MUKUT NARAIN TANKHA
Though Mr Cowell had promised to join PPS, the credit for officially reporting first on duty goes to Mr. Mukut Narain Tankha who had started his career as a Geography teacher at Modern School, New Delhi. Though the exact dates are unknown, both Mr Cowell and Mr Tankha joined PPS in the month of March, 1960. It was the trio or triumvirate of Mr Kate, Mr Cowell and Mr Tankha that prepared the blueprint for functioning of the school.
Mr Cowell, being an academician, planned the curriculum and timetable. Mr Tankha, on the other hand was a versatile genius. A passionate and lively geography teacher, a trained mountaineer, a good artist, photographer, and an excellent all-round sportsman ( Allahabad University basketball and Athlete) , athletics coach who could play the harmonium and sing, he played a vital role in the early years. He would mark the fields meticulously and later on organize the athletic meets almost single-handedly. His six feet four-inch frame and good looks endeared him to the students and everybody in the school looked up to him, quite literally.
A Collector’s item. This photograph is of April, 1960. It shows the few boys who had got admission then with board members at the back Col Naunihal Singh Mann, Chowdhary Raghuvender Singh, Gen Kalwant Singh and Brig. Kirpal Singh’s face in between, Mr. Kate , Mrs Kalwant Singh. On the left at back can be seen indomitable figure of Mr. MN Tankha. Mrs Kate’s forehead can be seen in front of Mr. Kate.
The Pillars of School, Staff in 1963: Mr. M N Tankha sitting second from right, Mr JK Kate , the headmaster in center and Mr. SC Cowell on right of Mr. Cowell formed the triumvirate who started the school from scratch beginning in March, 1960.
FROM THE SCHOOL CHRONICLE
(Below are some excerpts from the chronicle which throw light on the multifarious roles played by Mr. Tankha in The Punjab Public School, Nabha.)
4th September, Sunday, 1960
The first Music Circle meeting took place. Mr. Joginder Singh (English) was master of ceremonies. Mr. S.R. Chatterjee music teacher played the ‘Alap’, Zhor and Thala in the rag ‘Desh’
Songs were sung in English, Hindi and Punjabi by boys and staff. Pahari song by Jagjit Soharu (B-30). Ghulam Rasool(J-42) sang a Kashmiri song. Kamaljit Chauhan (R-11) sang a Hindi song liked by everyone. Indira Surjit Singh (S-33) first girl in school, sang a Punjabi song. Perhaps the most popular item of the evening was Mr. Tankha’s song ‘Thumbelina’. Much of the facial expression was lost to audience by fading light.
26th September, 1960
We were all happy to see General Kalwant Singh when he paid us a surprise visit. After surveying the over-all conditions under which the School was operating, he went around the classrooms while teaching was in progress and later lunched with the boys, talking to several of them during his visit, the General gave evidence of a truly phenomenal memory for names and faces and family details. Prior to his departure there was a delightfully, informal tea with the Staff, followed by taking some equally informal (and, we hope, delightful) photographs by Mr. Tankha. We welcome this opportunity of thanking the General for his very real and continued interest in us and of expressing the hope that we shall be seeing him again.
Saturday, 22nd Oct
Twenty Boys under Mr Tankha and Mr Kumar went to witness the Quadrangular athletic Meet at YPS, Patiala. The teams were from BCS, Shimla, The Lawrence School Sanawar, Doon school and YPS. (At that time our school was not part of the IPSC).
Sunday, October 23rd
Mr N Tankha came up with the idea of initiating a “Brains Trust” to widen the knowledge base of the students. In the first ever meeting of Brains Trust held , the panel consisted of Mr Tankha, Dr Ishwar Swarup (the school doctor), Dr Surjit Singh, Mr Joginder Singh, Mr G S Punia and Mr S C Vishnoi. The Headmaster, Mr J K Kate chaired the meeting.
Mr MN Tankha also took the lead to start a Geographical Society and Mr YP Bhardwaj, never one to be left behind, launched the History Society.
Mr Tankha was married in Lucknow to Asha Tikku. We extend our hearty congratulation and warmest good wishes for a long and happy married life.
Inaugural meeting of the Geographical Society was organized by Mr Tankha. Mrs Finlay presided.
A garden party was held in the grounds of Guest House in honour of newlywed Mr. and Mrs Tankha. The whole school, Lt Gen Kalwant Singh and Brigadier Rajinder Singh were present. The Armoured Corps band was in attendance. The music added to the enjoyment. The couple was given a wedding present.
26th January, 1961
Republic Day was observed in front of the school with flag hoisting by Bhupinder (B-20). Probably the first of the School (as it had started in April the year before).
First of the new boys arrived. Others followed on 28th and 30th. News came that Mrs Grant would not be returning. Miss Rowe moved to Guest House and Mrs MacMillan returned to the Secretariat (now Kairon Block) to resume her duties as nursing sister. Mrs. Tankha took charge of Senior boys ‘clothing’.
First summer trek from PPS
Mr. Tankha, Mr. Bhatnagar and Mr. Sarabjit set out to visit Rohtang Pass with a group of sixteen students during the summer vacation of 1961. The party also included two more students from the Lawrence School, Sanawar. The school’s first trip to Rohtang Pass turned out to be a truly memorable one since the group had the privilege to meet Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India at Manali. Always a favourite with children, Chacha Nehru had the students eating out of his hands in no time. He evinced a keen interest in PPS Nabha and Mr. Tankha presented him a prospectus of the School. A memorable photograph was taken that was later signed by the great man himself during his Nabha visit in the following year. It was a prize possession of Rajkumar Hukku (R-43) of Ravi House.
17th April, 1962
Class IX left with Mr Tankha and Mr Bhandari for Dehra Dun. Each party had two or more helpers, liberal supply of skimmed milk powder, gifted from HMF and Horlicks. Our gratitude to Mr. Copas of Horlicks.
9th September, 1962
Mr.MN Tankha also became the first teacher from PPS to go to England on a bursary awarded by British Council to study special methods of teaching Geography. Mr Tankha was bid good-bye on behalf of School and Mr. Mathu the new teacher for Geography joined in his place.
Mr MN Tankha who used audiovisual techniques in those days put up an interesting presentation and slideshow on his trip to the Kolahai Glacier that he had undertaken during the summer vacations with Mr. YP Bhardwaj, Mr. OP Bhatnagar and seventeen boys from the school. Ever a passionate adventurer, he would organize these trips at regular intervals and more often than not, Mr. OP Bhatnagar would be his companion of choice. Mr. Bhatnagar would carry along his canvas and painting kit and would invariably return with some breathtaking landscapes and portraits.
Mr. Tankha wrote from England and made a special mention of his Eton visit organized by the British Council. He was deeply impressed with its unique House system where the Houses were named after housemasters and the names of the houses changed whenever a new housemaster took over.
18th August, 1963
By the time Mr. MN Tankha came back from England, Mr. YP Johri had already set sail after being awarded with a Commonwealth Bursary for further studies in England. He joined the prestigious Hull University for studying newer methods in the teaching of Mathematics. Mr. Tankha has returned with new ideas and his experience with Eton is given in this issue. We welcome him back.
Mr. Tankha gave a talk and showed slides of his tour of Britain and Europe.
January , 1964
Mrs. Tankha has taken charge of the Mess in Senior School. Can look forward to delicious meals.
In 1964 , at the foundation laying ceremony of the Swimming Pool. Mr. Tankha with his son Monty and Mr. Tandon next to him consuming laddoos at the happy occasion.
9th November, 1965
Geography Society met. Ranjit Pal was elected President and Jagdeep was Secretary. Some students read papers on Cotton, Iceland and Japan. Mr. Edwards spoke on the Great lakes. Mr. Bhatnagar on glaciers illustrated with film strips. Mr. Tankha showed slides from his visit to Switzerland. On a subsequent meeting on 18th films on ‘The English Village’ and ‘Day and Night’ were screened.
In 1966 second term
Mr. Tankha will be the games master in place of Mr. Bhardwaj who left last term.
26th April to 1st May, 1968
Terminal examinations. Class XI exams held earlier to enable some to attend NDA interviews.
Mr. Tankha won an East-West scholarship for one year study at University of Hawaii, USA. He will leave in August.
In August ,1968
Mr. M.N.Tankha proceeded on a year’s leave to study at the East-West Centre, University of Hawaii, U.S.A. He was awarded a scholarship by the U.S. Education Foundation and it was his second trip abroad, the previous one being in 1962.
Mr. Tankha has extended his stay in US till next January so that he can complete his M.Ed. He will be doing part of the course in Washington, DC. He also spent some few days with Mr. David Goldberg an ex-Peace corps teacher who had taught in the PPS.
As soon as Mr. Tankha returned from U.S.A after completing his M.Ed. degree from the East West Centre, he resumed his duties as the Housemaster of Ravi House.
