An appreciative titter ran through the listening school boys. The thought warmed the very cockles of their hearts. But few others were amused. And some found it a trifle odd. I'm part of the latter group.
If boys' boarding schools should be told to give up decades of tradition and admit girls why shouldn't girls' boarding schools, some almost a century old, be told to take in boys? It's acceptable to knock bastions of male prerogative but no one feels the same need to tackle women's-only institutions.
No, my concern arises out of the suspicion that this was a knee-jerk Pavlovian pronouncement made in the pursuit of gender equality misapplied in this instance. It's the sort of thing you expect women in power to say and, regrettably, they often do.
The truth is I've never heard a single advocate of co-education call upon girls' schools to admit boys. It's usually, if not always, the other way round. Why? My answer is beguilingly simple although you may not agree with it. It's acceptable to knock bastions of male prerogative but no one feels the same need to tackle women's-only institutions.
If I'm right, this means the pursuit of gender equality is opening doors for women but not necessarily for men. The fact convents remain closed to boys doesn't offend gender equalisers.
Similarly, I'm all for the Doon School and any other boys' boarding school keeping out girls. No doubt we need and must have co-educational schools. Not for a moment would I disagree. But, equally, we need and should have schools only for boys or only for girls.
India needs the Doon School to keep getting better but Doon also has a right to continue as a boys' boarding school. Even if Mrs. Patil and Mrs. Alva don't like that, they have to learn to live with and accept this fact. But to be honest, I think they do. Which is why their comments don't need to be taken seriously.