CHAND BAGH… Some Reminiscences

Sunflowers galore! CBS May 2000

20 September 2014 is the 16th anniversary of the opening of Chand Bagh School, 9 km Muridke – Sheikhupura Road,which opened its doors for students for the very first time in 1998. I joined the school in August 1998 and so was part of the pioneer group of 8 Pakistani teachers. Below is a personal memoir of the early days of Chand Bagh School.

The founding headmaster, Mr Andrew Maclehose, with his economics class

It was a cold December evening in 1999. I was on ‘toye time’ duty in AJ House when Mr Maclehose, the founding Head Master of CBS, strode up to me and in his brisk yet kindly manner, which we all grew to love in the three years we spent with him, asked me to see him later that evening when I was through.

CBS had opened its gates to its first batch of pupils in September that year. I had been the first teacher to arrive on the sprawling campus, along with my family (a wife, a two year old son and a two month old daughter) on a hot and humid August morning with a truckload of household items and personal belongings. As we had lived most of our life in the refreshingly cool environs of Abbottabad, the weather seemed appallingly hot and sticky.

Asad, my eldest, enjoying the solitude of CBS before it opened.

Chand Bagh was an unknown entity then. The basic set of buildings was build in 1995 but the school had failed to take off because of political reasons. Renovation and construction work was still in progress and all day gusts of hot wind relentlessly blew clouds of dust in your face as most of the residential area was bare of grass or plantation. We didn’t have a Sui Gas connection and the cooking had to be done on open wood fires or gas cylinders, lugged in from Muridke. There were stories of deadly sakes infesting the place and in the ensuing years we did see a fair share of them.  But to top it all the power supply would be disconnected most of the day as electrical work like erecting pylons etc was in progress. I remember sweat dripping off us in rivulets as we tried to unpack in the oppressive, humid heat of the well known rice growing area of the Punjab and set up home.

August 1998. Our first home in CBS, near AJ House

Along with me 8 other teachers had arrived one after the other. All these teachers, who had been drawn from multifarious backgrounds, had been hand picked by the Educational Advisor, Mr Rehman Qureshi. Each of these pioneer teachers in the time to come would play his / her part and make enormous contributions to life at Chand Bagh School.

After the first Eid Milan party for all employees.Mr Qureshi is seen with Mr Maclehose, Mr Ishaq, Mr Nadeem Khan, Mr Saifi, Mr Riaz and myselfi

Mr Maclehose had already arrived from Wales and the first month was spent in meetings which often lasted till late afternoon. Each facet of school life was discussed and plans formulated and slowly but surely nothingness gave way to a well structured set of plans and procedures which had us ready for any eventuality. As no computers were available then, Mr Maclehose would write down the long minutes of these meetings and would have them ready the next morning with copies for each of us.

The first ever staff meeting in the Headmaster’s office

The most opportune thing that had happened, in my opinion, was the appointment of Mr Maclehose as the founding Headmaster of CBS. He, with his imposing personality, penetrating grayish blue eyes, determined set of jaw and purposeful stride became synonymous with Chand Bagh. My colleagues and I were to be often amazed at his vision, foresight, level of commitment, integrity, compassion, good sense, prescience and administrative qualities. He left an indelible print on our minds and his commitment to the school and the cause of education will continue to inspire and enrich lives of all those who were lucky enough to come in contact with him. Mrs Maclehose also charmed us all with her effervescent and pleasant personality and penchant for social work, when ever she came to visit.

Mr and Mrs Maclehose with Saima and me

Mr Maclehose inspired us all to such a degree that any personal or professional differences that may have existed were happily cast aside in the better interest of the fledgling school and a well-knit team of professionals evolved in a matter of days which was committed to one cause: the successful launch of CBS. Each teacher was a piece of a jigsaw puzzle, which was to come together to form a picture which was enchanting and magical. The early days of CBS are indeed a cherished memory and the exhilarating comradeship and oneness we all felt under the inspiring leadership of Mr Maclehose was the pivotal force behind the successful commencement of CBS.

The Original Staff

It seemed strange that total strangers could come so close and become such good friends in such a short span of time. There were dinners and teas and soirees late into the night. Each of us had a presence and worth which Mr Qureshi and Mr Maclehose had somehow envisaged.

Mr Yuki Watabe, Dr Qazi, Mr Sajjad Shah, Mr Jamal Malik, Mr Saqib Sultan (Left to right) First Day of CBS

Here I’ll take the liberty of quoting from an article Mr Maclehose wrote for the ‘Genesis’ issue of the CBS school magazine in which he gives his impression of some members of the pioneer group of teachers and the early days of CBS..