Wednesday Forum end of January,1970
Mr. Tankha gave a talk with beautiful slides on his memorable trip to Hawaii.
DEAS was introduced in school in 1970. Adventure activities had always been a regular part of the school calendar ever since the School began. Mr. Tankha had set the ball rolling with his back-to-back trips to the mountains during the first two years. The annual tours and excursions generally constituted treks and not luxury tours.
June during vacations
Mr. M.N.Tankha also decided to accept the post of Vice-Principal at the Birla Public School Pilani. It was a sad day for everyone since Mr. Tankha was one of the first teachers to join PPS.
Close on the heels of Mr. Tankha, Mr. O. P. Bhatnagar also left for Mayo College Ajmer. Mr. Bhatnagar, the former housemaster of Jumna.
He shared the passion for hiking and outdoors with Tankha and both of them had gone for many adventures together, and it was rather ironical that both of them would leave around same time.
Mr. OP Bhatnagar (Hindi) and Mr. M.N. Tankha (Geography). Exact location is lawn of Kothi Rest house below the Rohtang pass. On the left is Patalsu Peak. The snow-covered mountain is the Dushair Lake area and is the left flank of Rohtang pass. Which not visible and is on the right. The forest on the right is called Gulaba. Comment by Tilak Raj Arora (J-152, 1973 and ex-Teacher ,The PPS, Mountaineering)
OP Bhatnagar (comment): the boy in the background is Ravinder Sra (R-5), nickname is बूढी. He got that nickname after he acted as an old lady in the first Ravi House Show in the end of May 1960. Ravi House was the first house in PPS. I gave the second one, the Sutlej House show. I don’t know where is this nice boy now. I remember so many things of PPS of 70s. I cherish those memories . I have forgotten most of the happenings of other schools where I worked.
Eleven Years Later
26 Jan ,1981 (Feb 1981 issue of Chronicle , P-2)
Mr. M.N.Tankha, (Ex Staff member) Principal, Assam Rifles School, Shillong was the special guest on the Republic Day in 1981. In his address, he recalled his memorable days in the School during 1960s. He was presented with Guard of Honour and N.C.C. March Past.)
Below is retyped version of above article:
Mr. Tankha was one of those staff members who joined us when the school was about to start in April 1960, Before coming here he had worked in the Modern School for short time.
In a new institution, everybody is expected to put in hard work and I must say that Mr. Tankha did not lag behind. He cooperated fully in discharging various duties assigned to him. If I remember correctly, we were only six staff members when the school opened on the 14th of April 1960. Dr. Surjit Singh was appointed Senior Master, but could not join because of the serious accident with which he and his family had met. Because of the limited ‘financial resources’ the Bursar’s post was not filled till as late as February, 1961. Therefore, all of us had to work very hard and share responsibilities which ordinarily are shouldered by the Senior Master and Bursar. Mr Tankha was one of those persons who carried out whatever duties were assigned to him.
Being young, cheerful and sweet-tempered , he was liked both by the boys and staff. He took a lot of interest in developing the Geography Department. In fact in the early days of the school our Geography Department was our only show-piece as the staff for other departments like Chemistry, Physics, Biology had not been appointed then. It was not only that he equipped the Geography Room well, but every year on the Founders’ Day he put up good exhibitions of Geography charts, maps, models, etc. also.
After Mr. Joginder Singh (English) left us to join Dagshai Public School as its Principal, Mr. Tankha was made in charge of games. Our Inter House Athletics Meet which bas become an important event in the life of the school owes a great deal to the organising ability of Mr. Tankha.
As he had completed the mountaineering course at Darjeeling in 1961, he took initiative in organising our first trekking party of boys who were hardly 13 years old to Rohtang Pass. This, trek which was also filmed by him, was a grand success and Mr, Nehru who was holidaying in Kulu in those days was pleased to meet our young boys trekking in that valley.
During his stay in the school he went abroad twice, first to U.K. on Commonwealth Bursary in 1962 and then to Hawaii Islands on East–West Centre Scholarship in 1968.
Mr. Tankha has an aesthetic sense and this could be seen in his classroom, in his House, in fact in all departments which he looked after, in the school. He always thought of some new ideas but as they meant a lot of financial burden on the school, I had to curb his enthusiasm, but he always took it nicely.
Ten years is not much time jn the life of an institution but for an individual who works for the first ten years of a new institution, this period is quite eventful.
We wish Mr. and Mrs. Tankha and their two sweet children a happy and prosperous life at Pilani.
J.K. Kate (Headmaster)
He was junior in protocol to Dr Surjit Singh, First Senior Master (now designation changed to deputy HM) , Mr. GS Punia the Bursar. Mr. SC Cowell, in charge of discipline and English teacher, Mr. Michael Vodden, Head of English (from British Council) and Ms GB Malkani Head of Junior Wing (school). Mr Tankha would often be asked to accompany Mr JK Kate in escorting VIP guests. In this picture he is just behind Defence Minister YB Chavan (1964 Founders’ Day) when he visited the School. the others are seen standing as per protocol to be introduced to the guest.
A personal discussion on the side between Mr. JK Kate and the Tall Mr. Tankha during a tea break at the ‘Inauguration of the School’ , in 1961. Staff members Mr. Tandon (music) and Mr. MS Bhatnagar ( Biology) seen in the background on the left.The year 1962-3 Founders Day: due to rain the ceremony was shifted into the assembly Hall (now Library). One can see Mr Tankha busy with material behind the chief guest. The back up man. Others in the picture are Ms J Lamba , Ms Malkani, GS Punia, Mr OP Bhatnagar with specs next to Mr Tankha. In front are Mr. JK Kate, Brig Kirpal Singh partly seen, Chief Guest and Col Naunihal Singh.
The Tall personality
“Where is the name,” I asked the Master who was showing me round Eton College. “which got the boy, who carved it, expelled ?” The story which I had heard from Mr. Kate. was repeated all over again.
The Lower School, the oldest and once the only schoolroom, is still in regular use, retaining the same appearance as one would have seen about five centuries ago. It was meant for seventy students who sat in three groups, facing in different directions and receiving instruction simultaneously from three different masters. How was it done ? The answer was probably best known to those who taught or studied .
Although carving names on desks or panels is subject to severe punishment, boys not only did it in the past, but still do it and will probably continue to do it in the future, But the most interesting part of the tradition is when the boy leaves the school the school authorities try to preserve his carving. Visitors are shown—. may I say— with pride the names of some of the old boys who broke the rule and later became famous persons.
The boys of the past had to lead comparatively much harder lives, as I was told, than the school boys of today. All boys slept in long chambers, three in each of the huge wooden beds. They were awakened at five in the morning by one of the prefects, then known as “Praeposters”. shouting : “Surgite”— a Latin word meaning “Rise Up.” While dressing those boys chanted prayers and then made their beds and swept up the dust. The cleaning of the floor was supervised by a senior boy who sat on a blanket and was pulled to and fro by junior boys. This cleaning water , even in winter, was provided. Anyhow. at six o’clock they all had to be present in the schoolroom, the one which I mentioned above, until nine o’clock, when there was an interval for breakfast. At ten there was assembly, followed at eleven by dinner[the mid-day meal is often called dinner in England] in the Hall. Strict discipline was maintained, and the boys had to walk there two by two. This reminds me of our boys marching into the dining hall under the strict vigilance of Mr. Cowell.
However, at midday lessons were resumed and lasted without any break until three in the afternoon when the boys were allowed to go and play. Games were played under the supervision of Praeposters only for one hour as again they had to go for more lessons from four to six. After supper the boys did their so-called private study supervised by prefects from six to eight. It was only after eight that they were allowed to go to bed. Actually, the normal daily routine involved some nine hours’ work and, as I was given to understand, Latin was the only subject studied while other subjects were practically ignored. It was only after 1864 that subjects like Modern Languages, Maths and Science were introduced.
Furthermore, the school year was divided into two ‘halves ‘and not into three `halves’, as it is now. There were three weeks’ holidays between the two `halves’ when parents are allowed to take their sons home. You may be wondering why I have used the word ‘half’ in inverted commas: in fact, the word `half’ was used for a `term’ and even now is always used in Eton as a part of their traditions.
Speaking of traditions, Eton boys still continue to wear, in spite of many changes, the same old tail coat and narrow trousers with a bow tie. The ordinary boy wears a plain outfit with a turned-down collar and a mere strip of a white tie tucked inside. “Stick-ups”, an orthodox bow tie on a butterfly collar is allowed only for important games. Boys below the height of 5′ 4″ are considered too short for the tail coat and, therefore, wear cut-away jackets with a stiff “Eton Collar” and a black tie.
For games and other informal occasions the boys wear what they call `change”- grey flannels or shorts, a tweed coat and a cap when not actually engaged in sports. For each game there is a differently coloured cap.
