Bob Amore's 1998 Trip

Ever since I was contacted by Aloysius last January, the nostalgia of Abu  returned.  His letter and the Internet web site brought me in touch with several others who I knew  from the school days. We communicated by telephone and e-mail. The others were equally interested in the reunion but from about 20 just the seven of us plus 3 partners made the journey. The general plan was to meet on the 26th September, explore Abu, the old haunts and walks, and, of course, the School.  We were to stay in Abu until 2nd October then on to Bombay for a further reunion at the Catholic Gym.  We all made our own plans prior to the reunion, some went on short tours, others on fairly lenghty tours and one or two travelled directly to Mount Abu.  I  travelled to Delhi, Agra and Jaipur then on to Abu.  In Jaipur, I met up with a classmate from 41 years ago, yes, 1957.  Travel in India is very cheap so I hired a car and driver for 3 days to show me the sights.  The trip from Jaipur to Abu Road was by A/C train.  The excitement was mounting.

For the trip up the hills I hired a car, and my first stop was at the school.  Yes, I had tears in my eyes at seeing the school again. It seemed deserted except for a few people. On speaking to them, thinking that they were Old Boys, I was quite surprised to learn that they were Christian Brothers but without their cassocks on.  I went for a walk around the school before returning to the car for the lift back to the Bikaner Palace.  The rest of the gang were booked into Bikaner Palace as well.  Three of them, Carmo Lobo (1955), Brian (1958) and Joan Lobo (all 3 from the USA) were already there and I (1957) met them not knowing who they really were.

We had all changed during the past 40 years, and had to introduce ourselves.  After a bit of rest and wash we walked to Nakki Lake to meet Olaf (1958) and Patricia Pacheco.  We walked on to find Aloysius at the bungalow he was supposed to be staying at, but he had booked in elsewhere.  Nevertheless we enjoyed the walk and the meal at the old Bus Station.  Back at our hotel, Keith Fernandes (1958) and Peggy (from Canada) had arrived.  We chatted for a while but the travel tiredness ensured an early bed for all.  The morning found us with a few complaints against the hotel, and Keith and Co made replacement bookings at the Hilltone.  Best of all they hired a car and driver for us to use over the 5 days.  Vincent Demello (1957, from the USA) had joined us by now.   We were all on a 'high' and a visit to the School was inevitable.  We were overcome with nostalgia and wandered around it to see the changes.  Very mixed feelings were expressed.  The new Br Keane extension seemed the only clean area.  We were very disappointed with the state of our old classrooms, especially the four classes that had been turned into the laboratories.  What a terrible mess they and the staircase up to them were in.  Had we really spent an average of 6 years each there?  It was still our School and we had our own memories of the walks we went on, the games we played, the dorms, the School Bell, the dreaded strap, etc.  A pile of earth had been delivered and a few workers were busy spreading it on the running track in readiness for the Sports Day.  The weather suddenly closed in and an hour of rain washed away half the soil.  What a shame.  Even so, we had come back to our beloved School and had met some of the young ones and the Brothers.  We all felt elated.  A few of us stayed for the School Play, the rest returned to Hilltone for a meal and to talk about old times and the several years between.
Our best day was the School Sports Day.  We were apprehensive of the weather and lack of preparation as witnessed from the previous day.  What a lovely change.  The weather was perfect, all the chairs were neatly laid out, the ground had dried out, and there was a festive atmosphere.  The programme was well organised.  The parades, drills and novelty events entertained us immensely.  We met Mr Goyal.  What an astonishing memory the gentleman has.  He remembered all of us and even came up with other classmates' names and where they now were.  The years have taken their toll on him and on us for that matter.  Although our memories seemed quite good, our over 50's group showed some wear and tear.  We had put on weight, our heads were grey or bald, we lacked fitness but we put out a veterans team for the Old Boys Race.  We were last, but we were given the biggest cheer. There were all the old races and a few new events for the various age groups.  The old field has lost 3 to 4 inches (for the young ones 75 to 100mm) of top soil.  Some rocks are showing but that did not deter certain athletes from wearing spikes. The parents had a marvellous show put on for them.  Most enjoyable!  A day to remember. Duncan Collie (from UK) joined us late in the afternoon to complete our group of 10.  We old ones finished off the evening at the Madras Cafe with Mr Goyal as our Guest of Honour.  He gave Vincent and myself a lead to one of our classmates.  Subsequent to my return to the UK the lead proved successful and two more addresses are on the Web Site.