“That first group of teachers made a remarkable team (and we continued to work as a team, discussing and agreeing on all main points of principle and practice in staff meetings which were held at least weekly).   It is of course impossible to list all the contributions made by each one in addition to their work in the classroom, but everyone realised that if we were to get the school up and running – and we were all determined to make it a success – then each one of us would all have to play a part in every aspect of the school’s daily life.

Camping within the premises, near the swimming pool area.

Mr. Ishaq was a remarkable housemaster : there was scarcely a moment when he would not be in the house, watching over the boys, patiently advising and answering questions : when other houses were opened and inter-house sports began, he was fiercely competitive. In charge of the literacy programme for adult employees and others, he took charge of the menus in the mess and many other administrative matters, and, as senior master, was always the one to stand in for me if I was away from the campus.

Staff at end of 1998 session. The school mosque in the back ground was under construction but in use.

Mr. Arif had only recently left the Pakistan Air Force as a senior officer : he not only established a routine for the prayers (before the mosque was completed Maghrib and Juma prayers – attended by all Moslems – were offered in what became the Art Room, and others in prayer-rooms in the houses) but by his warm, inclusive, and tolerant approach ensured that religious practices played a full part in the school from the first day. This was a matter of great concern to many parents, and Mr. Arif often joined me in meetings we held for prospective parents around the Punjab and NWFP : travelling together for hours by car gave me the pleasure of hearing his exposition of Islam at first hand.

In my class

Mr. Jamal, whose mastery of the language was an example to us all, was our only teacher of English that first term, and we soon realised what a big job he had on his hands. We took advantage of every possible extra classes for boys in difficulty, found part-time teachers wherever possible, and made it our ambition that no-one should be prevented from joining the school solely on the basis of weakness in English. The department grew rapidly, and the first English summer school in August 1999, under Mr. Jamal’s direction, proved a great success : several old colleagues joined us from Switzerland and many of the CBS staff gave up part of their summer holiday to help. Mr. Jamal was the first to take on the difficult task of finding films for Saturday evenings which did not contain any objectionable words or scenes.  He was the obvious man to be appointed to the housemastership of Saigol House when that opened in January 1999.

Teaching Staff at end of year 2000

Dr. Qazi’s scholarship had earned him great respect even before the school opened: he soon became the Head of Science and was responsible for leading his colleagues in the equipping of the laboratories. He was a considerable sportsman and started a successful chess club, but easily his most important extra-curricular contribution over the first few years was setting up and administering the social service programme: in the first year this centred on the teaching of young children and adults on the campus and in nearby villages, organising activities at the SOS Village in Lahore, and physical work on the campus. Dr. Qazi was tireless in both administering the social service and leading by example.

Compost formation (social service activity) with Mr Jamal. The compost was used in the vegetable gardening activity

Mr. Sajjad was the first teacher of Urdu, but in the early months of the school (before the arrival of Mr. Munawar Cheema as the sports officer) he also took charge of the sports. Soccer was his particular interest but in the early days he took charge of everything from the PT at 6:00 am (in the early days all the teaching staff took part !) to organising all the other sports and buying the equipment. Our first soccer match was against UCL early in November : after that, we took on as many schools as would play us in the first years – with our small numbers early results were often bruisingly unsuccessful, but we determined to keep on competing against the best teams that would play us, and within a couple of years we could hold our heads up against any other school. From the beginning, a big emphasis was placed on sportsmanship, a lot easier when one is winning than losing.

CBS Cricket team and staff with Majid Khan’s team

Mr. Azhar Saifi bravely took on responsibility for the cricket. The early games had small boys crowded round the wicket amid almost continuous shouting : but Mr. Saifi soon got things organised and by the time Mr. Dewan had created a proper pitch during the first summer holiday, the basis was laid for the great teams which Mr. Fahim and Mr. Nadeem Jafar were to produce. By the third year of the school, our cricket team was able to win matches against such mighty opposition as Aitchison College, Abbottabad Public School and the Sadiq Public School. Mr. Saifi set up the gardening activity and was our first Examinations Officer before becoming the third housemaster in 2000.

Watching a cricket match; Mr Nadeem Jafar, Mr Maclehose, Mr Ishaq and Mr Jamal Malik. Mr Boota Sahi and Mr Niaz Khattak can also be seen.

