Brick-by-brick history
Reviewed by Aditi Garg

Excelsior: The Story of Wynberg-Allen School
by Rakhshanda Jalil Niyogi Books Pages 223 Rs 1500

Excelsior: The Story of Wynberg-Allen SchoolAn academic institution is only as illustrious as its alumni, staff and history. Wynberg-Allen School, an institution whose very foundations rest on philanthropic pillars, is one such institution with a glorious history and many renowned names associated with it. A peek into its formative years is an eye-opener. The writer identifies the underlying trials, tribulations and subsequent triumphs that gave it the character that is a part of its aura. A legend in itself, the story of its evolution is as fascinating as the institution itself.

Rakhshanda Jalil, the author of Excelsior The Story of Wynberg-Allen School, has meticulously gathered, documented and presented the story of the school from the time when it was just a vision, through letters, minutes of meetings, photographs and other documents. With 15 books under her belt related to literature, culture and society, her repertoire includes acclaim as a writer, translator, critic and literary historian.

The reputed institution completed 125 years in 2013 and has been a symbol of the relentless dedication, unwavering vision and generous contributions from founders, benefactors and many unlikely sources. What started as an orphanage for Anglo- Indian kids who were referred to as orphans for want of a better word, has now become an educational institution whose very setup has become a model that many others seek to emulate. It was in 1887 that Mr and Mrs Arthur Foy, Mr Alfred Powell and Dr (Brigade Surgeon) J. H. Condon met in Kanpur and decided that something needs to be done for the destitute kids of European and Eurasian descent and set in motion the wheels that would turn around the fates of many. Eugenia Catherine West was enlisted as Superintendent at the Christian Training School and Orphanage, set up in Jaberkhet and started with two students.

Excelsior recounts the history of the Wynberg-Allen School through the decades from an orphanage to a leading educational institution, with firm belief in the Christian way of life and taking up the cause of the marginalised. It shifted from one campus to another, had to face unimaginable trouble in the form of buildings burning down, a strong gale blowing away an entire roof and the worst water shortage seen till then. However, it always managed to pick itself up, stand on its feet and walk ahead. Through contributions from various benefactors, known and anonymous, along with Government aid and an undying belief in the adage that The Lord Shall Provide, the institution strengthened further. The stress on good education was coupled with exposure to sports and other activities. The school has produced war veterans and heroes, actors and industrialists. Through many letters and pictures, the book draws you in and encourages you to dwell on how it has held on to its spirit and kept going through testing times and emerged victorious.