– Shitanshu Kumar Sharad
I write this as a mark of respect for Mr Kichlu on behalf of all those who were mostly on the fence about him as a Principal at Oak Grove School.
Not many people, let alone students, got to see or know much about him. His persona was defined more by the grapevine than facts for most of the people at Oak Grove. I personally saw him just once during my time at OG. But as I now realise, most personas defined by grapevine are people of action at a platform not accessible to the lower rungs. That could be taken to imply that the hierarchical system was rather strong through him. Maybe that is true but isn’t it the case that sometimes the hierarchical system can get things done, which a more consensus-based system fails to achieve, and we are talking of a school, remember.
I am sure it would not be an unequivocal statement that OG did extremely well during the tenure of Mr Kichlu. Howsoever distant and inaccessible he might have seemed to us as students and to other staff, the cogs and wheels did run in a smooth motion and the OG machinery was chugging along rather well right from maintenance issues to performance issues. It is important to note that these two issues are rather different and not many managers – that is what Mr Kichlu was in essence – get the balance right.
In terms of experience and administrative capacities, managers who are rather adept at maintenance issues of an institute/company are not great achievers on the performance front and vice versa. During Mr Kichlu’s time we hardly ever reached the merits lists of academics but no one – repeat no one – was ever a failure and in fact, most of us from his time did rather well in multifarious activities and not few are rather distinguished in their chosen paths, and almost every single one is above average. Starting to mention some of the great achievers will never be an exhaustive list. Suffice to say that a large posse of us served the nation’s forces with distinctions that would be the envy of even RIMC. And did you know that amongst us is a six time NASA medal winner directly from the hands of Bill Clinton (and he is not even an astro-physicist/electronics engineer now but an intellectual property lawyer).
The education was wholesome under the tutelage of the teachers of that time who in turn under the stewardship of Mr Kichlu ran a tight ship. On the other hand, the place was always spick and span from the large compounds of the valley or the building per se to the smallest issues of the well maintained desks and benches of hard wood as opposed to the peeling off plywood furniture we get to see now. A posse of staff would scrub the walls of the valley with iron brushes to get rid of the monsoon bryophytes (moss) and we used to pick up the fallen blades of those iron brushes for make-believe spears (darts to be precise) after tying bird feathers to it (how many of you remember that).
The recent academic and sports achievements of OG have taken its name to an entirely different level and put OG in the best of achievers across the country. However, these achievements do little to offset the rampant moss, fungus and rots, kitsch colours, insensitive modifications and otherwise shoddy and crumbling infra-structure on one hand and on the other hand in how those students look, who make such remarkable achievements. There are obvious issues with the children’s’ diet especially in terms of quantity and quality of the dairy and protein components. I am reminded of the episode when a young boy in junior school, sitting next to me in fact, was almost forced to finish his serving so as one, not to waste and two, for adequate nutrition.
The disciplinarian that Mr Kichlu was, he imbued and percolated a sense of punctiliousness among the staff, who on their part, struck the correct balance between letting the kids have fun without going out of bounds – although sometimes the ‘bounds’ went all the way to Dehradun on some nights for the more adventurous among us. But to think that that was not known to the teachers/house masters would be a folly.
For those of us who passed out of OG till the early 80s the kinship with boarding school culture all the way to Eton was not misplaced – how many of you related to what one got to see in Harry Potter movies in terms of Boarding School culture (though one wishes one had those wands as well). Maintaining the essence of an established culture while bridging with the innate culture and striking the balance between ‘what was’ and ‘what should be’ was an achievement of Mr Kichlu’s tenure as the Principal of OG in an era where the times were turning sides and the last of Anglo-Indian teachers and students were on their way out.
Mr Kichlu’s operations perhaps happened in ways that were never transparent at the student or junior staff level but – as Amitabh said – things worked.
One might have wanted to propose some ‘saffronising’ of the culture since, in keeping with some schools of thought and action, but remember when it comes to discipline saffron, or green or even white for that matter, is as demanding, in fact more demanding, than the good old Jack ever was. Maybe that’s the difference we need to appreciate and coordinate. It’s the connection with that sense of ‘discipline’ and ‘aesthetics’ in our living ambience and performance levels that is more important than any comparisons with the bygone era. For all you guys who have ever considered the difference between Apple and Microsoft – a functional high performance unit is great but a BEAUTIFUL high performance functional unit is always preferable.
Here is to someone who let bygones be bygones, wedded performance with beauty and made things work at the expense of gossip about himself, someone whose eyes were set on farther ‘targets’ than considerations of what the next person thought or said about how he ‘shot’ up to his vision.