Another distinctive feature of Eton is the Black Gown which is worn only by collegers [boys who get a scholarship] in chapel, in school and on other formal occasions. With this one can straightaway tell who is a colleger and who is an oppidan [a name for boys who pay their own fees]. But the belief is that this black gown is worn in remembrance of the days when collegers were provided free clothing by the college, under the Founders’ statutes
The “Pops” members of the Eton Society, who act as arbiters of good behaviour of other boys in public places, wear a slightly different uniform as a privilege. They wear, with the braided tail coat, brightly coloured waistcoats, check trousers, white bow tie and butterfly collar. As far as the story goes, the word “Pop” originated from the Latin word “popina”, meaning tuck-shop, where the founder members used to hold their society meetings.
There are at present as many as twenty-five houses with a strength of about fifty boys in each ranging in age from about thirteen to about eighteen. Each boy has a room to himself which is known as “study”. It is actually a bedsitter, with a folding bed, a writing table and chair, an easy chair, a shelf for keeping books and a wardrobe for clothes. During the day when the bed is not used, to make more room, it is folded up against the wall. The House Master is in sole charge of the House, and he has complete freedom in choosing the boys he will accept in his House. The Houses are named after their respective House Master after the new House Mister. In the olden days the House Masters were called “Domincis” and the Matrons “Dames.”
There is no school prefect system, except that the Head Master appoints two school captains (one from the collegers and the other from the oppidans) whose duties are administrative rather than disciplinary. Actually, the House plays a more important role than the school in maintaining discipline. It is the captain of the House, assisted by some five senior boys, who form a team known as ‘Library” and keep a watch on the behaviour of all members of the House, not only in but beyond the House premises. Whenever any member of the “library” experiences some difficulty in maintaining discipline he approaches the House Master for guidance,
Although there are many games played Eton specializes only in three – Football, Cricket and Rowing. Typical of the school are the Field Game and Wall Game which are known as the “native” games of Eton, that is they are played nowhere in the world except at Eton. The origin of these games is probably connected with the weather conditions in England during the months they are played. In winter and early spring, when the ground is not fit for any other game, these games are the best substitutes.
Field Game is something of a mixture of Association and Rugby football, with Hockey goal posts. The ball is round in shape and may not be touched by hand. A goal may be shot as in Association football and counts three points, but another form of scoring called a “Range” is roughly the equivalent of a try at Rugby football counting two points. After the “Range” is scored an attempt is made to convert it into a goal by forcing the ball between the posts in a scrimmage. It is a sight to see this tussle to score, and it is known as the ‘Ram’
Wall Game is more or less the Field Game played up against a wall. Although, I could not see the game, the ball moves up along the wall, a number of muddy scrimmages are caused and sometimes the ball is not even visible throughout the movement to all the players, but they keep going with the tussle. It is usually played on some special occasions between the collegers and the oppidans
During the Autumn and Spring terms (commonly known as Michaelmas and Lent “Halves”) a boy is free to play any game he chooses. But in the Summer ‘Half” a boy must choose between “Drybob” and “Wetbob”. A “Drybob” is a boy who plays mainly cricket whilst the “Wetbob” is a boy who directs his energies towards rowing.
Besides games, there are many hobbies which the boys pursue during their spare time, and these are organised by respective societies. There are as many as fifty such societies which maintain the interests of the boys in extra-curricular activities. What impressed me most was the fact that these societies are run almost entirely by the students themselves. Masters act only as advisers. A recent addition to these societies is the Film Society which produces movie films on a variety of subjects, both humorous and academic.
Perhaps it may interest the “Master on Duty” that there is no organised “prep.” Boys do their “prep” in the time suitable to themselves that is to say, a boy has to adjust his time so as to be able to fit in all his out-of-school work.
Although, it sounds as if masters are unconcerned with the boys’ work, the amount of individual help they give is much more effective than any organised preparation. The Tutorial system probably is the substitute. Every boy has a classical tutor up to his –`0″ Level exams equivalent to our High School, and thereafter he has as tutor a master who teaches the subject in which the boy is specialising for his “A” or “S” Level exams (equivalent to our Intermediate exams). In this system they feel every boy gets an opportunity for (article ended in the chronicle -incomplete sentence).
M.N. Tankha (on his study visit to UK )
Mr. M N Tankha , a senior staff member of the legendary staff of the 1963. He is seated third from right.
When Mr. Tankha was leaving School in 1970 , he wrote about his more than ten years experience in ‘The Punjab Public School’, Nabha. In this he laid stress on how much he valued his stay at the School and the lessons he learnt while serving here. (Nov 1970 chronicle issue, P-4&5)
I don’t think I could ever forget the day before the Ides of March in the year 1960. It was the day when I landed in Nabha to take up appointment as Geography Master. I also remember this day for another thing. When I stepped out of the train at Nabha railway station I thought I had thirteen small packages with me but when I reached the Guest House—the place where I was temporarily lodged—I found that one package was missing. The railway porter had apparently forgotten to take it off the train. I always look at the bright side of things. Although the loss was not negligible I consoled myself with the thought that now I had twelve pieces of luggage instead of the original thirteen—for most this number is unlucky !
I soon settled down at the PPS and started my work without giving a second thought to the missing piece of luggage. I don’t really remember now what it really contained. Ten years ago, the PPS was a small family and like a family that struggles to achieve success we put our whole heart and soul into the school work. Besides teaching and looking after the boarding houses teachers were called upon to do a number of odd jobs. We were all young and full of enthusiasm and were always ready to do whatever was assigned to us. It was a pleasure to work in so many different capacities at the same time. Each one of us was thought to be a jack of all trades. I remember having worked at one time or the other as bursar, office superintendent, purchase officer, stationery in charge, and librarian, besides teaching geography, handling the 16 mm film projector, acting as advisor to the photography club, looking after games, taking boys on a mountain hike (I was the only trained mountaineer at that time in the school) and, last but not the least, playing the harmonium in the morning assembly.
All this work has certainly paid me dividends. It was then that I learned the value of work and it was at the PPS that I received training to be a real Public-School teacher. (This experience came in handy when he became Founder Headmaster of Assam Rifles Public, School, Shillong.)
I also remember the initial difficulties that the PPS staff and students had to face. Although we had a palatial building to house the school in we hadn’t made allowances for the weather. Rain Lis considered to be a good omen—people believe that this is the way Gods show their pleasure (Remember Campbell Johnson’s account of the first Independence Day Celebrations in New Delhi ?)—but for us in 1960 rain really played havoc. The senior school campus was inundated and we had to shift—lock, stock and barrel—to the Guest House. For a week we were in Guest House and the whole week we could hear people offering their unsolicited advice “Nabha is not the right place to start a boarding school in; Chandigarh would be the ideal place.” Some openly talked of the danger of the new secretariat sinking. But we said, “nothing doing”—there was no question of turning back.
When Sardar Partap Singh Kairon, the then Chief Minister of Panjab, decided to give up the chief ministership under the Kamaraj Plan, people thought that the PPS would not survive long for it was Sardar Sahib who had persuaded the Panjab Government to start this school in Nabha, he had all along been the source of inspiration to us all. It is a strange fact but it really happened that neither inclement weather nor change in the Panjab Government could prove detrimental to the growth of the school. Our motto, ‘Onward and upward’ was something that the school translated into reality. We have since then moved onwards and upwards.
The Kairon Block or the new Secretariat of Nabha State was inundated with water due to incessant rain in 1960, within few months of the school having started. It finds mention in his article as a huge hurdle which the school overcame with distinction in its year of inception.
My long association with Ravi House is one more thing I want to talk about. Ravi House occupies a soft corner in my heart. Besides so many things that I miss today I would mention boys of Ravi House. I can’t forget those moments when we used to prepare for the various inter-house competitions, especially for the House Evening.Mr. Tankha with his Inter-House winning , Ravi House football team. Ravi won the Cock house that year in 1960s
Before I started writing this article I had a mind to talk of all the fond memories I have of PPS, Nabha, but I don’t think I could claim all the space in the ‘Chronicle’. I would, therefore, say ‘Aloha’ right here. I think I’ll write again someday. (for those who may not be aware , Mr. Tankha had trained in Hawaii and in Hawaiian Aloha means love, affection, peace, compassion and mercy)
Mr. M.N. Tankha (written at the time of saying goodbye! to The PPS)
Being an IPSC member for 18 years, I have seen nearly all the Public Schools of 60’s, 70’s. I am proud to say that Mr. Tankha had created the best Geography Department I have ever seen. He made “World on a pitcher”, relief maps and charts. Models and several types of globes made the room very impressive. Mr. Tankha was a fine example of versatility. Player, athletics coach, singer, dancer, artist, mountaineer and what not! Annual Athletics used to be a grand show. His planning and recoding were meticulous. He was the first to join the PPS, after Mr. Kate.
