Clifford Paes


Clifford was a handsome strapping young man, only son of Dr Roque & Norma Paes of Chembur, Bombay. A talented, popular and outstanding allrounder excelling in athletics and cricket, Clifford was the favourite to be School captain in the next year when he would have been in the Senior Cambridge. Clifford was surrounded by friends and being an enthusiastic outdoorsman would go out on jungle trips with some of his friends during the holidays. One such day they had returned from a jungle trail and found the dorm locked. Clifford then went down to the dam for a wash. Unknowingly he entered a very deep part and found himself drowning. His friend tried to rescue him but he disappeared underwater. I remember that we were having tea in the refectory when therre were shouts of someone drowning and we all rushed down to the dam. I saw slippers floating on the water and Br. Kelly frantically diving into the water and then resurfacing with a desperate look on his face. When we were informed that Clifford had gone under we were all shocked. The only sport that Clifford had not learnt was swimming. His body was found a couple of days later by using a grapel hook thrown from a boat by navy professionals. His parents who came down from Bombay were in a state of utter shock. The funeral mass was held in the school chapel. All of us were dressed formally in our blazers and worsted trousers and the burial took place in the cemetary in town.

— Gerard Lobo (1975)

An athlete and a gentleman.

If ever there was, to have graced the playing and academic fields of St. Mary’s, a handsomely dashing young man possessing a streamlined athletic body that made him the envy of his peers, the perfect gentleman with that infectious Robert Redford Hollywood smile which could trigger an avalanche of swooning teen-aged girls to his side, and a compassionate Samaritan who would lend you his cricket bat just so that you could look forward to hitting that much desired sixer, it was Clifford Paes. Undoubtedly Cliffy, as he was popularly known at St. Mary’s.

I was privileged to have met and known Clifford as my class buddy for the three years (1972-74) that I had boarded, lodged and studied at St. Mary’s. Clifford was not as tall as his closest pals, Michael Arbuthnott and Praveen Singh, but he had that graceful athletic build which more than compensated this. Needless to say, Clifford had many admirers but he chose his friends well—never discriminatingly but always reciprocatingly. Initially a carefree, come what may average student, especially in maths, during the maturing years of 1972-73, Clifford made a striking lane change in his final Cambridge year of 1974 when he tracked onto the super highway of academic performance and his score cards showed high grades in “add” maths (calculus), physics, chemistry and the arts. He had by mid 1974 become a dead serious Cambridge student, calculatingly foresighted and growingly fine-tuned to the inevitability of college education which he knew too well would depend on his performance in ISC 1974. Being the scion of a wealthy family, it is quite probable that his parents inculcated him with high ambitions for an internationally accredited degree in post graduation.

Clifford had that rare but delightful gift of poking fun with his peers as well as with his teachers. I remember him being especially humorous with class teachers as Mr. Kureekat (English), Mr. Peter (biology), Mr. Goyal (Hindi) and Mrs. Khambatta (art and craft). The amazing thing was that Clifford would erupt in bouts of laughter and innocent fun poking whenever these teachers unconsciously contradicted what they had earlier committed, oftentimes due to prior commitments and at times due to schedule changes. Clifford also had a way with the nuns of the dormitory and the clinic—he would venture to naughtily tease them of having a special place for some of the Christian Brothers, much to the blushing and embarrassment of the sisters; the sisters would fake annoyance and castigate Clifford for his audacity but he knew and so did we that the sisters were thoroughly enjoying the good hearted bantering and the teasing looks. The nuns thoroughly enjoyed Clifford’s teasing them as much as he delighted in provoking their embarrassment and I simply cannot recollect anyone in the ISC batch of 1974 or anyone before that who had this amazing gift of naughty yet innocent fun with elders who were old enough to be his parents. Clifford certainly had a way with women both young and the much older!

Clifford loved strenuous sports and his favourites were basketball, hockey, soccer and field and track events; he didn’t mind cricket, volleyball but definitely did not care for handball. Clifford was pretty advanced for his athletics and sports abilities and simply breezed it to the school eleven much before his Cambridge year; consequently, he participated in matches with many of Mt. Abu’s adult populated sports clubs. However, while he was thoroughly professional when he played games like hockey and football he would at times allow field aggressiveness to overtake his finer impulses of gentlemanly sportsmanship. There was an incident I remember during a hockey match when Clifford miscalculatingly slammed the knee of a student from a lower class with his hockey stick which resulted in a deep gash on the boy’s knee and an agony that was absolutely unbearable. Quickly composing himself to the gentleman that he was, Clifford helped the boy to the school clinic and ensured that he received the adequate amount of treatment; Clifford dutifully apologized to him for his aggression. The matter ended then and there and there was no ill will on either side. Given his professionalism in sports, Clifford had one major weakness: ­ he simply didn’t know swimming and never bothered to learn this sport even though he was from coastal Bombay; on second thoughts I can forgive him because St. Mary’s at the time had no swimming pool as it does today. This was to prove most tragic for Clifford.

It was a bright sunny day that June 2nd 1974, when we had just returned late afternoon from our twice weekly walks and were then assembling class-wise in front of the refectory for the tea break. That evening was to have been a gala evening at the Sophia girl’s convent at downtown Mt. Abu and we, the Cambridge lads of the day, the invincible batch of ISC 1974, were all set to make an impression with the belles of Sophia. I was walking towards my class line when all of a sudden a massive gasp of desperate expressions rent the air ­ Oh God! My God! Oh no! Are you sure??? ... I ran toward my good friend Darryl D’Souza to enquire and I suddenly noticed the death-like horror in his face. He told me that Clifford had just drowned. We ran to the dam and saw Br. Kelly and others diving in and out of the waters below. It was too late, much too late.  Later that evening as we sullenly trooped into our elegantly lit and newly constructed chapel to pray for Clifford’s soul, a tearful Br. Mulligan, the Principal, recounted Clifford’s short but eventful life at St. Mary’s; then we sang the hymn “Out of the Depths I Cry to you O Lord.” It was a most appropriate hymn because Clifford lay in the depths of the dam until we finally managed to fish out his body using grapple hooks two days later, 4th June 1974.

Clifford will always be remembered by those senior as well as those junior to him, but most especially by the buddies of his ISC batch of 1974. We will always remember Clifford as our buddy whose life ended too soon. He had barely begun.

— Roland Fernandez (1974)

Clifford was a sportsman. He was a pace bowler, long jumper, bird nester.

And he could run. When we were together in Class 5, we raced twice a day. The lunch and tea bells were our starting pistols. We'd barrel out of class to the refectory. I got to inhale his dust every time.

Fast forward to Sports Day 1973. It was my final year and I wanted to go out with some sort of showing. What better way to do that than on St Francis's 4x100 relay team. But we'd chosen our four men, and I wasn't among them. Clifford was. And he'd fallen back a year, so he had another Sports meet ahead of him. An hour before the race, he offered me his place on the team. The captain didn't think much of the idea, but stopped short of hiring legal counsel. As it happened, the skies turned ugly, and the Sports were called off just before the relay.

Clifford drowned in the dam the next year. The 1973 Sports had been his last too.

Val Noronha (1973)