Mrs. Shipley, the seasoned Matron of Kush House in Sainik School Ghorakhal, was a music-lover, came from a family of music fans, and – most importantly – was completely in control when dealing with a bunch of super-competitive boys, that too in an institution that valued regimentation, age-old morals, tradition, competition and strength over the softer side of being. After all, these 70 odd boys had memorized that the “aim of their life” was “to join the National Defence Academy and become officers in the Indian Armed Forces.”
Under these circumstances, the undaunted Mrs. Shipley along with her two musician sons and three determined student Cadets formed a band that played old Kishore songs. The band utilized a beat-up Congo, a toy Casio keyboard and an ancient looking Bongo that seemed to exist on a wing and a prayer.
Frowned upon for being too Western, too “non-Armed-Force-ish”, and of course, a distraction from the “aim of life” of the student Cadets, the band carefully jumped notes on Mrs. Shipley's composition in the battle for survival. Bunking prep classes and games hours, the band practiced. It practiced even after dinner sometimes. If the stage were unavailable, it rehearsed at Mrs. Shipley’s house.
Finally, after a month of struggle, the band won a slot in the Annual Function Program, was a hit with the audience, and loved even by the attending Armed Forces heavyweights, who most certainly didn’t find it objectionable.
All of this was possible thanks to Mrs. Shipley, who bucked Sainik School tradition to continue what she felt was as important for the growth of these children. Mrs. Shipley’s house, her sons' musical instruments and her family music collection was available to any student willing to explore. She was a supple softer light amidst focused strong floodlights in the training ground.
One of the old band members called her this morning. They were speaking after about 15 years, and the first thing she asked was - “How’s your music going, Beta!”