. First and foremost, I learned to live alone and independently.
I learned to fight – from the time I got up in the morning till the time I went to bed,” he told the students at the function in his typically humourous manner. “I fought, and it stood me in good stead during the war in Burma, where we came up against the Japanese.
I learnt in school to hate my enemies. How? Thanks to Saint Joseph’s next door and when we played them on the Flats.”
Monday, 08 July 2019 | Jaskiran Chopra | Dehradun