Its genesis lay in the painful Partition, in which people and institutions were separated more by circumstance than the will of the individuals concerned. The pain of parting soon led to a desire to do something about it, and thus was born Yadavindra Public School, Patiala.
Aitchison College, Lahore, was the premier education institute for young boys in the united Punjab. It was the place where sons of chiefs and princes were sent for their basic education and training. It was in the way that among others, both Maharaja Bhupinder Singh and Maharaja Yadavindra Singh were students of this institute. They were also to be later the Chairmen of the same Aitchison College.
“I was the last person among the Hindu and Sikh boys to leave Aitchison College after Partition,” says Col Harinder Singh Attari. He was not alone. Among the members of the teaching faculty who had to leave Lahore were Rai Bahadur Dhani Ram Kapila and Hetwa Nand Kashyap.
Maharaja Yadavindra Singh had great respect for his teacher Dhani Ram Kapila. The Maharaja invited him to be Principal of the new public school, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Yadavindra Public School started functioning on February 2, 1948, with a strength of 21 students and nine teachers.
Harinder Singh Attari became the first student of YPS. “I distinctly remember those days, since it was a clean break from Aitchison College, but we soon gained roots in YPS, since most of the teaching staff, as well as some cooks, waiters and orders lies were from among those who served us at Aitchison College, Lahore.
Reminiscing at the golden jubilee function of the school held recently, Colonel Attari said he remembered how Maharaja Yadavindra Singh would touch the feet of his guru in public.
Dhani Ram Kapila was succeeded by Lt Col Frankton Von Goldstein in 1950 and four years later the school was made co-educational. The school continued to flourish, and in 1969, H.N. Kashyap became Principal. An old Aitchisonian, he was familiar with the ethos YPS was modeling itself on. When he retired in 1986, Dr H. S. Dhillon, an old Sanawarian, took over until Sanawarian, took over until Sanawar claimed him back. Now, Dr M.P. Singh is the Principal of the School.
Maharaja Yadavindra Singh’s son, Capt Amarinder Singh, is the patron of the school, with Rajmata Mohinder Kaur as the Chairperson of the Board of Governors.
In spite of it being a descendent of a school which only admitted princes et al. YPS has emerged as an institution which caters for the usual mixture of students, both boys and girls, from the region.
One of the highlights of the function was the presence of a large contingent from Aitchison College, led by Raja Kuli Khan, Principal of Aitchison College, along with the hockey team, which played a friendly match with the YPS team.
As Capt Amarinder Singh puts it: “Aitchisonians are well represented in the higher echelons of Pakistani army, government and society, and with YPS and Aitchison College sharing a bond, we are bound to form a bridge of understanding between our two peoples. The RIMC, Dehra Dun, has also facilitated such understanding since it invited Pakistani old boys for its centenary celebrations.”
Lt Gen K. S. Randhawa, an old Aitchisonian who has been instrumental in bringing together former schoolmates from India and Pakistan together spoke about how H.N. Kashyap, during his visit to Aitchison College, Lahore, would meet old students and ask how they were doing on life. “Sir, I am a Chief Minister,” one would say. Another would reply that he was the Chief Minister of another state, or a judge, etc.
Well, another Aitchisonian, Harcharan Singh Brar, is a former Chief Minister of Punjab. Old Yadavindrians are well represented in the Indian judiciary and administrative services, too. Former Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court Justice Savinder Singh Sodhi, who is at present the Chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, is an old Yadavindrian, as are bureaucrats Trilochan Singh and Rajan Kashyap, says Dr M. P. Singh.
As is common on such occasions, there was much stock-taking about past and present achievements as well as the course for the future. Yadavindrians have been known for their prowess in sports, though is that they don’t do that well in academics. Mallika Gupta, a student, highlighted the academic achievements of individual students who have excelled at the national level, and in total, 845 students out of 1,125 secured first division in ICSE from ’87-’97.
Nakul Gupta, another student, spoke of how old Yadavindrians like the shooter Randhir Singh, who is also the Secretary, Indian Olympic Association, and cricketer Navjot Sidhu, along with a host of others, have done well in sports.
Like most public schools, YPS also provides a wide range of hobbies to give an opportunity for all-round development of students. Students cut a fine figure astride their steeds. They also learn various kinds of crafts, including photography, leather work, cane work, etc.
Asked whether YPS, as it is now, represented the kind of a school which his father envisaged when he founded it, Capt Amarinder Singh said: “Yes, on the whole, though the idea was to incorporate the ethos of the boarding school life. Unfortunately, day-scholars do not get the right sort of grounding, and therefore, I would like the school to revert to being a boarding school only. Otherwise, we are keeping up with the developing scientific world.”
At present, most of the students in the school are boarders and there are hostels for both boys and girls.
Co-education is now an integrated facet of life in YPS. Girls who have passed out of YPS have made a place for themselves in the subcontinent, and as a student mentioned, they can hardly be called “tom-boys,” not with Parmeshwar Godrej being one of the most prominent old Yadavindrian Girls!
The hockey match between Aitchison College and YPS was played at the school grounds. YPS does boast of having one of the best sports facilities in the country, and if one were to go by the reactions of the visitors, it could well be the subcontinent.
The keenly played match ended in a draw, with the Yadavindrian cheer leaders shouting innovative slogans like “Waheguru bol, score a goal” to boost up their team’s morale.
While the Aitchisonians were all praise for the Yadavindrain hospitality, conversations with the students and the principal revealed that not only was the institute at Lahore better equipped, its efforts to find foreign scholarships for its students were rather successful.
This is not so for YPS, although they do have an ongoing cultural exchange programme with Shropshire County, UK. This has resulted in a positive exposure to a new world for the children of both nations, says Anahat Khaira, one of the students of YPS who visited England and stayed with British families as a part of this programme.
Yadavindra Public School, a 50-years-old institution with a century-old heritage, was born out of a need to provide quality, all-round education to the children. Going around the school five decades later, meeting people like Ajit Singh Jwanda, the vice-principal, who has devoted his life to the institution he has studied in, it was obvious that the school will continue to flourish as long as it continues to fulfil that need.
This article by Roopinder Singh was published in Saturday Plus section of The Tribune on February 28, 1998.