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CAMPION TALES OF OLD BOMBAY

CAMPION TALES OF OLD BOMBAY

by The Daily Eye News Desk June 30 2019, 11:31 pm Estimated Reading Time: 8 mins, 24 secs

Producer, Director and Actor Rajiv Kapoor, shared this precious piece written by his school mate John Mani, with me on Whatsapp last night and I publish it here in The Daily Eye, which continues to keep it’s promise of bringing rare stories that, otherwise miss the mainstream and popular gaze and therefore remain elusive to many of you who would love to read them - Vinata Nanda   

They say what Doon's School is to Politicians, Campion is to Industrialists (apologies to Cathedralites), although Campion too has had its fair share of the latter ie Shashi Tharoor, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Praful Patel to name a few.

Its alumni is a veritable compendium of Old Bombay and Future India.

Industrialists from Ratan Tata, Kumarmangalam Birla, the Mafatlals, Dalmias  Goenkas, Ruparels, Ruias, Hiranandanis, Khataus, Khorakiwalas, Somanis to professional doyens like Keki Mistry, Pramit Jhaveri (my classmate) and Ashish Bhasin have all passed through its hallowed halls.

Zubin Metha was there, so were Randhir, Rishi and Chimpu Kapoor, besides Dom Moraes, Firdaus Kanga, Viveck Vaswani, Jugal Hansraj, Mark Pinto de Menezes, Rajdeep Sardesai, Tarun Tahiliani, Atul Kasbekar and Kailash Surendranath, to name but a few.

MY CLASSMATES (AS LISTED BELOW) HAVE THEMSELVES DOTTED THE HISTORICAL MAP OF BOTH COLABA AND BOMBAY, AND IN MANY CASES, INDIA AND THE WORLD:

  1. Chimpu Rajiv Kapoor was my classmate from Std 1. Remember going for his Birthday Parties in the early seventies to RK Studios, which in those days seemed to be in the back of beyond. His birthday cake was in the shape of a Jumbo Jet, which had only recently taken to the skies. His mother Krishna Kapoor, was a regular visitor to school, and when 'Bobby' the film was released, Raj Kapoor arranged a special screening for Campionites at Regal.
  2. Simon Huang family owned Nanking, and many a time the guys would drop in for a free bite.
  3. Dadiba Pundole's father owned The venerable Pundole Art Gallery at Flora Fountain and his association with Maqbool Hussein is well documented. Dadiba, besides running Pundole's Art Gallery with his wife today, is also an expert consultant for Christie's. Dadiba introduced me to aquariums in Std 7 and we would go together to purchase Guppies.
  1. Devdas Lajmi's mother Lalita Lajmi taught us art. She was the sister of Actor Guru Dutt and a reputed artist in her own right. Her daughter was the late Kalpana Lajmi, the famous film maker.
  2. Farooq Issa family owns the famous Phillip's Antiques (Est in 1860) located opposite Regal Cinema at the beginning of Madam Cama Road. He runs it these days with his wife.
  3. The late Daniel Rocha's (Std 1-4) family still owns Rocha's at Electric House, famous for their pork cuts. As kids, we went for a picnic to his farm, I forget where. Later, he emigrated to Australia.
  4. Deepak Lalwani's family owned Rochirams that sold textiles. Two stores were on Colaba Causeway (one of which was besides Colaba Police Station), one in the Oberoi and one in Carnac Bunder. It was started by his father and named after his great grandfather.
  5. The late Himanshu Roy, ex Police Commissioner Crime, Mumbai and ex ATS Chief, Maharashtra, who tragically passed away last year, was my best friend, and literally next door neighbour at Sheila Mahal, above Kailash Parbhat. His father would often drop us to school in the morning and we would walk home together every evening. In Std 7, I went with him and his mother for a 1 month vacation to her village Bhalod in Gujarat. Himanshu and I were together from Std 2 to 10 in Campion and till SYJC in St. Xavier's College. Rajnish Seth, ex Police Commisioner, Law & Order and currently ACB Chief, was also in our Class.
  6. Ashok Kharbanda's family owned the Restaurant Rasraj near K.C. College.
  7. Peter Kerkar, whose father Ajit Kerkar was Chairman of the Taj Group of Hotels, and who is today Chairman of Cox and Kings Worldwide. He went on to marry Mark Tully's (ex Head of BBC India) daughter.
  8. Rocky Malhotra whose family owned Topaz Blades, and who today is the Chairman of Super Max Shaving Systems. Living in LA, he caused quite a stir when he purchased Elizabeth Taylor's Bel Air Mansion in 2011, and counts amongst his close friends his neighbour Quincy Jones and Paula Abdul.
  9. The late Sunil Parekh, who was tragically gunned down in the 26/11 attack at the Oberoi along with his wife Reshma. His family owns United Shippers and Toyota Shinrai and his father Sevantilal Parekh was the ex Chairman of Great Eastern Offshore and President of CCI.

