A New Poem By Phillip Khan-Panni
submitted on May 11, 2006
The School on the Hill
snowy peaks of Mount Kanchanjunga
Preside so majestically over the hills
That swell like the backs of gigantic whales,
Their massiveness stunning onlookers with awe,
While the stillness and silence pulsate with a rhythm
More in tune with the soul than the urbanite haste.
of the mountain projects to the north
Directing the eye to those wonderful peaks,
And along both its flanks cluster houses and shacks,
Opportunist and patternless, hiding the green
Of the trees and the bushes that monsoons had fed
And drowning the sound of prayer flags in the wind.
to Darjeeling I came as a boy,
A boarder with nuns, and later with priests,
Where my formative years were spent in the care
Of Jesuits who famously claimed they could mould
Any child who was not yet a seven-year old –
A substitute home without parents who cared.
school stood four-square with a façade of rock
Carved from the quarry in the neighbouring hill,
Enclosing the Quad with its pillars of stone
And drains where we floated our ships when it rained,
Or played Baby Cricket with rulers for bats,
While skaters wove in and out, claiming the space.
Point was the name of that school on the hill,
The Jesuits were Belgique, then later Canucks,
But the model was English, the values as well,
From an England that ceased to exist in the West.
We believed in fair play and in not trying too hard,
For it mattered much more to play well than to win.
a hand to a faltering brother”, we sang,
A sentiment some of carried through life,
A Spagie or North Pointer mattered to us,
A shared brotherhood in the rarified air
Of our schooldays as boarders high up in the hills,
From March to November, as boys and as men.
Approached through a pair of twin towers set
By the cart road that ran from the town to Lebong,
The school gave us context and laid down the rules,
And taught us obedience and guilt so that we
Would stay within bounds – well, mostly we did,
And accepted the sanctions when we strayed just a bit.
nothing so precious as a bond that is shared
With Spagies whose values and memories are one
And the same as the drivers that shape how we live.
From the school on the hill to the place where we are,
In our hearts “Sursum Corda” is the motto we share,
As onward through life we go.