Mr. Saqib, as well as teaching History and Pakistan Studies, immediately and eagerly set up the Cultural activities programme. This involved, from the very first week, arranging activities, after the second Toye-Time, for all boys four days a week. These included Music (Mr. Saqib himself is a first-class musician and had many contacts in the musical world in Lahore), Art, Debate, English and Urdu Drama, Chess and other games of various kinds. Every Friday, from the very first week, a Cultural Evening was put on by the boys, with a few staff (Mr. Sajjad’s school news was always a very popular item) contributing. I was astonished at how quickly Mr. Saqib got this programme going, and it quickly built up to be one of most looked-forward-to events of the week.

The Village Literacy group with its young students at a nearby village

Shelley Barton had also come from the International School of Geneva (originally for one year but fortunately she offered to stay on for a second). Setting out on her daily run across the playing field soon after she arrived, she was alarmed to see that she was being followed by a man wielding a gun – at this stage the security staff had no uniform, but carried guns, and were anxious for her safety. Her main job was to teach Mathematics, but she took a great interest in computing and very quickly started organising the timetable, the schedules for sports and cultural activities, report forms, grade sheets, student lists, laying the basis for an efficient administration. Never reluctant to say what she thought, she supported every aspect of what was going on, including sports and social service, and was certainly the strictest MOD. One of my strongest recollections is of Miss Barton, when Mr. Arif introduced prayers in AJ house, yelling ‘Absolute Silence !’ in a voice which could be heard all over the campus.

Ms Shelley Barton, Mr Saqib Sultan and Mr Jamal Malik with some guards; 1998

(Before the end of that first year  we were joined by Mr. Munawar Cheema as Sports officer, Major Azhar who was to put on successfully the first dramas in English, Mr. Iqbal – himself a fine artist – as the first Art teacher –  and Mr. Tanveer, who took over and greatly extended the Adventure programme, arranging the first of what were to become annual expeditions to the Himalayas in each summer holiday and then becoming housemaster of what was for two years the Senior House).

A casual picture of the pioneer staff. Dr Qazi, Mr Jamal, Mr Sajjad, Mr Arif, Mr Saqib, Mr Ghazanfar and Mr Maclehose

It was agreed that all the teachers should support the housemaster(s) as MoD (Master on Duty) : with small numbers of staff in the early days, and especially when the second house (Saigol) opened in January, this was a considerable burden, sometimes more than once a week. The MoD would wake up the boys for PT and, in those days, was on duty non-stop until lights-out at night. MoD duty on Sundays involved meeting many parents and Sunday was, for me too, often the busiest day of the week. Even when a teacher was not on duty, everyone proved ready in the first few weeks to go and support the MoD at all times, so that we could get the routines established quickly and efficiently.

CBS before it opened

Another key figure in the early days was the Estate Manager, Mr. Dewan, a retired Air Force officer, whose energy, good will, and willingness to put his hand to whatever needed to be done, was exemplary. His knowledge of the area around the school, where he was well-liked, was crucial to the setting up of social service programmes in nearby villages. Under his direction, and with the enthusiastic support of Mr. Fazle Rabbi, thousands of trees and bushes were planted on the campus, many by boys.

The Eid Milan Party

Three days before the school was due to open, the Bursar, Mr. Fazle Rabbi, told me that so many problems were still being found with the buildings, in particular the water, plumbing and electricity, that he recommended a delay in the opening of the school.  Nevertheless, a delay at this stage even of a single day would have discouraged and alarmed parents, and a huge effort was made by his staff to rectify the problems. Just in time.

Mr. Ishfaq and his team in the kitchen (several coming from PAF College,  Sargodha, thanks to the good offices of Mr. Rehman Qureshi) did a fantastic job cooking over open wood fires until the gas connection was made in mid-November (also enabling us to cook with gas and, a real luxury, hot showers).

First meal served in the school: Aj House dining hall; Chicken Biryani

Soon our first GAP student arrived. Yuki Watabe from Japan had just completed his International Baccalaureate at Atlantic College and would start at Oxford a year later. Yuki immediately got to work on setting up the library, which he steadily built up to some 5000 volumes by the end of our first year. Invariably cheerful and helpful, he became very much part of the team.”

At khanuspur with Shelley, Sajjad, Yuki and Esmond

Those early days at CBS are indeed a fine example of leadership at its best. Under Mr Maclehose’s inspiring leadership we all formed an ensemble which was self-complementary and all the aforementioned names will always be remembered with fondness and affection.

Pioneer Staff with former headmaster of Lawrence College; outside Mr Maclehose’s residence

At last the endless planning came to an end and the day finally arrived when our first batch of pupils was to arrive. AJ House was to be operational then and Mr Ishaq had been appointed as its first House Master. Mrs Naureen Khan, a great character who seemed the prototype of a traditional English public school Matron, had been appointed the first Matron of AJ Houses. If I remember correctly some 50 odd pupils arrived that first day.

