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Jamshid Jehangir Karanjia
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Salim Hamed Fatani
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 History of Principals

Behram (Behli) Sohrab H. J. Rustomji (1912-2002)
 

A student of Dr. Maneck Pithawalla, the then principal of B.V.S. Parsi High School, Behli later became Pithawalla's colleague as a teacher and vice principal, and finally his successor, when he became Principal in 1946.

After completing his matriculation and a short teaching period, Behli proceeded to UK in 1935 for further studies and obtained a BA in education from Goldsmith College, University of London. He also took courses at the Royal College of Music and attended summer school at Cambridge.

   
When Behli became the principal of B.V.S. Parsi High School in 1946, it was a year before the partition of the Indian subcontinent and the impending influx of millions of Muslims. With the agreement, understanding, and blessings from the first president of Pakistan and father of the Nation - Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the school opened its doors to thousands of Muslim immigrant students.

During 1947, when the nation of Pakistan was established, the country was in search of a new Pakistani national anthem to replace 'God Save the King'. A family friend of Behli, Mr. Chagla had just put together and composed the anthem with inspirational words and an accompanying melody. While visiting Behli's house, he hummed and tried out the tune for Behli. At once, Behli played it on the piano, and hence earned the distinction of being the first individual, a Zarathushti, to play the tune of the newly created Muslim nation of Pakistan. The family piano on which Behli played the Anthem (a gift by Behli's late father Sohrab to his wife Tehmina) is indeed a valuable piece of history!

Behli's vision of the ideal school environment was keeping a fine balance between the required educational syllabus and his passion for extracurricular activities. He strongly believed that academics without extracurricular activities would not give students a competitive edge and therefore made sure that all students, irrespective of individual impairment and interest levels, were given opportunities and encouragement to participate fully. In fact, Behli took the personal responsibility to see that each and every student during their senior years got his fair share of both.

Behli strongly believed that exposing a student to the 'world' was as important as learning textbook material, attaining high grades, and passing exams. He therefore brought the 'world' to the classrooms and assembly halls of B.V.S.. Local, national, and international dignitaries, academicians, entrepreneurs, ambassadors, and high governmental officials, were all guests and frequent visitors to the school. Officials from the embassies of United States, United Kingdom, and Iran were among the most frequent visitors. They understood the value of a good well-rounded education and saw in Behli, the strong and dedicated leadership to accomplish these results and benefit the students. They provided the most up-to-date technologies in improving the school's communication and vocational training equipment.

Recognizing that not all students will pursue college careers, Behli made sure that vocational curriculum was provided for those students who chose to pursue it. B.V.S. Parsi High School thus became one of the first high schools in Karachi, to offer matriculation with vocational training and education. B.V.S. was also one of the first schools in the city of Karachi, to be hooked-up with a internal public broadcasting system (PBS) in each and every classroom, recreational facility, and assembly hall. World famous institutions like the US-based Ford Foundation, and the UK-based British Council provided monetary and material support (books, equipment, fixtures, furniture, etc.) to the school, once again, mainly due to their strong respect and high opinion of Behli's educational commitment.

Some experienced teachers were sent to UK, not only to specialize in their areas of expertise, but also to teach as guest teachers in UK schools. In interschool debates, dramatics, elocution competitions, sporting events, marching band, scouting, and ambulance brigade, the boys from B.V.S. were always looked upon by rival schools as formidable adversaries. Behli took pride and joy in these events and made sure that the boys lived up to the high expectations set by their predecessors - the old Virbaijeeites.

As a school that was founded on Zarathushti values & principles, religion played an important part in the daily running of the school. Behli believed in daily morning prayers for all the students before the commencement of the classes. Praying took place in separate prayer halls for the Zarathushtis, Muslims, Hindus, and Christians students - a unique multi-faith activity with equal respect and tolerance for all faiths.

In the 19 years he served as principal, Behli preferred to be addressed as Headmaster or Sir rather than Mr. or Principal, a preference resulting from an affinity for British tradition. Behli resigned as principal of B.V.S. Parsi High School in 1965 to pursue other educational and scholarship activities in Pakistan.

Thanks to the untiring efforts and the vision of Behli, the B.V.S. Parsi High School was rated among the best in the metropolitan city of Karachi. Behli took the B.V.S. to a higher level in his tenure. The tradition of excellence continues today, and it is one of the most sought after schools in the nation.

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