THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE, 12th SEPTEMBER 2013:-
A common thread unites a disparate group of great Pakistanis, each of whom has made a mark on the nation’s landscape.
What does Mr Syed Babar Ali have in common with Adnan Sami?
What links the mild-mannered Sardar Ayaz Sadiq to the fiery Akbar Bugti?
The answer lies in a single educational establishment at the heart of Lahore, which has produced some of the finest gentlemen in Pakistan and to answer the question “why Aitchison College” more than any other, here are seven possible reasons:
Character first: Aitchison produces the perfect gentleman
An Aitchisonian exudes a well-cultivated air of confidence without appearing conceited. This is combined with unassuming intelligence and a sense of purpose. However, more than anything else, a good Aitchisonian is almost always gentlemanly – embodying all the values that it implies. The emphasis on character building is an ethos that is the very essence of what it means to be a student at Aitchison College.
The school’s traditions and philosophy of what it means to succeed, may not always produce better scholastic rankings than other premier schools such as LGS (Lahore Grammar School) or KGS (Karachi Grammar School), but it does result in the Aitchisonian having a broader breadth of experience and more rounded (some might even say more charismatic) personality.
Sportsmanship as much as sporting excellence
The school’s philosophy has always been that healthy bodies make healthy minds and that sportsmanship as much as sporting excellence is key to building character. The multitude of cricket grounds, football and hockey fields, basketball and squash courts, and swimming pools show that the sports facilities are superior to any other school in Pakistan. In fact, the Main Cricket Ground is one of the best in the country. And with the celebrated horses, it’s the only top school to teach tent pegging at an internationally competitive level.
A combination of great coaches and fantastic facilities has made the school a nursery for athletic legends. While KGS, LGS and Beaconhouse might also have illustrious lists of alumni, none can boast the likes of Qasim Zia, Rameez Raja, Majid Khan, and of course the Kuptaan himself, Imran Khan.
This tradition of producing world-class international athletes who also excel scholastically is something that many other schools try to emulate but few succeed.
The sprawling campus none can ever forget
Spread over 200 acres, Aitchison College is one of Pakistan’s largest educational institutes. On first setting gaze at the splendour of the architecture and vista of green grounds, fellow students from visiting rival schools are left in speechless awe (and possibly a lifetime of envy).
The singular joy of strolling around the campus amidst majestic buildings and wide-open lawns is yet another memory deeply embedded in all who have had the pleasure of doing so.
After a day of intense study, there are few better ways to untie the mental knots than dashing to the nearest vacant field with a group of friends – cricket bat or football in hand. On a lazy day, it is equally enjoyable to amble along the outskirts of a field as other boys combat over whether a particular delivery was legal or not.
History connecting the past with future
Aitchison College’s iconic Old Building, designed and built by Sir Ganga Ram, is quintessential Lahore of old, with the power to take its beholders on a trip through time and thoughts of great past students who had graced the school. While keeping in mind past glory, students are encouraged to strive and shape a better future for themselves and their fellowman.
Unity, faith and discipline
While some of the brightest in Lahore and Karachi may attend LGS and KGS respectively, diversity defines Aitchison.
The school takes particular pride that there is representation not only from Punjab, but also Baluchistan, FATA, Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa and Sindh. The school’s scholarship system ensures that kids from every social background attend Aitchison. The spirit therefore engendered is that of camaraderie, equality and Pakistaniat, where students take as much pride in speaking Urdu and other ethnic languages, as being fluent in English.
If the rest of Pakistan could be as harmonious as Aitchison despite its ethnic, sectarian and social diversity, we would be a different country. While there may be horseplay on the sports fields, students “gel” with each other, with little thought of who comes from where and even less of what their personal beliefs may be. Despite a multitude of backgrounds, all are united in upholding the motto “Perseverance Commands Success”.
A proud legacy of Pakistan’s finest
Aitchison College’s singular focus on building character and devotion to duty shines through in producing success stories in almost every sphere of human activity. It’s list of alumni highlights luminaries such as former president Farooq Leghari, former prime ministers Feroz Khan Noon and Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, various provincial chief ministers and governors, and current Speaker of the National Assembly, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq. Renowned lawyers Aitzaz Ahsan and Salman Akram Raja will vouch for the influence Aitchison had in shaping them. Celebrities like Yousuf Salahuddin (impresario extraordinaire), Nawab Iftikhar Ali Khan Pautadi (Indian Cricket Team Captain), and Ejazul Hasan (Pakistan’s leading senior artist) once wore the school blazer.
Their example sets a high bar that serves to motivate Aitchisonians to strive for the extraordinary. That the alumni have excelled in vast array of callings and careers speaks volumes for the school’s ability to draw the best out each of its students
It is home to the best “Hot Dog” I’ll ever have
On casual inspection, the famous hot dog patty, available at a school canteen called Deans, looks like a traditional bun kebab. However, dismissing this age-old institution in such a manner would be just short of criminal. I had my first hot dog patty when a friend told me that eating one is a rite of passage and is part and parcel of studying in Aitchison. Together with Deans’ equally famous ketchup, I was introduced to this heavenly combination and a lifetime of shared memories and camaraderie with my fellow Aitchisonians.
Aitchison is a lot more than a school. It is a fraternity that people remain members of for the rest of their lives. There is hunger for innovation but respect for tradition at the same time. When Aitchison College’s foundation stone was laid on November 3, 1886, Sir Charles Umpherston Aitchison said,
“This is an institution from which you will banish everything in thought and word and act that is mean, dishonourable or impure, and in which you will cultivate everything that is virtuous, true, manly and gentlemanly”.
Even after 127 years, Aitchisonians aspire to live up to these inspiring words and each in his own unique manner succeeds in doing so.
There is no doubt that Aitchison competes with many great institutes for the title “Best School in Pakistan”. But if given the opportunity, would I choose to attend any one of them? Absolutely not.
After spending eight years at the school, I have come to understand that the Aitchison College experience is unmatched. The school not only excels in academia, but also provides a well-rounded exposure. Aided by the best sports facilities offered in the country, an Aitchisonian is taught the meaning of sportsmanship along with an appreciation of striving for excellence. Aitchison’s focus on etiquette surpasses all else, requiring Aitchisonians to behave like gentlemen not only amongst each other but also in all spheres of activity. The ethnic and social diversity, which encourages students to purge thoughts of superiority and instills a sense of equality among them is something I value deeply.
But most special of all, and what I will cherish forever, are the friends I have made and the memories shared with them. Any Aitchisonian will vouch for that there are few experiences that compare to walking through the school’s hallowed halls, or Cypress Avenue, with a group of his closest comrades – each with a hot dog patty in hand.