Waiting for the boys to line up. 20 September 1998

The initial month was a trying period. Most of our protégés were homesick and would sob late into the night. The school was still experiencing the pangs of birth and the ensuing teething problems had us on our toes all the time. I remember the frequent power failures which, in the absence of any generators, had trained us such that, like automatons, we would grab our flash lights (each teacher was supplied with one and was required to carry it after dark) and rush to AJ house to assist and help.

Mr Saqib and I checking the newly arrived stationery before the school opened

 The majority of our pupils had come from day schools and found the prospect of fending for themselves frightening and overpowering. Making their beds or keeping their rooms tidy were completely alien notions to them. But soon they settled in and most took to boarding life as fish to water. The days were full and one activity followed another in such rapid succession that one felt caught in a vortex. Teachers would look after each activity and essentially the whole day would often be spent with or around pupils.

The first Badminton Court, between AJ and Saigol.

I remember measuring out the first badminton court with help from Waqar Siddique, marking its boundaries and setting up its net, by A J House where now there are basketball courts. I was the only teacher of English then and taught all classes, grade 6 through 10.

One feature which was much awaited was the Friday Cultural Evening session, then held in AJ common room, with its skits, qawwalis and funny news, written by Mr Sajjad and performed by Shahid Malik and others. These items always succeeded in eliciting much mirth and were greatly looked forward to by boys and teachers alike.

The audience at a Cultural Evening

We still did not have Sui Gas and food would be cooked on wood fires. The fine cooking of the food served then can put any self-respecting chef to shame. We had cold showers till November that year and I remember the joy I saw on Mr Maclehose’s face when I told him after the November Exeat that we finally had the much coveted gas connection and it would now be possible to have hot showers.

Though no advertising compaign was undertaken, word about the school got around, courtesy of satisfied parents. Such was the response that after only about 03 months the need to open a second boarding house was being felt.

The revenue generated from the Fun Fair went to SOS Village. It was about Rs 70,000.

We were 8 teachers in all and the unity of purpose we all shared had brought us all pretty close together but we all were still very much in awe of the Head. So when Mr Maclehose asked me to see him that cold December evening my first reaction to his invitation was that of apprehension. What have I done, I thought to myself as I stealthily prowled the dimly lit corridors of AJ house, on the look out for any miscreant who was not doing what he should.

Mr Cheema, the sports in charge

Time crawled and at last the toye time was over. I made my way to Mr Maclehose’s residence and rang the bell. I was invited in and asked to make myself comfortable. As I tried to do that, albeit unsuccessfully, the HM without any preamble said: ‘Everyone feels you are very good with the boys and would be very suitable as the House Master of Saigol House, which is due to open in January. Will you be willing to take up the position?’

I tranlated Mr Maclehose’s speech at the end of the Eid Milan part. Also seen are Mr Masood Hasan, Mr Qureshi and Mr Arif

Though I didn’t accede right then, I later did and so began a very memorable segment of my life.

The building of Saigol house had been constructed along with AJ’s but was lying in a disused condition. It may seem unbelievable now if I say that no one would dare approach it for fear of snakes, wild animals and ghouls but it is the truth. The rooms were enveloped in layers of dust and cobwebs hung everywhere. Weeds and wild bushes had overgrown to give it a haunted appearance. The area where we now have Mehran, Abaseen and Sanober resembled a wild jungle and was used by the more adventurous and fearless members of the Adventure Club to camp in.

With Brig Jan Nadir Khan, Head of Adventure Foundation Pakistan, at Ayubia.

Later we realised that it was also a breeding ground for all kinds of insects and animals. One day as I entered Dorm 16, early in the morning, on my daily round to wake up boys for the morning P T, barely awake myself, I stumbled over a ‘ Go’, a large reptile found in the area which resembles a Komodo Dragon. Late in the night, we would often see foxes and their cubs slinking around the residential area. Owls sweeping down in search of prey were a common sight and we would also often see beautiful and exotic looking birds as they sojourned in the area, inspiring Qr Qazi to initiate the bird watching and birds’ nest making activity.

Early morning in May 2000 with Senior House housemaster Mr Tanveer.. Sunflower fields at the back of Saigol House

After accepting Mr Maclehose’s offer I started the painstaking planning that was required to ensure the smooth launch of Saigol house. The house had to be renovated and the lawns cleared, landscaping had to be done, utilities, linen and other items had to be ordered, the mess had to be set up and support staff had to be appointed. My family and I had to shift to the House Master’s residence. I often wished for the day to be at least 30 hours long.

