The Doon School days and Dev Anand's life!


It was 80 long years ago when a young man of 20 visited the famous Doon School at Dehra Dun to spend time with his elder brother, whom he idolised. The elder brother was a teacher of history, English theatre and tennis at this prestigious institution, which was then just eight years old.

The young man was none other than the renowned actor and star Dev Anand and the brother was Chetan Anand, who became a well-known director of the Hindi film industry. It was the year 1943 and the country was under the British Raj. Chetan Anand worked at the Doon School from 1940 to 1944.

When Dev Anand visited him and stayed with him at the beautiful house provided to him in the sprawling Chandbagh (Garden of the Moon) campus, he was not an actor yet.

He had just ventured out to Bombay after completing English Honours from Government College, Lahore. He was received in Bombay by Chetan, who was there during the school vacation. In his autobiography, Romancing with Life, Dev Anand fondly recalls the times he visited Chetan at the Doon School.

During his visits to the school, Dev came to learn "the manners of a proper Englishman". He writes that Chetan taught him table manners as "he put me amongst the affluent, pick-of-the-upper class students at Doon School, with their spick - and span-manners - breakfasting and dining on tables laid out for them by uniformed khansamas." (Raj Days!)

His fascination with English manners and education can be clearly felt while reading his autobiography.

Dev vividly recounted in his autobiography the "soft hum of conversation flowing around, on Byron and Shelley and Keats". This must have sounded sweet to him as he was a student of English Literature himself, who wished to do his Masters in the subject and then go to England for a foreign education. However, this dream remained unfulfilled as his father could not afford his further education.

Dev hero-worshipped Chetan, who was a tennis player (he had played at Wimbledon), swimmer, appeared for the ICS (now IAS) exams at England and spoke fluent, flawless English. "I had always looked up to my brother. He was a model of everything I admired, handsome, intellectual, fashionable, England-returned, and now teaching in one of the most elite schools of the country," he writes.

Dev remembers from the Dining Table at Doon School are about latest happenings at Lord's and at Wimbledon. While Dev picked up a lot from the young Doscos during the time he spent at the school, he kept learning how to be stylish from his brother too. He would wear his brother's big leather boots, imported from London, as well as his woollen check-shirt, black and maroon, typically English, "both of which I loved to flaunt".

Dev Anand admits that it was Chetan who inspired a style in him. The Doon School and Chetan together taught him many a thing about personality, and with it he evolved his own unique style that he was perhaps known for as much as he was celebrated for his acting. His scarves, ties, caps, hats, mufflers and jackets always gave him a special look, which created an image so different and much ahead of its time from his contemporaries.

The style Dev Sa'ab picked up as a young man stayed with him till the very end. It was a part of the way he dressed, the way he walked and spoke and the way he delivered his dialogues. The anglicised accent that one noticed even when he spoke Hindi was the result of his early fondness for and fixation with English manners - of speech and conducting oneself.

His love for the great English romantic poets, especially John Keats, is evident in one of the passages in his book where he tells us how he saw, on one of his visits to the English countryside, "all that John Keats must have seen in his times... I walked along the paths, imbibing of the nature that had so inspired Keats to go romancing with his pen."

The Doon School days stayed with Dev Anand all his life.

Dev Anand frequently visited Mussoorie as well. His wife Kalpana Kartik, formerly known as Mona Singha, lived near Christchurch in Library Bazaar. Her father was a commissioner of Garhwal and found Mussoorie to his liking. Another reason for Dev Anand’s visit was that his two children, Suniel and daughter Devina, studied in Woodstock School around mid-sixties.

Gopal Bhardwaj, a local historian further said Dev Anand visited them frequently. Later he also bought a house near Char Dukan in the Landour Cantonment Board and gifted it to his daughter Devina who still lives in it with her daughter.

Dev Sahib was fond of vegetarian food and used to walk for several hours watching the panoramic view of the Himalayas along with his children, added Shiv Singh, the caretaker of the house.

Gopal Bhardwaj reminiscing one incident said Dev Anand was so popular that one day a housewife, who was strolling with her litle baby lying in the pram on the Mall Road, lost her senses after seeing him and left the pram which was later caught by some tourists downhill on the Kulri Bazaar road.

According to another resident from Mussoorie Madan Mohan Sharma, Dev Sahib, on his visit to Mussoorie, attended pageant contests that were held during those days. It was in one such pageant contest that he discovered the famous actress, late Nutan, who had won the Miss Mussoorie Contest in 1960s and later cast her in one of the films that became a hit.

Rupali, a resident of Sisters Bazaar, opines that Dev Anand can never die and will live in their hearts as he was the human being who taught others to live with style and finesse and with an optimistic approach.

Courtesy of a WhatsApp forwarded by a close friend and relation Mr Sudarsan Samay Mangalagiri.

Stories, books, blogs, podcasts, and media about the legend are plenty, one book stands out, get hold of it!

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