A short visit to Behala
One year the Oxford Mission sent on a visit to the UK a group of young musicians led by the cellist Anup Biswas, who himself had grown up in the Mission and studied music with Father Theodore Mathieson BE. We went to see them perform in Guildford Cathedral, and I was so impressed that I decided to visit the Oxford Mission when next in Kolkata.
I dropped-in informally because I wanted to see this famous place before returning to Kerala but didnt want to inconvenience anyone: I know they always go out of their way to welcome visitors, and I had not prepared for a more detailed visit.
So I took the 77 bus from Kolkata for the 30 minute ride into the suburbs of this great city. Arriving at the Oxford Mission, which is sited on both sides of the main road, I first entered the gardens of the Home for elderly residents Santi Nivash, and then met a gardener who directed me across the road to the main buildings.
Here I first passed the huge tank, like an openair rectangular swimming-pool, where local boys were happily jumping in, splashing each other, and thoroughly enjoying themselves. When I reached the offices the secretary, Mrs. Reena Sen, met me and explained that the Administrator, Mr. Arijeet Roy, was away at a conference that day, but she was very happy to show me round. She told me that the local boys were always welcome to bathe in the tank, and the Mission students were of course all at school when I arrived.
In the same way there were several cricket matches in progress on the large Mission playing-fields, where local youths were enthusiastically bowling, batting, fielding and cheering, in the way of young players throughout India.
Mrs. Sen took me round he large junior school, and the classrooms were full of boys and girls sitting in long lines on the floor, happily working with their teachers. I was very surprised at the large numbers of such young children, who were all receiving an excellent education at the Mission. The teachers were very welcoming, and the children were happy to see a visitor.
We went to see the large library, with photos of past and present Church leaders who have been part of the Oxford Mission community. It opens on to a long veranda which leads down to beautifully-kept gardens. Upstairs are the rooms where visiting clergy stay.
Across the gardens is the large new Music Centre for performing arts, built for the students and teachers as a tribute to Father Theodore Mathieson, a great teacher and musician himself.
It is a very peaceful place, and a wonderful location for study and recreation, especially when compared with the extreme congestion of all kinds in Kolkata itself.
The visit fulfilled all my expectations, and I was very grateful for the kindly reception I received on arriving so unexpectedly. It is a place of peace and harmony, where young people can prepare for their future careers with the sound guidance of this Christian community.