Recipient of the Old Sherwoodians' Millennium Award for Outstanding Achievement conferred during the Reunion on 14.10.2000.

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Nice-Vence-Cannes, France May 18, 2008 9:35 am/ 11:10 pm London

Cannes has come to an end for us. I leave to be with my daughter and my grand children in London for a day and then back to Mumbai and 'Aladin'.

Cannes was an interesting experience and I would want to spend more time on it later. But today as I rush to airports to catch flights, I am delighted with another event about to happen. It's the coming together of the Class of 1958 of Sherwood College, Nainital after 50 years !

Sherwood, the boarding school where I spent some of the most formative years of my life has its Founder's Day celebrations from the 3rd of June till the 5th and has invited me as a guest. The Class of 1958, who passed out of the school after giving their Senior Cambridge Examination, realized, it's been 50 years since we left school and have decided to meet up. We have, through some enterprising classmates, been able to contact quite a few and are now excited at the thought of coming together.

Old memories remain so strong and vivid in our minds. We tend to forget the details of what we may have done yesterday, but remember all that happened years ago during our childhood. The School the people the teachers the classes the games the incidents all so fresh and live.

As my thoughts go back to Founder's Day and Sherwood I can never forget the moment when I received the greatest lesson of my life. A lesson that has remained with me in all that I have done in all that I have endured in all that I have experienced. A lesson that was given to me by my father. A lesson given to me in Sherwood, at the time of a Founder's Day when I studied there.

Founder's Day celebrations in Sherwood constituted a varied range of activities. Meetings with old Sherwoodians, sporting events, PT displays, the Annual Concert and some exciting changes in the diet of the boarders !

My interest had lain in the Annual Concert and to be a part of the cast of the play that would be put up for visiting parents and other guests. The stage had been a constant feature with me during my entire schooling years, right from the Kindergarten, where if I recollect, I played a chicken, flapping my feathers and singing a ditty from some prominent nursery rhyme.

I had done the School Play in Sherwood in pre Senior Cambridge; Nikolai Gogol's 'Government Inspector' enacting the role of the Mayor and winning the Best Actor trophy, the prestigious Kendall Cup, instituted by that great Shakespearean stage personality Geofrey Kendall, who later became Shashi Kapoor's father-in- law. That was 1957.

It was now 1958. Final year in School and playing the lead character in Agatha Christie's '..And then there were None', for Founder's. My trophy for best actor in the previous year had almost assured all that I was slated to win it again this year, keeping in mind the importance of the character I was portraying and the talent required to carry it. I was 16, the Judge in the play which I was enacting was 60 !

The Dress Rehearsal for the Play, performed a day before, for the students had evinced huge applause. Compliments and praises flowed. In school and at 16, it was heady stuff. That night I went to sleep with some difficulty. The anticipation of the activities the following day, the Play in its final performance, the thrill of seeing your parents after almost six months of being away from them - in those days when letter writing was the only form of communication, it taking a fortnight to arrive by post, you can imagine our excitement of meeting Dad and Ma in person !

The morning arrived and with it came a gentle rash on my face. I thought it was the nestle, a wild plant found abundantly around the hills surrounding the school; a brush from which would generally erupt into an itch and then you scratched yourself into an uncontrollable rash. But my room mate Ravi Dhavan ( Senior Cambridge students had the privilege of cubicles ) saw something more ominous. "Its measles" he said and rushed me to the School Infirmary.

Mrs Pratt, the benevolent wife of our senior teaching staff and qualified nurse cum doctor, took one look at me and gently guided me to an isolated bed.

"Bachchan we cannot let you out. This is contagious. You will have to remain in hospi !"

As I waited in that room for further instructions the only thought that kept disturbing me was the Play later in the evening. I hope they don't stop me from performing. I shall remain in the Hospital and just go out to the stage in time for the start. Will just do my part and come back. Please I will not touch or mix with anyone. Its merely a matter of two hours. How will they find a replacement, there has been no understudy. My parents are coming all the way from Delhi to see me act. You cannot do this to me.