A lazy afternoon, between AJ and Saigol

But perhaps most important of all at that time, the boys in AJ had to be divided between the two houses. This meant long meetings with Mr Ishaq, who would expound on the merits or demerits of each boy according to his preferences and at last we had the list ready for Mr Maclehose’s approval. I had not really tried to resist Mr Ishaq’s will regarding the division of boys. I liked all boys and it seemed rather inappropriate to reject or select boys based on personal likes or dislikes and rather uncertain and whimsical future prospects. Mr Maclehose seemed pleasantly surprised to see that we had reached an amiable agreement; I guess he had thought there would be a clash of wills and each of us would want to have his own way. It was, if I recall correctly,  the   24th of January 1999 when Saigol House opened and the formerly ‘haunted house’ became a hub of activity.

A rather bare looking Saigol House just before it opened for students in January 1999.

From the very beginning we tried to have a disciplined yet good humoured and friendly atmosphere in the house. It was run with a mixture of firmness and camaraderie and I must acknowledge and note the part Saigol House boys played in all this. They were exceptionally talented, resourceful and cooperative and made a name for themselves then and later. Siama and I always thought of them as our own and I would like to think that the feeling was mutual! We really grew to love each one of them and they have remained in our thoughts ever since. Many have kept in touch with us and it is indeed a matter of great pride for me to see so many of them doing so well. In addition we were lucky to have a very ‘supportive’ support staff in the house, which was a great help in the efficient running of the house.

With some students from my English class

A number of ‘new boys’ also arrived along with the old AJ ones and I started appreciating the enormity of the task I had undertaken. I was fortunate enough to have some extremely helpful and resourceful boys in the house who along with Mr Ashraf (the house boy) and the extremely cooperative Mess Staff were of great help then and later. Very soon we managed to foster a spirit of fraternity and a sense of pride in the house; along with it came a lasting and enduring healthy rivalry with the only other house we had then, namely A J. This rivalry manifested itself in varied ways and was a major factor in making our boys more competitive and active.

Saigol House Boys made the path to the Dining Hall themselves as part of social service activities

Being a House Master in a school like Chand Bagh is an extremely challenging and daunting task and places great demands on one’s time and energy, but it is not without its joys and pleasures.  It is my good fortune that I had the opportunity to, hopefully, positively affect young people’s lives when they are in the most impressionable period of their life and the time I spent at Chand Bagh was, on the whole, very fulfilling and rewarding. Now that I look back on the years I spent at CBS I feel I could write a book.

First Basant celebrated at CBS. Boys made the kites themselves

The days were full. Each day started with wake up, followed by morning PT (except on Sunday); I would carry out the wake up myself every day, barely awake myself, having gone to sleep at 12 midnight or later and up before sun rise each day. Most of the boys hated PT and getting up that early but had gradually got used to it.

My eldest, Asad, at the under construction swimming pool.
The finished product

The more enterprising ones would devise means to ‘bunk’ PT and I along with Ashraf, the house boy, would try to foil their plans. It was a quick shower, change to school uniform and breakfast after that.

The dreaded morning PT

The time to do all this was about 30 minutes and every one had to rush to get it all done. I remember one summer we scheduled the toye time after PT and before breakfast instead of the afternoon because of the unusually hot summer; needless to say it proved to be a disaster with most boys snoozing head down on their toye tables. After breakfast we had the room inspection to ensure that rooms were left in a tidy condition, in which the Matron would assist and after that we would have the line up for school.

A typical morning assembly

Life at CBS was run by the bell, which would not only announce each activity but also produce compliance. There was a ‘line up’ before most activities to ascertain all were present. A second bell would be rung after five minutes, which was the time you got to reach the appointed place. A great, exaggerated rush would be seen as everyone’s objective was to reach the appointed place before the second bell. Those who were late or failed to remain silent after the second bell would invite some sanction ranging from mild admonishment to a tongue lashing from the house master to a detention etc.

Saigol House (2000-2001) with House tutor, Housemaster and Matron

Boys would walk to the academic blocks for classes and come back to the house for refreshments in the break. Right after school was over there would be lunch and an hour of rest / siesta / free time. Boys could go to the tuck shop in the afternoon after getting a requisition slip from the Matron. There were limits on the amount they could spend in a month and the Matron would see that they did not exceed this limit. The more enterprising ones would also try to get the better of that rule by employing various ingenious schemes!

