Christ’s College Blackheath
Today, it is a prep school for little kids but once it used to be a thriving old-fashioned British all-boys boarding school where I spent most of my adolescent years. It was here that I first learnt the Queen’s English and, boy, did I excel in it. I was the only Indian student to top the class and win the prestigious Eagle Heart Cup for English Literature. I still remember when I picked up the award in front of the entire school. Amir, my Pakistani friend, thought he would be declared the cup winner and before the name could be announced, he got up expecting that the principal Mr. Knight would call his name. But, alas, it was me who was the winner.
I spent hours in the mornings and evenings walking all the way from the academic block of the school to our hotel in St Jermyn Street across the green meadows of the heath with lazing chilly winds blowing over it. It was bitterly cold in the winter but I always had a long dark grey woollen coat from Selfridges which I used to keep myself warm and away from the wet rains that fell on the heath. I, along with my Asian friends Humanyun Saba, Amir, Mukhtar and Sanga would play cricket on the heath. We were fortunate to see a full white Christmas in London in 1990. The Africans went berserk when they saw snow. Moyo, Raulamera, Bada, Phiri and Admans would throw snow bombs at each other and the German boy Hans would always be trying to build a snowman. It was wonderful to see snow and white Christmas. The heath would turn white with 6 inches of snow in those days. I will walk down this memory lane and try to connect the dots of my past to my present. Come with me on the UK Nostalgia tour to get a glimpse of what life is in a typical British boarding school.
UMIST: University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology
Yes, after doing my A-levels, I moved on to UMIST to do my Bachelor of Engineering in Electrical and Electronics. UMIST was then a part of Manchester University, one of the top 5 universities of UK and it was a matter of pride to get admission there although my A-level grades were average. Here, I stayed in hostels and we each got a room to ourselves. I lost interest in studies in the first year and flunked. I was demoted to a lower course called the BSC degree. In the next two years, I lived with three flatmates – Ranesh Weera Singham from Colombo, Sailesh Varia, a British Indian Gujarati and Shamaz Majid, a British Pakistani. We stayed in a lower class colony called Rusholme which was not far from the UMIST campus area. All I can remember of the last two years of UMIST life is sleeping late for days and then walking in the night to pick up a lamb with rice. I used to love that and would eat it up along with buckets of Haagen-Dazs which was the best of the lot that I bought from the nearby petrol stations. I almost just-passed my degree with a 36% score. It was that close. Apart from my flatmates and a few Asian friends like Sandu, the son of a local corner shop owner, I didn’t have many friends at university. I had a Greek and an Arab friend, but that was all. As it is, engineering stopped interesting me after the first year.
I will be reliving the University year on this UK Nostalgia Tour of mine and show my readers what life is as an undergraduate university student in one of the most famous universities in Europe – UMIST.