The Principal of OG was always a CEO of sorts, and in our times if any CEO succeeded in keeping all ‘guns firing’ it was the debonair Mr Kichlu.
How we wish some of that suave vogue and distinguè would again be an integral and characteristic component of OG that held sway under the Gomes, Swing, Meston, Kukreti and more recently under Bhatt, Khanna and even Pant (in his own inimitable way) era on one end and the Wesley, David, Thomas kinds one the other end while the Gupta and Bhaskar era moulded so many of us toddlers into responsible boys ready for the ‘rigours’ of the Boys/Girls School. One can surely hope.
Meanwhile, rest in style as always, and in eternal peace now Sir, Mr Kichlu.
– Dr. Ajay Kohli (1981), M.Tech: IIT-Kgp; PhD: JIC-UK
Mr Kichlu wanted to make Oak Grove an Autonomous Educational institution. The Rly. Board asked him to prepare a submission with expert views from renowned Indian Educationists. Mr Deen Dayal, Frank Anthony, A E T Barrow and Harry Dang contributed extensively to the report. However, with the change of Govt in 1977, the whole project was closed for good.
Prior to joining Oak Grove, he was Vice Principal at the Tashi Namgyal academy in Bhutan. He taught briefly at RIMC and Col Brown school in DDN prior to moving to Bhutan. Did his master’s from UTAH. All the rifles he owned were gifted to him by Jigme Sanghey Wanchuk (his student) at Tashi Namgyal Academy. (Later king of Bhutan)
He was connected to Vijay Lakshmi Pandit somehow and visited her often at her Rajpur Rd house in DDN.
With time he lost interest in the school as he was divested of most of his powers and the Unions ruled supreme. As a consequence he wrongly was placed under suspension for a prolonged period and re-instated after he lodged an appeal and won his case. Although the legal process was avery long drawn out affair.
On another instance he drew religious backlash from Jharipani locals when he shot two Langurs.
This was held against him for a few years. He did not want to meet people after 6 pm as he wanted to spend the rest of the day in better company of the finest scotch that he possessed and was gifted by well wishers, and also enjoy the company of his two dogs Bonnie and later Sandy.
– Sanjeev Meston (1981)
The Oak Groves’ MASTER
“The revered teacher, essentially an innocent, gentle, humble, generous and steadfastly loyal human being. A flame that had that has stood the test of time.”
As a man of simple habits Mr. Kichlu liked to start his day in a time honoured way. Morning exercises followed by the reassuring tones of the BBC news and a cup of Lipton’s Tea. A brief glance at previous day’s paper and then, in dark suit and tie or well pressed navy blazer and shining shoes and a brisk stroll in his garden leading to the Principals office. There he would be greeted by beaming staff members, chorusing “GOOD MORNING SIR”- to which he would reply in a voice crisped by officer training “GOOD MORNING”.
Every Monday morning he turned up for school assembly in the dining hall. The school uniform was Khaki trousers and Khaki jali shirts for boys. Old teachers –keep going not because of the need or greed of money but simply because there is a strange but stimulating pleasure in arduous work, be it mental or manual, which for rare individuals like Mr. Kichlu gives complete satisfaction. He once remarked that – Education is the technique of transmitting civilisation, Mr. Kichlu was in the privileged position of par taking of this sacred rite of transmitting civilisations to generations of Oak Grovians. That is how the indomitable, the selfless and the forever hardworking Mr. kichlu would want to be remembered.
When a great Oak tree falls, the forest is never the same. Northern Railways greatest educationalist has passed away and the citadel of Jharipani is in a state of temporary eclipse. Mr. Kichlu was not only a great teacher, he was a great source of inspiration. Let us not mourn Mr. Kichlu, let us silently say a small prayer that his noble soul rests in eternal peace and that the memory of his life’s work is never forgotten.
Sir you are the fine peaches of summer in the snow of winter and you are the cool cool milk for cereal on a hot early morning, you will always remain in our hearts forever….
– Shri Krishan Tanwar(1979)
Mr. R.K. Kichlu served Oak Grove as Principal from 1972-1990, and then briefly again from 1991-1994. Always a thorough gentleman, his name is indelibly etched into the annals of OG history. Stories of his hunting expeditions are OG folklore, and the respect he commanded from all and sundry at Jharipani was unparalleled. He was well and truly an Oak Grove stalwart.
Mr. Kichlu breathed his last in Noida, where he stayed with his nephew, on August 18, 2019. He had been seriously unwell for the past 3-4 months.
A prayer meeting is being held in the memory of Shri Ratan Kumar Kichlu today, August 22, 2019, at the Arya Samaj Mandir, GK1, New Delhi at 4:00 PM.
