Divyansh Vinayek 2022
Good morning honourable Chief Guest, The Director, Mr Simon Weale, The Headmaster Mr Mathew John, Housemasters, teachers, the Upper Sixth and my fellow Cottonians sitting in the Irwin Hall, proudly donning their Oxford Blue blazers. This morning our school stands on its 163rd Speech Day, continuing its rich heritage of honouring students of the school with accolades they’ve won in the past and current year. It is my great privilege as the Captain of School to extend a most warm and cordial welcome to all present here. I feel truly honoured to be standing before the school to address you all in this capacity.
Standing on the stage of the illustrious Irwin Hall, memories flood my mind, breaking the dam of responsibilities and filling my mind and heart with a child-like glee. History is literally written on the walls here, and when I look at the board which displays the names of all the School Captains who held this honour before me, it is a truly humbling experience. The cobblestones are a subtle reminder of thousands of Cottonians who trod the corridors before us.
The Cottonians, who over-night became non-Indians left the school for the last time through the third door at the back of this hall, after receiving a sombre but formal farewell, right here on this historic floor. And it is even harder to imagine that among those thousands, were the Padma Bhushan and Padma Shree awardee, author Ruskin Bond, famous Hollywood director Tarsem Singh, successful international golfer Jeev Milkha Singh, former Special Director of the Indian Intelligence Bureau and former Secretary of the Research & Analysis Wing (more famously known as RAW) A S Dulat, former chairman of Tata Sons and a very well-known philanthropist Ratan Tata, six-time Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, Late Shri Virbhadra Singh, and the highest decorated british officer Major Roy Faran. It’s a truly humbling and gratifying thought that the present Cottonians are learning the same values that these eminent personalities have, and many more.
My first day at school is as clear as a recent occurring, and in my mind, I can see details of it as if they were happening before me in the present time. I stood on the First Flat (which had broken asphalt back then), with my mother. The then headmaster, Mr R.C. Robinson, was addressing the cohort of parents of the new Cottonians for the year. “You give us a boy; we will return you a man”. This is what he said in his speech to the nervous flock of adults. It didn’t make much difference to me then, since I was as clueless of the events of that day as any other new boy who joined that year, but now, looking back to my first day and replaying his catchphrase in my head, I understand what he meant. The sentence is as true as the sun rising every day, for this is exactly what Bishop Cotton is: a catalyst to convert a regular child into a gentleman of the highest breed, yet someone who is in touch with his thoughts and feelings. All the elements of the school work together to make this metamorphosis happen. I am grateful to everyone and everything that has worked on me and my batchmates to make us grow and shine.
It has been years since that address on the First Flat. I’ve been learning virtues and implementing them in my daily life ever since.
I’m sure everyone in the Irwin Hall today is familiar with the word ‘Mitre. It is what rests atop the School Shield in the School Seal. It is the traditional headdress of a bishop. The school termly newsletter is also named after it. I personally believe that each letter of ‘Mitre’ represents a cardinal character quality, which every Cottonian develops as he passes through the portals of this grand institution:
M is for Mettle/Manliness, I is for Integrity, T is Tolerance, R is for Responsibility, and E is for Efficiency. I can say with all confidence that Cottonians, with these qualities thoroughly inculcated within us , can certainly stand up to any test that life throws at us, and emerge victorious with our values and ethics intact.
All my batchmates standing at the back of the hall with the Prefect’s Crest on their blazers are the same people who taught me to appreciate the school. These are also the wolves who seemingly appeared out of nowhere whenever I tore open a packet of chips from Chipu’s. It’s impossible to imagine the number of hands that grabbed the chips out of my hands, and they would all disappear before the wisp of the chips reached the other end of the room. These are also the guys who made ‘Shell’ an enjoyable year for me. Everyone in the hall knows what that year in a Cottonian’s life is like, but the crooked smiles on these people’s faces made up for the uncountable number of canings we’d get. I know many OC’s who have said that they’re proud that they completed “Shell’ from Bishop Cotton, for what “Shellites are capable of, is nothing short of miraculous. What a Cottonian can arrange at a moment’s notice is something only Cottonians know and understand. I’d go on to say it’s a rare talent for someone to be so prompt in their actions.
After ‘Shell’, we were all eager and excited for ‘Fifth Form’. but our excitement was short-lived. A month into the academic year, the world was devasted by the Covid Pandemic. This robbed us of our joy to spend our last year together as a whole batch. It was unfair, but I’m sure you’ve all heard the saying, “It is what it is.”
What excited me the most, like most Cottonians, was the sports field. Football has been the most popular sport at school for quite some time now. I was inducted into this “religion” when the football teams for C-Division were being finalised. This is when I had my first serious conversation with Mr. Gurprit, with his signature jet-black, upturned, storm-proof moustache. He scaffolded my confidence for the upcoming games, for I was high-strung to be playing in a team which comprised mostly of my seniors. It is under his able and caring guidance that I was able to achieve what I have in all sporting activities at school.
Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, said while addressing the school in the Holy Trinity Chapel in 1948 that: “The most thrilling experience any boy can have is to be at Bishop Cotton, fitting himself to make India greater.” This morning on this Speech Day, I realise how true these words are.
From the first Captain of School in 1882, W. Donald to, Divyansh Vinayek as the Captain of School for 2022, Bishop Cotton School has stood the test of time. It has been doing so for 163 years. It has seen political turmoil at their peaks, numerous wars fought, seen the largest population get divided into two separate and independent nations, and seen the largest empire in human history peak and diminish. It stands as tall and as beautiful as ever, its traditions, customs and ethos as strong and bold as ever. Cottonians have gone out to become heads of government, ambassadors, industry leaders, and achieved greatness in whatever field they chose to work in. I wish the same degree of success to the current Upper Sixth, and all Cottonians who follow.
My sincerest thanks to all of you for lending me a patient ear today and giving me the opportunity to express myself as the School Captain. I wish the upcoming batch, the current Lower Sixth, all the best for next year. I wish each and every one of you a very pleasant day ahead of you.
Divyansh Vinayek 2022
Bishop Cotton School Captain