A typical winter evening. Waiting for the Maghrib prayer line up with Ashraf, the house boy.

Another great event was the ‘Eid Milan’ party which was organized by the boys and teachers for all employees. The waiters, cooks, gardeners and sweepers and their families would be the guests and the boys and teachers hosts. I was a great learning experience for the boys. They carried all furniture from the houses to the party area , served the guests and also arranged entertainments and games for them.

Some incidents stand out and one of them was the massive wind/rain storm we had in May 2001. Though such storms were a regular feature (and always played havoc with the power supply and telephone lines) this one was the grand daddy of them all. It started suddenly one evening when boys were engaged in toyetime. It was about 8 pm and I was in my office when the power went out and the wind started wailing like a banshee. I grabbed a torch and ran to the house. With the help of senior boys I had just managed to herd all the boys in the common room when I saw Mr Abid, the dispenser, rushing toward me. ‘Senior House key diwaar gir gaye hai’, He shouted, near hysterical, in his panic. The wind had risen to a crescendo and had drowned his yells to sound, ‘Senior house main aag lag gaye hai’. I grabbed a fire extinguisher from the dining hall wall and was about to rush toward the senior house when I saw Mr Nadeem Khan, the computing teacher, walking in a daze toward me. There was blood on his clothes and his eyes had gone blank in shock.  ‘Jamal Sahib, the wall has collapsed, Mr Naveed is buried beneath it. We need a vehicle…… hurry’. He managed to gasp.

I started my car, he sat beside me and we inched the car toward the senior house. The force of the wind was amazing. Massive trees had been uprooted and power cables were lying on the ground, twitching and coiling like deadly serpents. As I pressed down on the accelerator it felt as if an equally powerful force was pulling the car in the opposite direction. I later saw that the house’s water cooler had been torn from its moorings and after breaking the steel water pipes, the wind had hurtled it far away from its niche to the compound of the house. We would later see that the major part of the long boundary wall that encompasses the 180 acre campus had collapsed like a house of cards.

We managed to reach the senior house without incident and I was shocked to see that the wall over the main passage had crumbled like a set of dominoes. Both Mr Naveed, the Maths teacher, and his brother who had come to visit him had, by a quirk of fate, been hard hit by the falling debris. Both were badly injured and Mr Naveed would spend months in the hospital and undergo many surgical procedures before recovery.  To our amazement, Mr Maclehose, true to his compassionate and fearless nature, was already there leading the rescue operation. A roll call revealed some boys missing and teachers frantically scoured the campus to find them. That night was a most traumatic experience and we all breathed an immense sigh of relief when the wind died down and we had ascertained that all were accounted for. Many boys were hysterical after the catastrophe and it took some doing to calm them down. When the furore had finally died down I asked Mr Maclehose if it would be business as usual the next day. He looked at me in his implacably calm manner and nodded!

Ben, Jamal, Saqib, Mr Maclehose, Sajjad and Dr Qazi

Another incident that comes to mind when I think of CBS is when the TV in AJ House common room caught fire! I was on my way to a late supper and a comfortable bed at about 11 pm, after taking a round of the house after lights out, when I saw flickering flames through the large windows of the AJ common room. As I sprinted across the tennis courts I figured out that the 32” LG, which was the pride and joy of Mr Ishaq, was on fire. The house boy who had reached the scene, in a bid to put out the fire was, in his naiveté and panic, fanning it with a sofa cushion, thus further kindling it.  The molten, dripping plastic from the TV’s body had set fire to a number of foam cushions as well and the billowing, thick, black and acrid clouds of smoke stung my eyes and choked my breath as I smothered the flames with one of the half burnt foam cushions. It did have the desired effect though and the flames were soon reduced to smoking cinders. Meanwhile Mr Maclehose and some other teachers had arrived after hearing the fire bell and were supervising the fire drill Mr Maclehose had formulated and insisted on practising in case of exactly such an eventuality. Luckily no one was hurt!

The two housemasters with the head just before the Sunday room inspection

Another event which happened every Sunday and was the cause of much consternation on part of the House Masters was the ritual known as the Head Master’s Sunday Room Inspection. Boys would keep awake all night cleaning, washing and mopping their dormitories. The House Master would turn a blind eye to this flurry of activity which went on after lights out as he would be as eager as his boys to earn kudos for his house. Each item of clothing would be painstakingly folded and arranged in the cupboards, beds would be made, sheets unerringly smoothed, dirty laundry rushed to the linen room and the bed side tables scrupulously emptied of all eatables. The inspection began after breakfast on Sunday. Mr Maclehose would always arrive on the dot and would inspect all dormitories. He was extremely demanding and even a piece of straw under the bed or a dirty pair of socks forgotten in someone’s shoes would have him throw up his hands in mock horror and admonish the culprit in his good humoured way.