Rest in peace sir. Thank you for your steadfast service to Oak Grove. We are always going to have you in our hearts.
– Puneet Monga (1991)
Sad to hear this news…. We’ll always remember him as an distinguished Academician, an able Administrator,a Cricketer and a excellent shot ….with his rifles… overall an all-round personality. An iconic figure whom the students and staff looked upto….OG has been missing his kind lately…..
Rest in Peace Sir, I will always cherish the memory of having been part of party which carried the leopard you shot in the Jungle closer to OGGS….
– Anand S. Rawat
Oh my God. Principal Sir is my first memory of OG. He shook my hand during my interview with him when I was 8 and welcomed me to OG. Will forever be indebted to you Sir. Farewell to the Grand Man…..
– Puneeta K Sharma
Rest in peace sir.
You were a guide guardian and a real guru for all the teachers and students.
You kept asking about my children even after your retirement.
Your blessings were always with us. You will always be remembered with a lot of love and respect.
– Tanuja Joshi (Former HMGS)
A great academician, outstanding sportsman, brought rich culture to Oak Grove,gave us the feel to participate in tournaments in Doon including RIMC,a few classes on physics, brought in the culture of eventful games like squash, what we are today Sir you were the launching pad, will always be indebted to you,RIP Sir, given a chance would once again be like to have you as our mentor,We those in uniform salute you.
– Bhupendra Chimwal
The last of the great principals of OG, after him it became a training ground for up and coming hotshots who knew nothing about education!
An experiment that was doomed from the start.
We have so many OOGians in high positions surely one of them can initiate a revolution to go back to the good old days.
– Niki Pasricha
A lovely obituary. After Mr Pasricha, he was the only one who , as I hear, was truly a person representing the traditional order. His handling of the school is remembered with fondness and respect.
– Rajiv Kapoor
so dynamic, dashing personality, outstanding academician, we used to go Rashtriya Indian Military College–Dehradun along with the students of OGBS to play Hockey & Cricket match with RIMC- Students, sad news,
so evocative that my eyes
are filled with tears,
may God rest his soul in
peace & give strength to
the members of his family to bear this irreparable loss.
– Krishan Kumar (Former HMBS)
Saddened – Great man – the obit can run into many pages each capturing a different facet of his personality. RIP Not many in later generations know that Mr Kichlu was a great Shikari. Those days the sport of hunting was alive for the licensed. I still remember the leopard ( Baghera ) he had shot. Deepest condolences to the family.
– Surojit Bose
I joined OG in ’94 when Mr. Kichlu was the Principal. Given that he left soon after, I never got to know much about him. However, one small thing I still remember hearing about him. That no source/jack could be used in his time to get undeserved admission into the school. Even a ward of a lower class Railway employee had the same opportunity as the wards of first class officers. Not sure how true it was but I would like to believe it was true. As someone who can never understand the reservations in examinations it would have been a great thing. RIP Principal.
– Anmol Prakash Gautam
Thank you Sanjeev sir for that evocative account. His persona had a certain enigma attached to it. His authority was pervasive and he ran it less like a Railway institution and more like a public school. Going through your description, this is yet another example of an accomplished individual choosing education as a vocation of choice with the pride associated with it. The pride rubbed off on a generation of teachers that we had the pleasure to study under. An indication of this was in the sartorial style of teachers during the day. Formal suits, polished shoes (Brogues and Oxfords only), not a hair out of place whether it be in the sports field or the class. RIP sir.
– Manoj Panikkar
May his soul rest in peace.
I’m from the 1974 batch, Mr. Kichlu had just taken over as the School Principal a year+ back. Our childish hearts had difficulties accepting a stern & aloof demeanour, being so used to the smiling faces of Mr. & Mrs. Pasricha, & Mr. & Mrs. Mathur. We were used to the visits of the previous Principals to GS. I remember seeing Mr. Pasricha coming to GS to take classes of class XI occasionally. Mr. Mathur would give us surprise visits every now & then. Mr. Kichlu’s visits to GS were few and far between. He remained non committal in his praise for the efforts we put in for the cultural functions (mind you, we had no professional help)
On our many visits to Welham Girls for badminton matches we were enamoured by their uniform of tiny blue polka dotted salwar kameez. We put up a plea to Mr. Kichlu for a change of our uniform to salwar kameez. It was rejected outright & we were heartbroken. But as an adult I realised the wisdom of Mr. Kichlu that the tunic blouse is the smartest uniform for school kids & it was an age old tradition of Oak grove that did not need any tampering.
Yes Mr. Kichlu was different though sagacious & did not believe in false trappings. In hindsight a down to earth administrator with a keen hunter’s eye.
Rest in peace.
– Deepa Biswas