LAHORE: Major Geoffrey Langlands, a former British colonial officer who stayed in Pakistan after his military service ended and became one of the country’s best-loved teachers, was laid to rest on Monday in the eastern city of Lahore. He died on January 2, aged 101.
Langlands’ last rites were performed on the grounds of Aitchison College, Pakistan’s most prestigious boarding school where the doughty teacher, commonly known as ‘The Major’, had spent 25 years as a tutor and later a headmaster. The funeral cortège then passed through the grounds of the school and made its way to Gora Kabristan, one of the oldest Christian cemeteries in Lahore, where Langlands was buried.
Langlands taught mathematics and English for over six decades and was known both for guiding children from some of Pakistan’s most elite families to the highest pinnacles of success in government and business but also for dedicating his life to educating students from some of the country’s most remote, poor and lawless regions like North Waziristan and Chitral. His former students include Pakistan’s current prime minister and cricketing legend Imran Khan.
The funeral was attended by Lahore’s top military commander, Lt General Majid Ehsan, and hundreds of current Aitchison students as well as former pupils of Langlands’, including Pervaiz Elahi, the current speaker of the provincial Punjab Assembly, and Pervez Khattak, the minister for defense.
Langlands was born in Yorkshire, England, in 1917 and was a science and mathematics teacher in London in his early years before enlisting in the British Army in 1939 when World War II began. In 1944, he was posted to Bangalore and during the violent partition of India after the end of British colonial rule in 1947, Langlands survived an attack by Muslim gunmen while on a train with Hindu refugees.
He then spent six years as an instructor in the Pakistani Army in the first few years of the country’s inception and then in 1958 accepted a job teaching maths at Aitchison College.
In 1979, Langlands become the principal of a military school in Razmak, in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal region, where he lived for almost the next whole decade. During this time, he was famously held hostage by tribesman for six days in 1988 in a bid to overturn an unfavorable election result. It did not work.
Langlands never married and spent his last years in an apartment on the grounds of Aitchison College. He is known to have had the same breakfast of oatmeal, a poached egg and two cups of tea until he breathed his last week.