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A New Poem By Phillip Khan-Panni submitted on October 27, 2008




I went back to Cal after many long years,

A trip that seemed certain to bring on the tears.

They told me the city was in disrepair,

Its streets would be filthy with smog in the air;

The trams and the buses were battered and bent,

The taxis played ‘chicken’ wherever they went.

They all seemed to treat all pedestrians as fools

And none had the slightest regard for the rules.

We soon re-connected with people we knew:

‘How long has it been since last I met you?’

Calcutta’s a town that has once had its day,

But the feeling I get is it’s back on its way.

The buildings’ facades may be falling apart,

The rickshaws are still there and so are the carts,

But the heart of the city is pulsing with pride,

The energy surges again in its stride.

It’s better, I’m told, than a few years ago,

And Calcuttans generally go with the flow.

The Anglos abounded when I was a child,

But now there is scarcely one seen in the wild.

What strikes me the most, on this trip to the East –

I wish they would clean up the Maidan at least.


A New Poem By Phillip Khan-Panni submitted on May 11, 2006

The School on the Hill

The twin 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.

A spur 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.

 It was 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.

The 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.

North 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.

“Here’s 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.

There’s 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.

©Phillip Khan-Panni 2006


A New Poem By T.N. Shakabpa submitted on September 30, 2004:


my school stands a hill
atop the hot plains and yellow sea
it remains there still
among snowy mountains and tea

it has been there for a century
decked in granite and stone and very castle-like
above its steeples eagles soar free
while on ground play boys with names like Boya and Pyke

gentle priests from Canada and Ireland
firmly and sternly educate the children
who come from lands as far as England
and raise them to be gallant boys like men

in class we were studious and attentive
in school sports we were victorious
in public we followed the school directive
and in private we were notorious

but most of all
i remember the teachers
who gave their all
as educators not preachers

they were the ones who made us smile when sad
the ones who cleaned our wounds when we fell
they were the ones who straightened us when bad
the ones who were glad when we fared well

those days are gone now
but i must remain strong
and i must take a vow
to be true to my school song

"Here's a hand for the faltering brother
Here's a lift for the lame and the slow
And we stand boys like men to each other
As onwards through life we go"

Copyright: Tsoltim N. Shakabpa (2004)
NP School: 1953 - 1960



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