Treks and Tours
(a) Mr. Tankha was a trained mountaineer. He organised a trekking expedition to Rohtang Pass, about 14,000 feet in Kulu Valley. He wanted a teacher to accompany him. Mr. Kate’s choice fell on me. It was in 1961 summer. MNT made detailed preparations. For me, it was a great opportunity. My main hobby has been painting. I was thrilled with the prospects of being in the mighty Himalayas and do sketching and landscaping in the picturesque surroundings. The whole expedition was hilarious. In Manali, on our way back, we met Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru. He talked to students with great interest. Cameras were clicked.
(b) Again in 1962, Mr. Tankha planned an expedition to Kolahari Glacier in Kashmir. I was with him during all the stages of planning including the study of maps. We started our trek from Pahalgam. On one occasion, we stayed in a houseboat for 5 days in Dal Lake in Srinagar. We visited the three Mughal Gardens, Winter Lake, Manasbal Lake and Gulmarg. I painted landscapes in water colours. Mr. Y.P. Bharadwaj was also with us.
(c) In late 1962, Mr. Tankha went to England. Till then Mr. Tankha had trained me. I organised a trek to Pindari Glacier in Kumaon Hills.
OP Bhatnagar (Ex- Teacher, Hindi and Arts , he often accompanied Mr. Tankha on trekking excursions)
One of the biggest contributions of Mr. Tankha was on sports field. The way he created and celebrated the Annual Athletics Day in a grandiose manner is still being followed in School. Some pictures from the grounds:Tea after sports with Mr GS Punia the Bursar and Mr. JK Kate the headmaster.The grand conduct of the Athletics in 1960s. Watching are staff as judges. Mr KC Tandon (music), Mr PN Mathu and other helper staff.. Judges at the finish line. each tracking time of different positions in the race and jotting down the results.Atheletics Day, Mr. Kate and Mr. Takha supervising Prize distribution . Gen. PN Thapar is the chief Guest. As Western Army Commander, in 1960 he signed the approval of the School Model Mr Tankha as Photographer on the visit of Defence Minister YB Chavan. Using 16 mm movie camera which could not be traced many years later nor the important historical films shot of that era.
The popular saying goes there is a woman behind every great/successful man. This is true of Mr Tankha and the woman behind him, his wife, Mrs. Asha Tankha.
As per the Chronicle:
On 27th November; Mr Tankha was married in Lucknow to Asha Tikku. We extend our hearty congratulation and warmest good wishes for a long and happy married life. (Which incidentally they did have in a large measure, the wishes came true!)
And on 10thDecember back in School; A garden party was held in the grounds of Guest House (now Junior School) in honour of newlywed Mr. and Mrs Tankha. The whole school, Lt Gen Kalwant Singh and Brigadier Rajinder Singh were present. The Armoured Corps band was in attendance. The music added to the enjoyment. The couple was given a wedding present. It was a part befitting the wonderful couple. (Mr. Tankha was probably the first teacher in school who got married and thus, the grand celebration for a much loved colleague).
Mrs. Tankha was a great lady. Her tall height, beautiful looks, dignified poise and demeanour gave her a stately appearance. Her conduct and the way she carried herself soon made her popular with the staff and the young impressionable students. In the beginning years school was often understaffed. Mrs. Tankha not only helped Mr Tankha in all his jobs but also took on duties in the school when need arose. Foe example; In beginning of 1961, News came Mrs Grant would not be returning. Miss Rowe moved to Guest House and Mrs McMullen returned to the Secretariat (now Kairon Block) to resume her duties as nursing sister. Mrs. Tankha took charge of Senior boys ‘clothing’.
Again in January 1964, in absence of a mess in charge the chronicle mentions; “Mrs. Tankha has taken charge of the mess in Senior School. All can look forward to delicious meals”.
She took keen interest and helped Mr. Tankha in the affairs of the Ravi House of which he was the Housemaster. She would check the washed hair of Sikh boys, read the house boys’ mails from home, prepared and helped in staging of Ravi House shows. She was adapt at making up Sikh boys as girls for the plays as there were no girls in school at that time. She was also socially active in the staff keeping the good spirit of Staff Family flowing.Mr. JK Kate introducing Mrs Tankha, to the President Dr Rajendra Parsad along with Mrs McMullen the popular Nursing Sister and Ms Rowe an Anglo-Indian teacher in Junior School (her two daughters later studied in the School)Mrs. McMullen, the elegant ladies Mrs. Tankha and Ms Rowe in conversation with a guest in 1961.Mrs Tankha with MrTankha in the audience.The Ladies club 1963-4. It was an active social platform that kept the Staff members well knit like a family plus entertained. From left Mrs. Singh, Mrs Dr Surjit Singh, Mrs Bedekar from Horlicks (her two sons studied in PPS, Dilip and Sunil) Mrs. Kate, Ms GB Malkani , the tall unmistakable Mrs Tankha, Mrs. Vodden, Mrs. McMullen Nursing sister, Mrs Kumar (w/o of PT instructor Mr.HK Bahri) and Mrs. Kakkar (w/o Physics Teacher IB Kakkar, their three kids studied in the PPS). Sitting from left Mrs Sidhu clothes in charge (son , old Nabhaite) Ms J Lamba (Punjabi), Ms Lila Kaka (junior School) and the motherly, Miss Kiratpal Kaur Pannu (later Tandon (served more than forty years as teacher in school, married music teacher Mr KC Tandon and their three children studied in The PPS.)In the forefront of Tug of War of ladies against boys at the Rohti canal picnic. It was fun! And Mrs Tankha and Ms Lila Kak had to be leading it. Mrs. Vodden, Mrs. Punia Ms J Lamba and Mrs. Sidhu are other that can be made out.Forceful and Full hearted try! with feet dug in.
Dr Jashanjot Singh (S-52,1967)
Headmasters who were once colleagues in The PPS , as teachers except AJS Grewal second from left. From left Mr. YP Bharadwaj, Gp Capt Grewal, In center is Mr. BS Bhatnagar and next to him the tallest is greying Mr. MN Tankha. Next to him is Mr Kailash Dar and Mr.. V Bhave is on extreme right. When Mr. Tankha was headmaster of ARPS, Shillong.
When he finally retired from Shillong The family had planned to move to Canada to live with their now grown up elder kid, Monty. Unfortunately , unpredictable as God’s doings are , Mr. Tankha suffered a stroke and went into coma, He did not recover from it.
From Chronicle Records:
(An obituary – Chronicle April 2002)
With propound grief we record the sad demise of Mr.M.N.Tankha. He was one of the founding teachers of the PPS Nabha and a pioneer in his own right. His contribution in strengthening the healthy traditions of the school has been immense. On behalf of Mr.M.S.Bedi, the headmaster and entire PPS family we express our condolences.
MR MN TANKHA
When I joined PPS, Nabha, (Ravi House) around late April 1960, Mr. Mukut Narain Tankha was well settled as the Housemaster of Ravi House. He along with Mr. JK Kate (Head Master) and Mr. S C Cowell (Senior Master) were among the first few members of the faculty to arrive at Nabha.
Mr. Tankha was one of the founding fathers of the school who contributed immensely in making the school reach the status of top-ranking public schools in the country, in a matter of few years.
He took great interest in every student and gave personal attention to those who needed it. He was a great disciplinarian and did not hesitate in giving corporal punishment to those who deserved it. A slap of his huge hand, of six and a half feet frame, would be remembered by the recipient for the rest of the stay in the school. There was no chance of a student committing the same mistake again. I was one of those who experienced that ear-numbing blow once. This is not the only way he gave personal attention. He was also very kind and considerate most of the time. The students of his time would vouch for that. He was an all-rounder which enabled him to develop multifaceted personality of the students.
Mr. Tankha was a great asset to the school from whom the students learned a lot. I am sure he too must have benefitted greatly from his experience at Nabha – that would stand him in good stead in his future assignments. After his stint at Nabha he joined BITS , Pilani, then St Paul’s Darjeeling, from where he was ‘stolen’ by Assam Rifles Public School at Shillong. He was the founding Headmaster of the school that opened in 1980. His Headmastership there is remembered with great love and respect by the school fraternity. He was given the nickname, ‘Bodu’ (old man). Wonder if he had a nickname in PPS. He didn’t, while I was in the school till 1964
Bhupinder Mander (R-34,1964)Brigadier Bhupinder Mander (R-34) is third from left, Gen Sapru in the centre and Mr Pushapraj Sir is second from right , a close friend of Tankhas. Dr Jashanjot is extreme left.
