ISLAMABAD, Oct 23: What could be nobler than to open up minds and create a world of possibilities? Major Geoffrey Langlands had been doing that for more than 60 years in Pakistan.
For his services in education Major Langlands was awarded the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George on Thursday evening at the British High Commission (BHC). The award goes to individuals with distinguished services overseas.
"There is no one other more deserving," said British High Commissioner Adam Thomson. The evening's celebrations also marked Major Langlands' 93rd birthday.""I feel like a young man," he told guests - diplomats, politicians and his students, some looking older than him. It made him sad that only a day ago he lost one of his best students in Farooq Leghari. But Gen (retired) Ali Quli Khan Khattaq who had also done Major Langlands proud stood by his side.
Major Langlands was the General's House Master for eight years at the Atchison College.""He believed in hard work. That's what his life has been all about," said General Quli.
The Major, recipient of Hilal-e-Imtiaz, remembered Imran Khan as one of his most ambitious students. "Never before did we have a boy like him at Atchison. We knew Imran would one day go on to become one of the finest cricketers when he was only 13 years old." Major Langlands, who arrived in India in 1944, to serve in the British Army, stayed in Pakistan after the partition, teaching at Atchison College for 25 years. But he was asked to give up his comfortable job at Atchison to take up a difficult but rewarding job in North Waziristan, a challenge he could not refuse.
"More than 300 students from Razmak Cadet College made into the Army as commissioned officers - 17 made lieutenant colonels. They are some of the finest men today," he said proudly remembering the school where he was principal for ten years.
He went on to establish Langlands School in Chitral where he has been for more than 20 years. The school has over 900 pupils aged between 4 and 18, with more than a third of them girls. It is Chitral's finest school.
Major Langlands, however, did not approve of the hate material against India included in the curriculum and taught to children in classes."Anything that preaches hatred should certainly not be there," he asserted hoping things would improve one day. "I used to tell my students at Atchison that they came from influential and rich families and that they must work for others and not just themselves. Some took that advice and have done good work," he said. When he was asked if his adopted home had treated him well, Major Langlan replied, "I simply played my role and contributed to the best of my abilities."
Published in Dawn. October 24th 2010