Organizers of the first summer school

Many prominent people, often associates and friends of Mr Maclehose from abroad, would visit the school and afford us the chance to broaden our horizons and grow professionally.

Mrs Naureen Khan had shared her matronly duties between both AJ and Saigol initially. Her contract expired after two years and then my wife, Saima, joined me as Matron, Saigol House in 2000 and proved to be indispensable as far as running the house was concerned. She was most popular among the boys and we managed the house together, translating work into pleasure in the process.

Cutting the cake at the first anniversary in Sept 1999

I was to continue my Housemastership of Saigol House till August 2002, when I said goodbye to Chand Bagh, content in the knowledge that Saigol House was the over all champion house and held the Junior as well as Senior Inter-house Sports Trophies.

The last staff group photograph with Mr Maclehose

Mr Maclehose left in June 2001, leaving a void that can never be filled. Other obligatory changes, which are the price of progress, occurred. Chand Bagh grew in stature and size and has now become a name to reckon with but the memories of those early days still conjure up images which envelop me in a comforting glow and continue to inspire me. Four of the most wonderful years of my life were spent there and the associations I have formed there, the bonds I have forged there and the lessons I have learned there will remain with me for the rest of my life.


  1. Reading this brought soo many memories back which i thought i had forgotten.
    Briliantly written Sir.
    Miss the best 4years of my life so far,if given a chance i would love to relive them.

  2. Dear Sir Jamal,

    May Allah in His infinite grace bless you and your family and loved ones with honor, health, and happiness.

    Thank you so very much for penning this heartfelt memoir. The pictures, especially, evoke such warm, nostalgic memories… memories that undoubtedly shall forever stay affectionately embedded in our hearts and minds… memories that are woven into the very fabric of our lives.

    All my teachers — and above all you — have a very special place in my heart. From Kuwait my parents had brought my elder brother and me to Chand Bagh at a tender age and left us trustingly in your care and tutelage. Indeed, you were much more to us than our teacher and guardian. Mr. Maclehose, Sir Ishaq, Dr. Qazi, Sir Arif, Sir Tanveer, and all our other teachers are exceedingly dear to us as well. We shall remain forever indebted, eternally grateful.

  3. Chand Bagh is indeed a remarkable place to spend your time, whether it be as a teacher or a student. It is good to know that i am not the only one who left with such humble and enduring memories, good or bad. As I went through your memoir it felt really inspiring to know how this great institute came into being. The picture of the incomplete Mosque and the sunflowers in the field beside Saigol house are quite exhilarating when compared to the present day status of the school and show how hard everyone has worked to bring it where it is at this point. Even today when I walk in the hallways of University I always think how epic the life in CBS was and how i missed on opportunities that could have made it better. To all the current CBStians if they are reading this i have to say take part in everything that comes at you, if you don’t trust me you will be stuck with regret your whole life.
    sorry for such a long comment haha.
    Muneeb Ajmal,

  4. A very epic article, giving me the flash backs of the good memories, miss those times. Great work done Sir. We all will always remember you and all the great efforts you made for us.

  5. Absolutely made me feel as if I was sitting in my Toye table and reading this article, by the end of it. It was a great experience to go through and much credit goes to all the academic and administration staff who were involved with us for our grooming. Although I must say I let you down Sir in my first year in the Saigol house and am sorry for that.

    Loved the post!

  6. All I could think of was the overwhelming nostalgia from reading this exceptionally well written article. I was always proud to have started off at Saigol house along with my younger brother, and when asked to move to Abaseen it was unfortunate but we took it in our stride. Sir Jamal honestly made us feel at home and I doubt I’ll ever forget my time at either house or CBS in general. I’m also fortunate in having been able to attend CBS in it’s how I like to call ‘Golden years’ , awesome teachers, fellow students and Mr. Maclehose as headmaster. Lastly it was bittersweet looking at the house picture…. since at least two of the people I knew are no longer with us and hope they rest in peace. Thank you for the article sir.

    • My dear Umair,

      Very good to hear from you and many thanks for your kind comments. Who are the two people you mention; Amad Khan passed way in the October 2005 earthquake but I do not know of anyone else?

      How’s your brother, Saad was it? Best wishes as always.

      • Sir the second guy is Muneeb the house pic 2000-2001,he,s the fourth boy from the left in the third row.

