Taking the first sip of his second drink, Mr. White said, “I went to Barnes School in Devlali.”
I was sitting in my friend’s home. Mr. White, who was related to my friend, had joined us.
Mr. White seemed to be in his sixties. He had a soft a face and white hair and moustache. He looked affable.
He used to teach Geography in a leading missionary school in Kanpur.
“Barnes School, Devlali. Vinod Khanna is also an alumnus of the school. Was he your classmate? ” I asked.
Mr. White was surprised. “You know that Vinod Khanna went to Barnes School?” he said and chuckled.
He turned to my friend and said, “Young man, fill my glass. I have a new friend who knows that Vinod Khanna went to Barnes School and was my classmate. I have got some anecdotes to share.”
My friend filled Mr. White’s glass.
There was a knock at the door.
“Come in,” shouted Mr. White.
A young girl walked in.
She looked around in the room and told Mr. White, “What is this papa? We are waiting for you and you are sitting here…..” She looked at my friend and me with disdain.
“Cool down, my darling, cool down. Just tell mamma I will turn up for dinner within five minutes.”
The girl left.
Mr. White chuckled and said to one in particular, “These women….don’t want men to enjoy….”
“So the topic was Vinod Khanna.”
“Vinod Khanna was my senior by a couple of years.
“It was mandatory for every student of Barnes School to take up at least one sport. “
Mr White said, “Vinod Khanna had chosen boxing. He was wiry.”
“We would be famished in the evening after spending two hours in the field, gym or ring,” he said.
The students would assemble at the dining hall for dinner after sports.
“Dinner was very simple – daal and bread. We would take our places at the table and say a prayer. A gong would be struck and we would start eating. After 15 minutes or so, the gong would be struck again and we had to stop eating, even if we were hungry,” said Mr. White.
Once, the gong had been sounded for the second time but Vinod Khanna continued eating, as all the boys left to wash their hands.
“The warden, Mr. Gupta flew into rage. He dashed to Vinod Khanna and said sharply, ‘Haven’t you heard the gong? Why are you still eating?” said Mr. White.
Mr. White continued - Vinod Khanna got up, took a glass and smashed it against the table. Holding the jagged end in front of Mr. Gupta, he said, “My father is paying for my food. I will eat as much as I want.”
Today is his birthday.