Our group spent the next few days crammed with activity.  There was an afternoon spent at Dilwara Temples, in fact, a few returned there for a second look at some wonderful carvings.  Some of us walked around Nakki Lake and to Anadra point.  Beautiful scenery.  That area away from the town is quite unspoiled.  So too was our nostalgic climb up Plummy.  There were 8 of us who started.  We were accompanied by 3 of the older school boys, Richard Liao, Joel D'Souza, Edgar Pereira, making 11 in all.  The monsoon rains had made the going slippery and 4 turned back.  That left the 3 young ones, Vincent, Duncan, Keith and myself.  Half way up, Vincent had to pull out.  Somehow with a cut knee and 'chupals' on his feet he had struggled to that height.  Three quarters of the way up, I wanted to pull out as it was getting too slippery and dangerous.  Keith would have come down too but refused to slide down the way we had gone up.  So we had to forge on upwards.  Duncan was like a Welsh Mountain goat.  He got to the top a full 20 minutes before we did, although Keith and I  had the help of the young ones who scouted ahead to find the easiest route.  We made it, though, tired and a bit humbled.  The young ones looked as though they were ready to scale Sergeant Plummy.  What a beautiful view from the top.  We could see the School, and waved in case the others were watching.  In my youth I climbed Plummy from the stream at the bottom to the top in 23 minutes.  This climb took me 2 hours and 23 minutes.  Never again.  The way down was just as terrifying.  All Keith and I can say is THANKS to Richard, Joel and Edgar.  Duncan was unworried and was first down.  From where does he get his energy?

Guru Sikar: Bob, Duncan, Peggy, Keith, Carmo, Olav, Patricia, Vincent, Joan, Brian
Other trips were to the top of Guru Sikar.  Thankfully there is a road up to near the summit and only about 200 steps to the top.  We have many snaps of that trip. Seven of the group dressed up in hired Rajasthani costumes.  Very colourful.  Another trip was to the old Kodra Dam.  That turned into a long hike.  Our car driver turned into our guide (he had been there 10 years earlier) but one wrong path took us a mile off track.  We did get to the Dam eventually.  It was obvious that the rains have been poor.  We expected an overflowing dam but it was less than half full.  Surely water rationing will be in force next year.  One of our memories will include a bonfire with eats and drinks at the Pacheco's bungalow.  That was a time of  good company, a cool evening, lovely views across Nakki Lake, jokes and stories of old.

The town of Abu has grown considerably.  There are new houses, hotels and hostels everywhere.  Street-side shops are numerous.  There is dirt and grime everywhere.  The stream out of the town is filthy.  It is used as a sewer.  Is that progress?  In my day, when we walked into town, we were surprised to be passed by on bus or car.  Now one is tooted every few yards and have to jump to safety.  Vincent and I wanted to walk around the lake by the School.  We only got down to the water's edge near the servants quarters and gave up.  We realised that the area is used  for human daily functions. What a mess and to think that students have been swimming in that water!  Is it also used as drinking water.  YUK!!

All in all the reunion in Abu was most enjoyable.  Meeting up with friends from 40 years ago was worth the trip.  We took many photographs and have more memories of a place we loved in our youth.  That is what pulls us Abuites together.  The hills are just as beautiful as ever. The several views are breath taking.  There are several things that I will always love about Abu.  A lot has been spoilt.  I'm glad that I've paid homage to the Olde Alma Mater and will remember it as it was in my day.