TALL IN DEEDS; TALL INDEED
(A tribute to Mr. MN Tankha)
Mr. MN Tankha(MNT), may his soul rest in peace, was the first teacher who arrived in the then Sainik School, Nabha; rechristened as Punjab Public School, Nabha in 1961. The pioneer Principal, Padmashri JK Kate and MNT prepared the blueprint of the new school while sitting on the majestic marble staircase of Junior School building, which was the erstwhile Maharaja’s guesthouse. There were no students, no staff members, and no offices, not even a chair to sit on. Gradually furniture arrived, office started, classrooms and dormitories were fitted up, playgrounds were made and staff residences were furnished. Beds with extra length were ordered for MNT because of his very long legs. On 14th April 1960 the new school started with a bang. The sleepy Nabha town woke up to the towering presence of a new school with an all-India character. Within 3 years PPS was shining brightly on the Public-School map of India. Public Schools were amazed. Pioneer staff brought laurels. MNT was our spearhead. Tall, versatile and highly committed, MNT was a pacesetter. He made Geography Deptt. a fine show window decorated with charts and teaching aids. He himself made charts and got many made by me in the Art room. He made maps, models, and relief maps and even produced a “World on a pitcher”. During the Annual Function, Geography Deptt. had a pride of place. We worked by nights for exhibitions.
MNT was a keen mountaineer trained by HMI Darjeeling. He organized the first trekking expedition of the school. I was with him in the first two expeditions. I took over this activity from him while he was away to England and to USA. We were surprised by his stamina and sure-footedness. He would never sit down during a trek. He took rest while standing. Every evening during campfire, he gave useful tips. He was always helpful and cheerful. His jokes and anecdotes kept everyone happy. It was a joy to be with him on expeditions.
MNT was an athletics coach trained by NIS, Patiala. He used to put his heart and soul into planning and organizing athletics. He told us how to coach uninitiated students. He told us about exercises and lead up games. He single-handedly maintained records in every detail. Annual athletics was nearly as big a function as Founder’s day. It was all because of MNT’s imagination and efficiency that the whole school community was proud of the show that we were able to put up.
MNT gave the first house show, the Ravi House show. Other Housemasters followed the pattern. MNT had played Basketball and Badminton for Allahabad University during his university days. He taught Hindi assembly songs before the first music teacher Mr. SR Chatterjee joined PPS (Mr. SC Cowell taught English songs). He taught drawing before I joined. He became one with students. He played with them, danced with them, sang with them and laughed with them. He was loved and revered.
MNT became Vice Principal of St Paul’s School, Darjeeling and worked there as acting rector, when the rector left. He later took over Assam Rifles Public School, which flourished under his stewardship. This tall man with tall deeds is no longer with us. But he will endlessly live in the memory of his colleagues and his pupils. This tall man is unforgettable. I pray to God to grant eternal peace to his soul and give sufficient strength to the bereaved family to bear this loss.
OP Bhatnagar (Ex-Hindi & Art and close associate),Principal, Indian School, Nizwa, Sultanate of Oman
Staff cricket team in 1962-63. Mr Tankha Towering above all. The tall Mr. Khanna first PA to Headmaster on the left after two years and joined Kurukshetra University. Mr. OP Bhatnagar is third from right in front of Mr. Tankha.
A letter to Mrs. Tankha on the demise or Mr. MN Tankha
DR JASHANJOT SINGH BHANGU, MD
50, MAHAVIR MARG, JALANDHAR – 144001
PH 0181-459632 / 459132 / 899829
Friday, May 03, 2002
Dear Mrs. Tankha,
Today I received a copy of the Punjab Public School, Nabha, “Chronicle”. I was shocked to read about the sad demise of sir MN Tankha. I passed my Senior Cambridge from School in the year 1967. I have great memories of Mr. Tankha as a teacher, athletics in-charge and an active member of the School Staff.
Though I was not associated with him as far as Houses are concerned as I was in the Sutlej House, still he left a lasting impression on my mind, which nature has not been able to wipe away even after 35 years. I still remember the Geography room like a cinema hall with dark curtains to keep light out because Mr. Tankha was very fond of using audio-visual projections as a mode of teaching aid.
Although I took up Medicine after School the system of working which Mr. Tankha followed had affected me. His habit of giving out cyclo-styled notes, maps and making of charts etc. was adopted by me on certain occasions in my life. Till date I remember my Geography well and I have tried to pass the same system of learning to my children whenever possible. We never mugged Geography but understood it well because of Mr. Tankha.
I also remember an occasion when he recited an incident during his stay in UK. The fruit seller from whom he bought Kashmiri apples was made to realize what real Kashmiri apples taste like when you took some with you on your visit to UK to join Mr. Tankha.
Mr. Tankha and you madam made a very tall and impressive couple. I am sure all the students of PPS who studied there during Mr. Tanka’s stay must be remembering the same way as I do. I also remember your son who was very small at that time and if I am not wrong was his name Monty?
I had always wanted to meet Mr. Tankha after leaving School but because he always remained in the East there was no opportunity. I would still like to remain in touch with his family so kindly let me know how you and the family are keeping.
This year we were planning to have a get together of the ISC Batch which passed out in 1967. One of the few teachers and their families that we wanted to invite was Mr. Tankha. I feel sad that this cannot happen now.
Please accept my heart and soul felt condolences. What cannot be cured must be endured. I pray to God that He gives the Tankha family the strength to bear the unrepairable loss. I am sure in heaven Mr. Tankha has joined the galaxy of stars like Mr. Kate, Ms. Malkani and Mr. Cowell.
If the Old Nabhaites Association or any Old Nabhaite or me in particular can be of any help to the family at any occasion it will be an honour.
Dr Jashanjot Singh Bhangu, MD (S-52, 1967)
Response from Mrs Asha Tankha
I received your letter redirected from India by my niece who lives in the same colony. I remember your name but do not recall your features or face.
I am very thankful to you for writing so nice things about my husband. He loved his work and he always tried to do his best. I am really touched by your sentiments and feel happy and proud that my husband is still alive in the minds of his students and friends.
You have a good memory, yes, my elder son is Monty and the younger son was born in Nabha only- is Timmy. Their names are Rajeev with whom I am staying here in Toronto (pet name ,Monty) and he lives here with wife Shirley and son Karan (10yrs) and daughter Kaveri (7yrs). The younger son Sanjeev, wife Sharmila and son Varun (2yrs) live in Los Angeles. He and his wife are both are Architects, both passed out from S.P.A. (Delhi) and did their Masters from UCLA.
My husband and myself were coming to live here with Monty. Unfortunately, before we could come here, he suffered a stroke and went into Coma. ‘This is the story of man proposes God disposes.
My sons and myself are thankful to you for taking trouble to write to us. Whenever we go to India, if possible, we would like to get in touch with you.
With best wishes,
Mr. and Mrs M.N. Tankha
Life in boarding school is very difficult from a normal day school. It is unique in every aspect. Since we were in the school for almost eight long months away from the parents and devoid of all their love and comforts of the home. We sought that from teachers especially the Housemaster.
I joined The Punjab Public School, Nabha in Jan, 1961 and passed out in December, 1967. My first Housemaster was Miss KPK Pannu, that was when I was in the Junior School. She was unmarried but was more than a mother for us. We grew up under her tender care in classes V & VI.
It was in 1963 that I moved to the Senior School in class VII. Here Mr. M.N. Tankha was the Housemaster of the Ravi House. He had a towering personality. He was the tallest of all the teachers, not only in height but in every other aspect of life. We had to literally look up to him for everything.
Ravi House was in the Old Secretariat building on the right side of road to Ripudaman College entrance. I think it is now called the Middle House. Mr. Tankha ‘s house (at that time newly constructed) was behind the Ravi House dormitories. He lived in such close proximity , not only in physical distance but also in our hearts. I still remember his gentle affable and loving smile. He would listen to all our problems with rapt attention and had a solution for each. I and am sure all other boys doted on him and never had any hesitation apprising him as and when we needed his loving care and attention. We would see him daily at the Rouser, house inspection before breakfast, during the meals, in the class, on the playgrounds and finally before the ‘Lights Out’ I vividly recall ‘morning inspection’, how we would stand daily beside our bed fully dressed up for the school before breakfast. He would come and minutely inspect and ensure we were all well dressed, shoes polished, nails cut and carrying a clean handkerchief etc.
His house was a second home for us all. We were welcome to go there as and when we needed his help. At times I visited his house to play with his son ,Monty, the other one was too small then.
I would go to his house on Tuesday mornings, after having my hair wash to show my hair to Mrs. Tankha who would have a careful look to make sure that the hair had been washed properly. Other Sikh boys followed similar routine. She was like a Commanding Officer’s wife performed the duty ungrudgingly. During the Ravi House Show, she would arrange dresses for us and do the makeup. Since there were only two girls in Ravi House at that time, Jyoti Kate (R-52, the Headmaster Mr.. Kate’s daughter) and Basanti Mathu (R-73, d/o Mr. PN Mathu , Commerce teacher at that time) the role of girls was given to Sikh boys because of their long hair. It was she who disguised us for the role. What a BEAUTIFUL BODY & SOUL!