  7. What a fantastic combination of authorship and past albums; made me want to become a student at CBS!

    Thank you for sharing Mr Malik!

  8. Sir, what a fabulous job writing this. You honestly took me back in the early days when we used to line up so many times a day, and the second bell, haha that was an adrenaline rush due to the fear of detention, especially for lunch “kay khanay say pehlay bend down nahe hona, bohat bhook lagee ve hai yaar”. hahaha. Well, for me in the very early days, you were the ain reason why i somehow decieded to stay in CBS and then spent a couple of very memorable years, learnt alot of there which is still very helpfull when iv been away for home ever since then.

    Maam Saima and you, have and always will be like my parents to me, i have you both in my prayers, always. Reading this article made me quite emotional, im sure you can sense that, haha but golden years of my life.

    And the second guy who passed away was Muneeb, Batch mate of haider ali virk and saad munir. he passed away in london a few years back and that was a very disturbing incident to hear as me and usman kaleem were there at that time doing our high school. May his soul rest in peace, he was the kind of person who never felt bad of anything and always made other happy 🙁

    God bless you sir, and regards to your family.Take care

  9. Dear Old Friend Jamal, after this great article of yours and replies by the ex-students nothing more can be said about life at CBS. In total agreement with Babar ” if given the chance would like to relive those 4 years”.

  10. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. The five years I have spent in Chand Bagh have been the most amazing in my life. I would give so much to go back to the 20th of Sept 98. I hope that you are well and that you keep inspiring us through your writing.

  11. After reading this article i wish i had a Time machine I must have gone back to 2000 when i joined cbs. The time which i have Spend there was remarkable especially the first year and the last year.Sir are you in contact with Mr.Maclehose?

  12. Absolutely beautiful.. You have such a wealth of experience. Really like the different perspective on cbs. Had the student’s perspective, but now getting to know it from a teacher’s perspective is interesting.
    Also the pic of you and sir Saqib checking stationary supplies is quite interesting. Can you share it on facebook? Do tag me if you do.

  13. Uzair…Roll # 91……it was of utmost pleasure, both spending that time with you sir and getting to know your perspective on those good old years …… I joined Saigol house when i got admitted and left it only when i left CBS………so……….now you must know that i was dedicated…haha………………….anyway sir jamal it was only due to you that i felt home-sickness just for a single day…….otherwise CBS would have been a disaster for me atleast……… Thank you again sir g for all the love and devotion……………………………..and I pray that the seed you had sown back then may blossom , your effort suffice and Chand-Bagh really become a force to reckkon with……………….Regards

  14. Pick my left pocket of its silver dime, but spare the right – it holds my golden time!

  15. Beautifully said Sir. Sir do you by any chance know where our old matron Mrs Naureen Khan is these days. She used to be a family friend but then we lost touch.

    • Many thanks Sami. No I am afraid the last I saw of Mrs Khan was when I was still at CBS. She moved to Lahore and gradually we lost touch.

  16. Jamal you have shown and shared a part of your own childhood with the students at Chand Bagh .What greater honor can one bestow on our teachers than to emulate then and to pass on their legacy ..

    Thank you my friend ..

  17. Sir,
    I am speechless. It is what we sow is what we reap, and you are sowing the perfect seeds. CBS kids will make Pakistan rise and shine again. Please keep up the good work. You are an inspiration to me.

    Much Obliged

    Kashif Raja

  18. Sir Jamal,

    Excellent write up and a fond trip down memory lane! I stumbled upon this randomly on the internet. Some good times those years were indeed!

    We should have some sort of reunion!


    Hasan Ruvi Zaman
    Roll# 095
    A J House

    • Good to hear from you Hasan Ruvi. Yes, it would be great to catch up. You know where to find me…

  19. This has been written so beautifully sir, wanted to be part of this institution while i was reading this.

  20. Dear Sir,

    I am so grateful to you , as you have given me an opportunity to walk down the memory lane of Chandbagh , I am a part of the Chandbagh faculty and I manage the admissions office.
    I am so in love with this place that i want to stay here till the last breath of my life.
    Thankyou for building the foundation of this prestigious institution.
    We as the present faculty have a great responsibility to continue the tradition of axcellece started by all of you.



    Farah Riaz

    • Dear Ms Farah,

      Very good to hear from you and many thanks for taking the time to read my article. I am glad you like it I and hope to see you whenever I get the opportunity to visit Chand Bagh. Like you, the place is close to my heart too.

      With all good wishes!

  21. Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh Viva Chand Bagh

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