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Old Martinians Association Of New England Celebrates Founders Day

Kaplesh Kumar

The Old Martinians Association of New England (OMANE), an organization of the alumni/ae of the prestigious La Martiniere schools, held its General Body meeting on 13th September, 2015 and celebrated Founders Day, an annual event toasting its founder Major General Claude Martin of the British East India Company on his 215th death anniversary in accordance with his Will. Under Martin’s Will seven schools were established: two colleges (boys and girls) in each of Kolkata and Lucknow, and three coeducational colleges in Lyon, France, Claude Martin’s place of birth.

The event was organized at Masala Art restaurant in Needham, MA, and attended by local alumni/ae as well as several from Connecticut and New York. The agenda included the reading of Founders Day messages received from the principals of the Kolkata boys school and the Lucknow boys and girls schools.  These schools have maintained their very high rankings among India’s top schools, with the Kolkata girls school ranked last year as the country’s best girls school. The quality of the education imparted to the students was evident in the performance of a high school students delegation from the Lucknow boys school which received several awards earlier this year including Best Student delegate in Model United Nations (MUN) programs run earlier this year by Yale University (on its campus) and the University of Pennsylvania (at Philadelphia).

Key highlights of the Founders Day evening included the induction of Mr. Sushil Tuli, Leader Bank as Honorary Member of OMANE in honor of his support of OMANE activities, donation to OMANE of a large hand embroidered banner by Martinian Samir Punn (who unfortunately was unable to attend), singing of the school song, and a detailed presentation on the life and legacy of Claude Martin assembled by Prof. (Emeritus) Bryan Cooke of the University of Northern Colorado, an alumnus of the Lucknow boys school and its Lyons House and College Captain during 1953-54, and presented by OMANE President, Dr. Kaplesh Kumar. A number of OMANE members who supported the students MUN tour were recognized by the gifting of the college tie as a token of appreciation.

The presentation covered the young Martin’s birth in Lyon, France to a barrel maker and his wife, his departure as a young lad from France over the stern objections of his stepmother, his arrival in Pondicherry, India, and enlisting with the French East India Company, being captured by the British East India Company and shipped to Calcutta as a prisoner where he joined the British East India Company’s army as an ensign, his discharge and re-induction into the British company’s army and his fast rise to the rank of Major General, his numerous talents across a range of areas (among others, philanthropist; surveyor, with several of his maps of north India still in use; a nabob and connoisseur of art; hot air balloonist; architect and builder, as seen in the Lucknow school and other building landmarks of Lucknow; adviser and banker to the Nawab of Oudh; metal casting specialist, making his own cannons that saw actual use in action; and surgeon – he removed his own gall stones by operating on himself). The talk concluded with a listing of a few of the numerous Martinians who have distinguished themselves in various fields nationally and internationally (e.g., Leander Paes, Priyanka Chopra, Nafisa Ali, Rajendra Pachauri, and Air Marshal Ajit Bhavnani from the India schools, and the Lumiere brothers from the Lyon schools who first introduced moviemaking to the world), and a brief description of the defense of the British at the Lucknow Residency by the Martiniere boys during the 1857 mutiny and war of independence, which earned the school a proclamation by Queen Victoria in 1858, and later, in the early 1900s, a Battle Honor, the only school in the world to be granted such status to date.

The military legacy of the Lucknow boys school has lived on with many alumni having joined India’s armed forces over the years and distinguished themselves on the battlefield during the two world wars and the several wars India has faced since independence. A number of alumni, including the heroes of the 1965 war with Pakistan (the Keelor brothers, Denzil and Trevor, and Flight Lieutenant Alfred Cooke, bother of Prof. Bryan Cooke) were honored a few weeks ago, on the third of September, at and by the Lucknow boys school and the Indian Air Force, represented by its Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Arup Raha.  The tablet installed in their honor and some details of the ceremony have been documented by a proud Martinian; his report is available at the following link: http://www.rediff.com/news/special/a-grateful-nation-and-a-proud-school/20150915.htm?sc_cid=emailshare&invitekey=b617f2e44bcac227b48c4ea590935c85&err_accptd=1.

Further to this celebration and in recognition of the school’s contributions to the defense of India, the Indian Air Force has gifted a Gnat fighter aircraft of the 1965 war vintage to the Lucknow school, which has been located by the school in a memorial park inaugurated on one of the many playing fields dotting the La Martiniere grounds.  Air Marshal Denzil Keelor (retd.) reportedly said "It's not a model or a showpiece, it's a real aircraft. Even though now it has retired and has come to rest in the memorial park here in La Martiniere, it has a story to tell… and is here to inspire." 

The Martiniere spirit and its long list of accomplishments live on. Vive La Martiniere!

Information on OMANE and its mission are available at www.omane.us or may be obtained from Dr. Kaplesh Kumar at KapKumar@aol.com.

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