I would go to Mr. Tankha’s house to collect Rs 1.50 as fare to Sangrur by bus, whenever we were permitted to go home on weekends or on Diwali. I will never forget how Mr. Tankha saved me and Mandeep Grewal (R-70) when we were caught by the MOST DREADED, BUT ALSO LOVED Mr. Sam Cowell , the Senior Master. One unlucky summer afternoon during the rest time (after Lunch) when we both had escaped from the school to have ice-cream in the Green’s restaurant near the Patiala Gate (probably not there anymore) behind the school boundary wall/ We were caught while we were trying to jump back into the school over the wall. We were saying to each other “Hope Mr. Cowell doesn’t catch us!” Sure enough, he was omnipresent to do just that. Before we realised what was happening he caught us by our ears and pulled us up. The matter was brought to Mr. Tankha’s notice but what a darling he was. Like any parent he did not punish us and let us go Scot free after advising lovingly.
Mr. Tankha was a superb teacher – par excellence. Being in Arts group, I had the privilege and good luck of being his student right up to Class XI. He knew Geography inside out. Each lesson was a treat in itself and I eagerly waited to attend his Geography class (and Mr. Bharadwaj’s History class).
He too liked me, I believe, as he made me and Surinderpal Singh (R-68) in charge of the Geography exhibition in 1967 when Mr. Dharamvira , the Governor of Punjab was invited to be the chief guest on the Founders’ Day.
All the credit goes to the Padma Shri JK Kate for hand picking such intelligent, compassionate and dedicated teachers. They were all of a different breed (extinct now). I have been a teacher all my life and also a Headmaster……
I only I wish could be anything like them.
Kulwinder Singh (R-44,1967)
Kulwinder Singh (R-44) showing his Geography model to Chief guest Dharamveera Governor of Punjab while a proud teacher and Housemaster Mr MN Tankha looks on from behind him
Excellent Teacher, Great Organiser!
My father decided to accompany me to school for my admissions and to deposit me there. We boarded the Deluxe (train) from Bombay to New Delhi at Baroda. We were in New Delhi for a day and my father borrowed a car from a friend to drive to Nabha. I remember very distinctly that we stayed at Greens Hotel at Patiala that night and drove up the final 16 kms to Nabha the next morning. We met Mr. Kate and later Mr. Punia who was the Bursar in those days and I was admitted to school. Mr. Kate called Mr. M. N. Tankha (Geography) to introduce my father and I was assigned to Ravi House (R- 90). My father built an enduring friendship with Mrs. & Mr. Tankha (also House master-Ravi) which lasted well beyond my time at school.
That afternoon Mr. Kate invited us for lunch at his house which was in a part of the building that housed the junior school. After that my father drove off to return to New Delhi and back to Baroda.
Mr. Mukut Narain Tankha was my House Master and he taught me Geography. He was a tall man with an equally towering personality. A great organiser. He was the man behind the athletic meets at the school. We were always accepted very graciously into his home. Mrs. (Asha) Tankha was also involved in the activities in the House and a great source of inspiration. We used to exchange books (novels) for reading and then discussed the nuances of what we had read. Their first son was called Monty after General Montgomery. They had a second son called, if I am not mistaken, Timmy after General Thimayya. Mr. Tankha was an excellent Geography teacher and encouraged us to take up projects in Geography. We built realistic models of various countries, continents and significant expeditions like Tenzing and Hillary’s ascent of the Everest and displayed these to visiting dignitaries and on Founders’ Day.
Mr. Tankha left school and was at one stage the Head Master at the Birla Public School, Pilani and I caught up with him there as I was studying engineering at Pilani at that time.
Ashok Balwani (R-90,1966)
We had the delightful Mr. Tankha who taught us Geography using projectors and slides and films in 1960s!!
Dr Vineet Mehta (J-72,1967), USA, from a letter by him
A memory of Mr. Tankha
For Holi and Dusshera the whole school walked to a place called Rohti. It was about a two km walk then along the Sutlej Canal. One year Mr Tankha had arranged a treasure hunt along the way. Rohti had a government rest house where we could rest. We had games and the boys played around and loved jumping in the Sutlej canal. It was great fun and everyone had a great time. We spent the whole day there and came back in the evening.
Jyoti Kate Mahajan (R-52,1967)
As far as I can recollect, with some great fondness about Geography, it was Mr. Tankha. Being one of my favourite subjects, I feel the style and the content with which Mr. Tankha taught was inimitable and to me it has been extremely impressionistic, the relevance of which it still retains in my life.
That is exactly how I would describe Mrs Tandon’s style and expertise as well. Mr Tankha probably left long before any of my classmates set foot in Nabha.
Devinder Sodhi (J-75,1969)
I remember Mr. Tankha singing a popular song Thumbelina with associated action which were very amusing.
He had an old Lambretta scooter when no staff member had in school. All including headmaster Mr. Kate had bicycles.
While marking the athletics track which is his legacy to school, he would take four rounds of the track to make sure the route measured 1600meters (it was 400 meters track). At the end of it he would look at the odometer of the scooter for confirmation.
He had a role in forming Sets in sports, screening films, hiking, photography and drama. Asha , his wife continued to play a complimentary role in every sphere. The games sets were based on a unique formula devised by Mr. Tankha . It took into account height in inches, weight in pounds and age in months. There were big boys from junior classes in same set as small boys from Senior classes. So that physical attributes and maturity in age both formed basis of being in a particular set.
Harikirtan (S-24,1967 higher secondary)
Harikirtan (S-24,1967Hr. Sec. , 1967) with classmates in school. He is on extreme left.
Tribute to Mr. MN Tankha from a Lifelong friend beginning at The PPS.
After joining the PPS, on my first glimpse I see a very tall and handsome man with infectious smile and well-dressed personality approaching me and welcoming me amongst the folds of school staff. Right along with him was his wife, equally a great and dignified personality. They were a made for each other kind of couple that one used to see in the cigarette commercials in the 60’s and 70’s. We took a liking for each other and our friendship blossomed. They made friends easily and it was evident from the fact that there was always a hustle and bustle at their residence with a number of friends visiting them on a regular basis. Almost every day after lunch we were invited to a cup of tea at their residence. The regular visitors included M/s. R.Sibal (English),Yashpal Bhardwaj (History), O P Bhatnagar (Hindi), Kailash Dar (History), and others. Jokes and cheer galore for about half an hour or so.
Before joining PPS, Mr Tankha had taught at Modern School Delhi. Hence he brought a public-school experience with him which came in good stead at the PPS. Besides, he is a product of a public school himself. That helps a person understand and appreciate the culture and working of a public school.
I also got to know their families whom I frequently visited in Patiala. Mrs Tankha’s father visited PPS a couple of times and we became good friends. At his invitation I visited him in Lucknow once.
After Mr Tankha left PPS for Birla public school Pilani, I along with Mr BS Bhatnagar went to visit them there. I stayed in touch with them even after I emigrated to the USA, so much so that they paid me a visit in Rochester. They were the first couple to visit. We travelled extensively in New York state, reminiscing about PPS days. Till this day I am in touch with both their sons, Monty and Timmy, who are settled in California.
Mr Tankha wore many hats: Games Master, House Master, in charge of treks to the mountains, dramatics, debates, Geography Society, photography, etc. Graceful and gracious Mrs Tankha helped with the dramatics, make-up, etc.
As a Games Master he drew the weekly charts of the sports activities in every field and the assignments given to teachers to conduct sports. He impeccably kept all the records of sports activities. Being an active mountaineer himself he was well known in the mountaineering circles. Mr Tenzing Norgay, the first Nepalese to scale Mount Everest, was his personal friend, who used to visit him when Mr Tankha was posted as Deputy Headmaster at St Paul’s Darjeeling.
We all know that Mr Tankha was a very tall man. On his first day of arrival the school authorities were not aware of his height and no bed was big for him. Being a good support Mr Tankha managed his first night somehow roughing it, but soon the following day a special bed was made for him.
Mr Tankha was known for his sense of humour, and could take a joke.
His love and care for his House boys was well known. Many a nights after dinner I would see him having a one-on-one chat/conversations with the students concerning their welfare relating to studies, discipline, or otherwise. He was known for never ever losing his temper. His approach to the students was always polite, no matter what the circumstances were.
Mr Tankha was always keen to improve his teaching methods so that his students could benefit more. While at School, he was granted Bursary by the UK government. He spent a year there and had gained a great experience.
Next, he wanted to explore further and was lucky to go to the USA on a Fulbright scholarship where, Though, he was to go to the USA for 1 year but after seeing his potential and hunger for further knowledge they extended his stay by another 6 months. A rarity.
Mr Tankha was very fond of photography. A camera was always hanging on his shoulders. A 16mm movie camera during special functions like Founders’ Day was bought for him by the school.
