The Circle of Life at Doon School

Venky Vembu

{UPDATE on November 1, 2010: I gather from a comment that I received elsewhere that some Doon School alumni believe that this post is intended to “to prove (that) one bad apple… has emerged” from Doon School. That represents an incorrect reading of this post. You only have to read my extensive interview with the Headmaster to know my views on Doon.
This blog post was just an exploration of the ‘Human Web’ idea – or the Six Degrees of Separation, which refers to the notion that any two individuals on earth are connected by at most five others. As a character in John Guare’s play Six Degrees of Separation says: “… everybody on this planet is separated by only six other people…. (everyone from) the President of the United States to a gondolier in Venice…I find it extremely comforting that we’re so close… I am bound to everyone on this planet by a trail of six people.”
I took some liberties with the Six Degrees idea, and completed the ‘circle of life’ from Doon back to Doon by linking seven other unlikely people and entities – to show the interconnectedness of people and things.
I’d have thought that “elite” Doon School-trained minds might get it. Evidently I was wrong.}

  1. For four days from today, some of India’s most privileged sons will gather at Chandbagh in Dehra Dun for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of The Doon School, one of India’s most elite educational institutions. Through the portals of this school have passed numerous scions from India’s most powerful business and political dynasties – including former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
  2. After being elected to office in 1984 with the largest parliamentary majority, Rajiv Gandhi surrounded himself with fellow ‘ex-Doscos’ and began an economic reform process, but rapidly squandered his political goodwill and was ensnared in the Bofors corruption scandal. He was voted out in 1989, but ahead of the 1991 parliamentary elections, while campaigning in Tamil Nadu, he was assassinated by a suicide bomber of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which was waging a bloody separatist campaign in Sri Lanka.
  3. India’s island neighbour to its south, Sri Lanka has had civilisational links over centuries with India. In fact, one of the first written references to the island is to be found in the epic Ramayana, which narrates the war waged on the island by the martial Aryan god-king Rama on the kingdom of Lanka, ruled over by Ravanan.
  4. That epic war story was the allegory for a modern-day cinematic rendition in Ravanan, a spectacular film released earlier this year in both Tamil and Hindi. It was the latest cinematic offering from one of India’s finest film-makers, Mani Ratnam.
  5. Mani Ratnam’s most critically acclaimed film, made in 2002, was Kannathil Muthamittal, which narrates a story of love in the time of the Sri Lankan civil war. It starred, among others, award-winning character actress Nandita Das.
  6. In addition to being a critically acclaimed actress, Nandita Das is a tireless campaigner for social justice and is engaged in various community initiatives. One of these initiatives saw her inaugurate a pottery unit at Tihar Jail, which is perhaps the largest prison in South Asia.
  7. The Tihar Jail houses over 15,000 inmates, including, in the past, some notorious ones such as international criminal Charles Sobhraj. But today, its most high-profile inmate is arguably Maoist leader Kobad Ghandy.
  8. Kobad Ghandy is an unlikely revolutionary leader, considering his privileged upbringing in a wealthy Gujarati Parsi family – and the elite educational institutions he attended. One of those elite educational institutions he attended was Doon School, which is today celebrating its Diamond Jubilee.










About Venky

Journalist, blogger, amused observer of worldly goings-on... More about me here.
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