I would regularly meet Sunil in Dubai where he owned an apartment in The Fairmont. The last time I met him was 3 months before his demise when we bumped into each other in Frankfurt Airport. I was on my way with my family to the States and Sunil was catching a connecting flight to Milan for a quick one hour meeting.

Since that fateful 26/11 day, Sunil's parents have left his room as is, untouched. On every Birthday of Sunil's to date, his parents graciously invite our entire class to celebrate it. We drink, eat, swear and regale them with school stories, as that is exactly the way Sunil was, jovial, naughty, boisterous, and his parents wouldn't have it any other way.

  1. Khozema Vahanwala earlier Vahanvaty. His great grandfather Mohammed Ali Tajbhai Vahanvaty was one of British India's original steel tycoons. And his wife's aunt was married to the Late Syedna's, Late Brother Husain Husammudin.
  2. Chetan Kamani from the erstwhile Kamani family, after whose grandfather Ramjibhai Kamani Marg in Ballard Estate is named. Kamani Chambers too is located here. A few years ago, at a dinner with Khozema and Chetan in Bangalore, they spotted an old black and white picture in Khozema's house, of their two grandfathers posing together, and realised they had been good friends and business associates for decades.
  3. Rohit Patel is the grandson of Actor Ashok Kumar. His sister is the accomplished actress Anuradha Patel and his elder brother, the famous fashion photographer Rahul Patel (also a Campionite).
  4. Pramit Jhaveri, descends from the Khatau clan on his mother's side. We shared the same desk in our final year at school. After a nine-year stint as the CEO of Citi in India, he has now been appointed as the vice-chairman of the Wall Street bank’s banking, capital markets and advisory business across Asia Pacific.
  5. Uday More His uncle was the Late Y.B. Chavan and in the seventies his father was the Police Commissioner of Bombay.
  6. The Late Yazd Goiporia was the son of M.N. Goiporia, who in our school days was first Chairman of UTI and later Chairman of State Bank of India.

This was just a small sample of classmates from one division in my year group whose families played a pivotal role in Old Bombay.

And then there were the teachers:

Besides Lalita Lajmi, we were taught Elocution by Pearl Padamsee, Alyque Padamsee's first wife.

She was grooming both myself and Viveck Vaswani for a future in Theatre. I dropped out much to her disappointment and pursued Advertising, while Viveck went on to Theater, TV Serials, Films, and to launching Shahrukh Khan in Raju ban gaya Gentleman.

Pearl was the driving force behind Campion staging spectacular plays like Hungama Bombay Style, Tom Sawyer and Don Quixote, most of whose sets were provided by R.K. Studios.

Then there was Sylvia Athaide, a famous pianist of yore, who taught us music. We kids used to affectionately call her 'Bulldog'. Old timers from Bombay will surely remember her.

And finally we had the Late Elsa Vaz nee Heredia, after whose family J.N. Heredia Marg is named. She taught me Catechism in Std. 4. She was related to both Fr. John Correa Alphonso, Principal of St. Xaviers College during my days there, and Father Rudi Heredia. She was also related to both Alan Durant of Mahindras and Kit Heredia of Ceat.

Coming from a typical middle class family, my entire school life in Campion as surreal to say the least.

While at home in Pasta Lane, Himanshu and I would run around barefeet playing gilli danda, cricket, football and chor police with all the gully boys, back at school we would be playing cricket with borrowed Duncan Fearnley bats, and often table tennis in Sunil Parekh's penthouse on Marine Drive with Stiga racquets.  

And yes, it wasn't unusual at all in the seventies for some of my classmates to hop over to the UK to watch the Wimbledon Finals or to take in a five day Test Match at Lords.

Occasionally, somebody would return with the latest issue of a Playboy Magazine, which in those days was a rarity in Bombay and worth its weight in gold. Trust it to have been promptly confiscated by a Master, and leafed through at leisure by him while he gave us some assignment to do in class.

 

The end result of all this was well, a well-rounded childhood and education.

In 2015, my classmates arrived from across the world to Mumbai for a 3-day Class Celebration. I met many of them for the very first time after 37 years.  

But it was as if time had stood still. Although many had gone on to achieve great success in life , you still only saw the guy you used to play with in the back garden of Campion. Stories were exchanged, paunches compared, and a bit of bald ragging was in order.

We visited Campion, sat behind our old desks, frolicked in the back garden, had an informal lunch at Uday More's house, paid homage to the Late Sunil Parekh at his house and had a formal dinner at Marine Plaza Hotel, with our last Principal Fr. Alban D'Mello in attendance along with few of our teachers who were still around. Old age had naturally taken its toll.

That's when I realised, Old Bombay is only growing older, with every passing year. 

Today, it is for Group's like this to keep its memory alive with recollections of a bygone era.



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