Nothing worked. The Principal Rev RC Lllewlyn came across and in his measured and sombre tone passed judgement. I will have to miss the Play, Mr Berry our Drama Instructor would play my part that evening.

In a boy's boarding School you seldom came across boys shedding tears. You were termed a 'skit' if you did, a term used to describe a 'sissy'. A weakling a quitter. Early introductions to that male chauvinist ego thing.

But I wept. Wept inside. Nothing coming out on the face except that defeated smile. The smile, when having lost, you force yourself to laugh the embarrassment off.

I remained in that state for how long I have no reckoning. Evening drew closer and the parents and audiences started walking down the slope of the hill towards Milman Hall, the venue for the Play.

Sherwood was constructed on a prominent hill in the Kumaon range. The highest point housed the classrooms and the dormitories a little lower to the left was Junior School and to the right on an isolated slope, the School Hospital. Beyond the Hospital and lower down was the large football sized playing field laid with 'bujjree'; a thin grey layer of crushed rocky gravel on which we conducted all our sporting events and to its left on the same level was the imposing Millman Hall, double storied, vast corridors, and named after one of our ex Principals. The ground floor had the gym and above it the stage and hall.

From the School Hospital one could see all the goings on at Millman and hear it too. Sound travels uninterrupted and clearly in the mountains.

I sat on my bed alone, broken and wondering why fate was depriving me of this opportunity. The opportunity not just of participating in the play, but that of winning the Kendall Cup a second time, a feat not accomplished by anyone in the history of Sherwood till then.

The general murmur of an audience seated and anxiously awaiting the performance to start, drifted across to my bed. I could almost see everything. Hand made programs being doled out. Parents, guests, students turning its pages to read the synopsis of the acts, the names of the cast. Judge : Amitabh Bachchan ! Present but absent.

The ringing of the three customary bells before the start, silence, a short opening speech by the Principal, perhaps to inform them of my illness, or would they not, an applause and then silence again. The curtain opens dramatically and deliberately and the first spoken words of Agatha Christie's renowned murder mystery get volume.

I sit there propped up in the infirmary, my heart beats struggling to drown the sounds coming out from Millmi...

And... my father walks through the doors of the Hospital, softly, without a word and lowers himself beside me on the bed and sits down. No one speaks. Act 1, Scene 1 plays at a distance. My father places his hand ever so gently on mine, allows me to feel its presence and then with all the strength at his command clutches it.

We remained like that for some time. We didn't look at each other. Just stared out through the window.

And then I heard his voice -

"Man ka ho to acchha. Man ka na ho to zyada acchha !"

If things happen according to what you wish. It is good.

If things do not happen according to what you wish. Then it is even better.

And for the entire duration of the Play my father understanding the pain of my mental condition, sat next to me in that Hospital bed explaining to me the meaning of these golden words, not allowing me for a moment to get distracted by the goings on in Millman Hall.

If things do not happen according to your wish then they happen according to the wishes of the Almighty. And the Almighty always does things for your good, hence His wishes will always be better.

I argued against it. It was not logical. How can this be true. How can something that does not happen according to your wish be better.

But he persisted and explained and gave examples and persisted again and again and again. Till I succumbed !

It has been the greatest lesson of my life. One that has stayed with me in every situation. It has been my strength in adversity, my companion in pain and tribulation and my dearest friend in moments of glory and joy.

I shall be in Sherwood for Founder's after 50 years. I shall walk past the School Hospital to Millman Hall again and time shall stand still as the strains of my father's words come back to me, strong and resilient.

My father is no more. And one day I shall go too. But I have left these words with Abhishek for him to follow and pass on.

Humans perish, not their words. They are eternal.

'Man ka ho to acchha. Man ka na ho to zyada acchha !'

My love and more to you always -

Amitabh Bachchan

Amitabh Bachchan

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