He was truly a role model for his students
Pushapraj Arora (long serving PA to Mr JK Kate who was well known to all the staff members and students of his time and respected by them. He had special friendship with staff members of his time which has lasted life long. His friendship with Tankha family was that of a close family member)
(Assam Rifles Public School, Shillong)
After Darjeeling Mr Tankha joined the Assam Rifles Public School. He was the founding principal of the school there. Since he had worked closely with Mr Kate from the inception of the PPS he had learnt a lot about the functioning of a new school. The students of that school still remember him. A great many tributes were paid at his passing.
To sum up, I would say that Mr Tankha was an exceptional and legendary teacher, who has left his mark in the field of education, passion to serve for the cause of education, care for the students in every possible way, and come up to the expectations of parents, and colleagues.
The Love and regard of ARPS LAITKOR students:
A tribute to Mr M N Taknkha would be incomplete without reflecting on how his students at Assam Rifles Public School, Shillong saw him. He started the School as Founder Headmaster and gave it his blood and sweat. The students there remember him in the same way as students of The PPS remember Mr. JK Kate the Founder Headmaster, with a lot of respect, affection and love.
Below is a tribute from one of his students and comments of few others from Facebook.
Sunday, 28 March 2010
MR MN TANKHA, ARPS LAITKOR
Mr MN Tankha
Visionary, inspirational Headmaster who empowered a generation and proved that good people can be empowered anywhere.
As I sit in the lobby of Buxton Palace Hotel in the sublime surroundings of the peak district in the UK, my thoughts go back twenty-five years back and I think about Shillong and particularly about one person who made such a huge difference to the life of a whole generation. We were lucky to train under Mr MN Tankha. He was the first Principal of the Assam Rifles Public School.
The immediate provocation of thinking about Mr Tankha has been the penetration of Facebook into our lives and old school mates linking up after nearly twenty-five years. What I have noticed on the discussion boards has been that the one factor which links together the Laitkorian family is the abiding love and respect they have for Mr Tankha.
So, what was so striking about him? The first thing which would have struck anyone was his height [quite a few inches over six feet]. My abiding memory of him remains the sight of him coming down the hill from his office for assembly dressed in a suit and wearing the black master’s robe flying behind him in the wind. Here comes ’Budo’ [ Old man] the whispers would fly. He of course knew his nick name and often joked about it.
To understand Mr Mukut Narain Tankha’s work, one has to understand the socio-political milieu of the Northeast in the late seventies. The Northeast at that time was a far-off corner of the Union of India with a million mutinies brewing within the seven sister states. Amongst all this unrest, the most powerful confrontation between the citizens and the Indian Union had been started in Assam. The Assam agitation was initially powered by the students and soon acquired substantial public support. The basic issue was the state of Assam in particular was being overrun by ‘foreigners’ from Bangladesh. As part of their strategy, the agitationists resorted to blocking oil refineries from sending oil to the Indian mainland; blocking government functioning and closing down schools.
My father worked as a banker and in 1979 he was posted at Gauhati [now Guwahati]. I was studying at the Don Bosco school. By March 1981,the agitation had intensified and I had not been to school for a full year! I was promoted to the next class without ever having set foot inside the class. A most unsatisfactory state of affairs and that was when my father who had heard of a promising boarding school in Shillong, decided to send me there. There were plenty of parents thinking the same and as a result there was a substantial number of students who turned up at the Assam Rifles Public School at Laitkor, Shillong [ARPS].
ARPS had been conceptualised by Gen Sushil Kumar whom we often met in our first few years in the school. Gen Kumar was the Director General of Assam Rifles.
The Assam Rifles are one of the Paramilitary forces of India. Originally called Cachar Levy, this force has a proud 175-year history. The 46 battalions perform many roles including conduct of counter insurgency and border security operations. The soldiers and Officers of Assam Rifles had to be on the move due to the nature of their jobs and Gen Kumar observed that their children did not have access to quality education and he founded the school at Laitkor, Shillong. Situated about 6000feet above sea level on Assam Rifles land, he wanted deserving children of Assam Rifles personnel to have access to education.
It is alright to have grandiose ideas but it is another thing to be able to successfully implement those ideas. In order to have a School at par with public schools in India, Gen Kumar needed a visionary as the head of his school and selecting Mr Tankha was a master stroke. Once Mr Tankha came on board, the school took wings. Mr Tankha arrived from St Pauls Darjeeling with a formidable reputation and experience.
The next requirement for success is to have a successful team around you. A good Chief Executive gives shape to a project by his hiring and firing decisions. Mr Tankha succeeded in attracting top teaching talent from St Paul’s initially. Mr SK Bannerjee [ Maths, later Principal],Mr Julian Egbert [Physics],Mrs Sharmistha Sen and Mr T Dasgupta [Biology],Miss Indie Sondhi [English],Mr Mazumdar[Music],Mr Gogoi[Arts], Mr Pramod Kumar [Chemistry] and Mrs Tankha [Hindi] came from pedigreed backgrounds .What was truly more amazing was that as students we saw great teamwork amongst the staff as they truly worked hard to get our first few batches up and going and competing against the best in the region. We students felt part of a family. For example, I can remember us doing English homework sitting in Miss Sondhie’s kitchen or Mr Thomas’s living room. We could knock on most teacher’s rooms for help even out of hours. The housemasters were very supportive and once I even had to do baby-sitting duties at one of our teachers!!The teachers, we students believed had a great social life I believe due to primarily Mr and Mrs Tankha’s belief in playing hard and partying hard. The staff party news was often leaked to us the senior students by a certain gentleman who was nicknamed after an Italian poet. Many of you would have guessed by now. There were lots of picnics, movies and plenty of fun to be had.
The most important role of a Headmaster has been said to be that of a head master. He should be a master teacher. Mr Tankha’s classes in Geography were master-classes in succinctness, brevity and clarity in style. An important aspect of his class was his emphasis what we call in Medicine as outcome measures. It was not enough for him teach. He wanted to know whether we had understood the principles and the home work he asked us to do was quite similar to the problem-based learning model we use for medical students today.
He also served as model for integrity and fostered empowerment. Mr Tankha had a great ability to instil self-esteem which is an essential prerequisite for success. This he did in many ways but the most innovative one was the meeting of class prefects with the faculty and Head master present. A class 4 prefect’s statement was taken as seriously as a class 12 or School Captain’s presentation. This was democracy and consensus building at its best.
The students felt part of the management team and had ownership of the organisation. Today when in the NHS in the UK there is plenty of bemoaning of the fact that management don’t work in sync with Clinicians, there is a lesson to be learnt from Mr Tankha’s inclusive team meetings[It’s rare to find a clinician who knows how the Chief Executive of the trust looks like!!].
Mr Tankha was a great communicator and all parents of that era would vouch for it. He had a great feel for the moment. Laitkor is located close to the wettest place on Earth, Cherrapunjee. So, after weeks of rain, the mood turned gloomy and sullen all round. When the sun opened up and Mr Tankha announced that the choir would be singing ‘All things bright and beautiful….’,we knew a ‘Sunshine holiday’ was on the cards.
Everyone knows the importance of marketing today. When you have started a school and wish that it’s success breeds more success, it’s probably important to spread the word. We were lucky that Mr Tankha could attract top talent from across societal spectrum to visit the school. Whether it was Brigadier Gyan Singh telling us about his role in the first Indian expedition to Everest or General Vaidya the C in C of the Army or a United Nation representative, a North east Council member or a sportsman/ politician, this gave the students a chance to meet top performers from diverse fields during their formative years.
When Gen Sushil Kumar retired, there was a real danger of losing support of the next Assam Rifles DG. To Mr Tankha’s credit, his messianic zeal and belief in the project saw to it that the transitions in the power structure did not affect the school and in a few years he succeeded in institutionalising the administrative structure of the school.
The ICSE examinations of the first batch would decide the school’s reputation and there was quite a bit of pressure on the teachers. I remember Mr Egbert asking me after the exams whether I would be able to get 70% at least. The first batch surpassed those expectations. Going back to the beginning of the ICSE examinations, I remember Mrs Tankha coming into what was our dugout in those days [Holding House] and stuffing rasgullas into our mouths and blessing each one of us individually. Where else would you feel like family except at Laitkor? Behind every successful man is a woman. In this case it was the graceful Mrs Asha Tankha. She kept the wheels moving especially on the social side of things apart from being a teacher. I can still hear her laughter in the staff room. She lives currently in Canada and the US with her sons Timmy and Monty.
Long before ‘Environment’ had become a buzz word, Mr Tankha had involved the students in ‘Shram daan’ and we planted all those thousands of trees which sway in the wind today. He was truly way ahead of his time.I did not get to meet him after 1986 and he died a few years back. I have always missed his presence long after leaving school and I am sure there are many of us who feel the same. Some people are born to be greater than life and Mr Tankha was one of them. Men like him come along once in a few generation.
Like I said at the beginning, facebook has linked us together after a long hiatus and I can still sometimes hear somewhere in the background the strains of the choir singing..
