The History of The DSOBS

Origin and Guardianship: In the Autumn of 1935 The Doon School opened its gates for the very first time to welcome its first batch of sixty-one students. From its very inception, its visionary Head Master, Arthur E Foot, an Old Etonian, was extremely keen to initiate an Old Boys' Society and it is to the credit of his vision that the very first OB on record as having held an official position in the society, Uma Shankar Bajpai, was from his first batch of students.

The First President of the fledgling society was Arthur Foot; through its early years he oversaw the initial meeting of the 'Old Boys Society' and then encouraged the later ones to be chaired by old boys. These initial meetings of the society were probably held in the Library, which at that time was on the ground floor of the Main building. It was years later that he handed over the reins of the society to John AK Martyn, the next Head Master.

It was during Martyn's tenure as Head Master that, in 1955, the first Old Boy, Surender 'Charlie' Kandhari, joined the teaching staff. Within the first year he was seconded to the post of Secretary and the first attempts at keeping records were initiated. Later, once Martyn retired, Surender 'Charlie' Kandhari took over as the first 'Old Boy' President of the Society.

Once John Martyn retired he initiated in 1970 and collated the first Register of Old Boys, now known as the DOSCO Register; sending out by "snail mail' questionnaires, waiting for replies and then typing out replies on a series of cards. All these cards are today being uploaded and will comprise part of the on line Archive on the Website.

Though the Society was a functioning body it was in fact a couple of decades before the DSOBS became a formal Society with an Articles & Memorandum of Association with due registration under the Societies Act and a subsequent Income Tax Exemption under Section 80-G.

 Handover of the reins

In the early years of the Society meetings were held on the Founders day weekend, a tradition continued till today. However there are no minutes or records of these early meetings. Once Charlie Kandhari joined the school staff and was appointed secretary of the society he initiated record keeping and he remains till today the longest serving office bearer of the Society, (1956-1970). In the early years there were informal get-togethers, sometimes, at the end of which a hat was passed around and up to a thousand Rupees could be collected, a considerable sum on those days, which was then sent on to the school. It was not till later when there was a larger body of 'Old Boys' and the early batches were established in their professions and careers and that the Society really gained momentum. However, it was from the camaraderie of those early meetings and the guiding hands of Foot and Martyn that the DSOBS has grown into amongst the most active Alumni societies in the world.

The earliest record of a President of the society with a formal Executive Committee is that of Shanti Berry (Batch of '42) and it was at this time that the working of the society shifted to Delhi, where it remains till today.

During the initial years, as the HM was President an OB would invariably chair the OB's meeting at Founder's and is therefore on record as Vice President. It is to the credit of Arthur Foot that from his very first batches boys, once they had left school, returned to attend meetings over the Founder's Day weekend and subsequently chair these meetings: The first batch of the School that joined School in 1935, contributed in a strong way as Shaukat Rai, Kamal Farukhi and Hari Shanker Kapur were all Vice Presidents of the DSOBS. The other early Vice Presidents were Prem Lal Malhotra joined 1936, Lakshman Katre (later Air Chief Marshal) and Mohsin Mohd Ali in 1937.

 The First Record of The Old Boys of The Doon School

John Martyn, once he retired, settled down in Dehra Dun and soon married Mady Uttam Singh Virk. By 1975 he had begun what is probably the single greatest instrument of the DSOBS, the register, a DOSCO database. Darshan Singh, (batch of 1962) who was Martyn's right hand, describes this initial mammoth undertaking.

"In those days, digitized information was not available and, therefore, Mr. John Martyn worked from data cards "KARDEX" in the specially made cupboards, which were available in the School Office at that time. He painstakingly put the information together and had invited me to work with him on this effort. Mr. Martyn typed all the information on each boy onto a small piece of paper. This he had done for the first 6 years 1935 to 1940. All the sheets for each year were tied with a string and bound. Then he would make corrections in his own hand in ink. The archive contains these sheets, as typed by Mr. Martyn, corrected in ink in his own hand and then updated again a later year.

Unfortunately, Mr. Martyn had a stroke in 1978 and his wife, Mady Martyn, asked me to continue the effort as the "Record must be brought out". The information on other 'Old' Boys was still on 'Kardex' and had to be transcribed. This was done in the evenings at my home with a Mr. J. Rajagopalan who worked diligently alongside. We wrote to all Old Boys (no emails then!) and waited for responses. Not everyone would reply and reminders were sent. Putting all this information together took the better part of three years.

Later, Mr. John Martyn was able to recover substantially and the progress was routinely shown to him and he continued to give valuable advice. Finally, when the book was brought out, which was based on his initial efforts, Mr. Martyn was delighted to see the first copies of the 'Dosco Record', which had been printed on an old-style letter-press printing machine of another young Old Boy, the late Pradeep (Shorty) Sharma (ex-400K). The Record was an uphill task as, most people at that time thought that this effort would not meet with success. No other School had attempted to put together a complete record, not only of names, but also Roll Numbers, Fathers name, year of leaving, etc. etc. So, it was lonely work with Mr. Rajagopalan and of course the help of Mr. John Martyn and his wife Mady to push the effort. We wrote a few thousand letters and got hundreds of replies from Old Boys, mostly in their own handwriting. From this, information was gleaned to make up the Record.

Soon we were to go to Press but there were no funds (or paper). But help was to come from unexpected quarters. It was Sanjay Gandhi, who on a request immediately agreed to help and soon we had 2 tons of paper coordinated by Kamal Nath. Then the first Dosco Record was on its way. By Founder's 1980, I just made it to the Old Boys AGM in the School Library with 20 copies still wet from the glue of the manual binding."

In those initial years, fund raising came from two major theatrical productions, one each during the tenures of Vijay Kapur and (Tunu) Manjit Singh. Though the most memorable event was the Ball in March 1974 at the Oberoi Hotel, which many still remember, particularly the humour of Piloo Mody. In the years that followed, the Society continued to grow from strength to strength. This can be attributed to the continually expanding numbers of Old Boys that were getting involved and the fact that each Executive Committee continued to invite eminent and successful old boys into its membership. Therefore, the Society was assured of a capable succession plan. The fact that more and more people got interested in the affairs of the Society and through it to further the interests of their alma mater gives a most reassuring feeling as the Society was of course by now on an irreversible path forward.