‘When the old school cry resounds
We come running to the mound
Joyous and we celebrate
Pain HQ at 00:47
thank you brother for the write up…it is truly a gift for us OLA students and the present liatkorians….during my school days we had heard of all the stories of Late Shri M.N Tankha and his contribution to the school…how he had made ARPS into what it was…and that ARPS was not the same once he left…he was a great soul…and brother I didn’t meet you (my stay-1998-2004)..but I can connect with u ,with all that u have said. I can assure this there are many who share the same wit u..and lastly I salute the great soul Late MR M.N Tankha..
A moving tribute…a well-deserved one. We are the fortunate few to have been Sir Tankha’s pupils who reared us all. He was a legendary figure, simply extraordinary…”sui generis” as they say-incomparable and unparallel.
Your write up is lucid and moving. You are one of his most favourite and talented students from Laitkor.
Thanks Devjit Da for sharing your thoughts and thanks to FB for taking us back to the formative days of our life.
Salutations to Sir Tankha and thanks to the Lord for giving us an opportunity to be a part of Laitkor which memories we cherish till date and throughout.
Right from the 1st word gives a feeling which cannot be expressed in words am sure such crisp yet detailed information can only rule the Podium.
We have been fortunate to share the atmosphere with the Greatest of the Great. Thank you God for giving us opportunity to see, listen, smell the fragrance of the wonderful personality.
Debjit sorry Dr Debjit bhaya thank you for sharing the Implausible moments.
Hi Dev just read the beautifully written statement it really took me back to 1980 when I was there but and left ARPS in 1982 didn’t spent much but took a lot from there the love of teachers and all my mates I can still remember when you use to be the house prefect everything you have mentioned were the days of our life I still do miss it from the bottom of my heart and wish I could turn back time.’
Thanks! for the Lovely Article that u wrote for all of us!
Truly Moving and so True! Really, those were the hard Days when ARPS was just Formed (I mean 1980-82). But when I look back now, I proudly say What I am today is because of what I have learned and was Taught in ARPS
AC 34 (1980-83)
A very well written tribute to a great Man! I had a lump in my throat by the end of it. Mr Tankha was truly a Tall person in every sense of the world! I have seen him only for one year – the year I joined in 1990 but he is definitely one of the most inspiring persons I have ever met. His leadership traits were legendary. Thank you bro for sharing this.
“Here In Laitkor, We are learning n Playing”…….
Dear Bro !
You have re-articulated the Spirit of ARPS and Mr. Tankha (Though I never had the opportunity to meet him), I can surely feel his visionary personality.
ARPS is the base of my life.
As an ex-APRP student I agree to what Devijit da says. Being in ARPS from 1986-93 have seen it all. I felt I was in a jail when in school but once out I understand how comfortable and safe I was there. I am whatever I am today because of ARPS and I AM PROUD OF IT
Nostalgia into the past superbly written Senior.
Utpal Bora, 1987-1994.
Sir it’s a blessing 4 a bum like me to have been your student… You are my inspiration and my idol
Post The Punjab Public School, Nabha
After leaving The Punjab Public School in 1970, the Tankhas stayed away from Punjab because of working in far off schools like Pilani, Darjeeling and Shillong. His students from the School who had lot of regard and respect for the Family did not get a chance to meet them again. After retirement from Shillong, Mr Tankha did not enjoy his retirement. He could not even travel to be with his son in Canada before God took him away after suffering a stroke leading to comma and never recovring.
Few years after his passing away, Mrs.Tankha visited Punjab in 2007 , to meet old friends from School like Punias, Pushapraj and Tandons. The Old Nabhaites who still remembered the Tankhas, invited Mrs. Tankha for an ONA party in Chandigarh as the guest of honour. Many Old Nabhaites turned up to pay respects to her and usher in the New Year 2008. Below is description of the evening and few photos.
Ushering in the New Year 2008 (yes, It is old now)
Old Nabhaites Association organized a Grand Party at DSOI, Sector 36, for a fellowship dinner and to usher in the New Year on Jan 6, 2008. Over 120 Old Nabhaites from USA, UK, Patiala, Jalandhar, Bathinda, Amritsar, etc., attended despite the cold wave. Col IP Singh (J-77,1965) secretary, DSOI had made special arrangements to keep the cold out by enclosing the whole space from all sides including The gazebo where the live band played and closed it from top with a shamiana. The entrance was an S turn to keep the cold air out. Here young girls looked after the reception counter with enthusiasm. Each Old Nabhaite got a gift as he entered the venue. It came in the shape of a coffee mug with the school emblem and Nabhaite written on it. The whole venue was gorgeously decorated by Garry Arts owned by Abninder Grewal (J-4,1960-61), Mohali, There are many ONs in Grewal family.
The Guest of Honour was the elegant Mrs. Tankha from US, wife of a much-loved ex teacher, late Mr. MN Tankha (Ex- Geography, Ravi House Master, Athletics In charge , photographer and trekker), who was one of the founder teachers of the School in 1960s. Mr. Tandon, Mrs. Tandon, ex teachers, Mr. GS Punia, ex Bursar with his wife, Pushp Raj, an ex-staff member from US, attended the dinner. The Old Nabhaite VIP at the occasion who registered himself like any other old Nabhaite was Lt Gen Tej Sapru (S-42,1964) The present Head Master Cmdr. IL Syal came from Nabha along with his charming wife.
The cake to usher in the New Year was cut by Mrs. Tankha and Mrs. Tandon, and the toast for the health and prosperity of Old Nabhaites and their Association in 2008 was proposed by Lt Gen Tej Kumar Sapru (S-42), GOC-in- C, Western Command. It was the first ON function for him after his posting to Chandigarh. A live jazz band kept the ONs on their toes. They danced with their families, to melodious jazz tunes till the end of the party. There was not a soul (age and medical condition no bar) who did not dance with abandon. Even the band members sensing the appreciation of their music stepped up the tempo.
Throughout the Party a slide show from history was on along with events of PPS including a horse show. Various events of ONA conducted over the years were also shown. Projection of slides from the history of the School and that of Old Nabhaites Association was an added attraction for the proud ONs.
Many senior and junior Old Nabhaites attended the party. It would be unfair to name only a few in this party of equals.
When it was time for the large group photograph with the guests, all ONs behaved like children all over again, vying with each other to be in the frame.
Organizers, led by Col DPS Waraich (J-155,1972) with guidance from Dr Jashanjot (S-52,1967), did an excellent job. Some of those present labeled it the best ONA party ever. Lovejit Saraon (J-156,1971) and Col JS Randhawa (J-60,1968) were all over the place looking after the needs of the ON family. Col PS Gill (B-299,1976) closely monitored the music and dance making it most enjoyable. He had arranged his army Unit band for the occasion. The arrangements under the eagle eye of Col Inderpal Singh (J-77-1965) and his efficient team were admired by everybody. The charming Maj Manmoninder Kaur (B-973,1996) emceed the event. But the trophy for the best effort if there has to be one goes to tireless and never say no Old Nabhiate, Ms. Gagandeep (B-678, 1987). She spent the whole afternoon decorating the venue with Neelu Sandhu (B-807, 1988) and their children and workers. As the party started, she got the reception counter going. When the guests started to come in she slipped out quietly and went to board a night bus to Jammu as she was to join her husband in Doda next day. All she said before leaving with a smile on her face was “Sir, Can I go now?” If we have such dedicated workers that too ladies who are usually tied down, one can be sure ONA has a long and bright future. There should be an ONA Roll of Honour for such dedicated selfless workers.
Dr. Jashanjot Singh (S-52,1967)
The cake cutting by The distinguished ladies of The PPS. Guest of Honour Mrs. Tankha and Mrs. Tandon. Dr Jashanjot is second from right next to Dr. Coonar (S-22,1966)Mrs. Tankha in conversation with Gen Sapru, Col IP Singh, Mrs. Punia and Gen Gurjit Singh.A gift for the little one from Mrs.Tankha
Age is only a number. Mr Tandon and Mrs. Tankha joining in the dance followed by Gen Sapru.A gift for the guest from Mrs Tandon. Mrs Tandon and Mr Tankha were one of the first four or five teachers to join the school when it started in 1960 within a month of each other, Mr. Tankha had joined earlier. Mr Tankha got married within a year and brought Asha Tikku Tankha to school as his wife. That’s how old their association went. Manjit Saraon (Jumna, 1966) the lucky guy who got to have a dance with the charming Mrs. Tankha.
FEW YEARS AFTER THIS PARTY, MRS. ASHA TIKKU TANKHA TOO PASSED AWAY TO JOIN HER HUSBAND IN HEAVEN!
Thus came to end the beautiful story of a beautiful couple , leaving many saddened hearts . As one of the prayers in the school says:
“Time like an ever roaring stream bears all its sons away……”
(Researched and compiled by Dr Jashanjot Singh S-52, 1967)