Former students and the everlasting love they have for their alma mater
Last week, I was immersed in a weekend of frenzied activity with the alumni association of Mayo College, Ajmer, my husband’s school. The South India chapter held its annual get-together, called Nostalgia, a three-day flurry of parties, football, cricket and golf matches, cycle polo versus the army, AGMs and more parties. There were former teachers, present principals and old boys and girls coming together from across the country. The common thread through it all was the camaraderie, the reminiscences, the “remember the time?” stories, and much chuckling at the dreadful nicknames that boarding schools often bestow. Right through the safaa-tying contests, the rough and tumble of cycle polo and the festivities was a clear bond that held the diverse crowd together.
It got me thinking. Having hopped schools and cities, I’m a relative stranger to this enduring bond. I decided to turn to the secretary of the Old Boys’ Association of one of Bangalore’s best known schools, St Joseph’s, to check whether the glue existed here too, and why.
It did. Brian D’Lima, current secretary of the very organized OBA had plenty of inputs. For one, their annual Bangalore September OBA gathering has an attendance of over 500 ex-students, and just one group photo can’t fit them all in!
St Joseph’s is 155 years old, and its OBA will celebrate its centenary in 2018 around the world. “Now school is done, it’s time to give back,” says D’Lima. The OBA is one of the few in the country with an office within the school complex. Every batch passing out sets up a corpus to be well used — from funding scholarships for star students to staff welfare and pension funds for retired teachers. On the sports front, St Joseph’s old boys include Olympians and national sporting stars: Rahul Dravid, Robin Uthappa, Sandeep Somesh, Anup Sridhar, and Rehan Poncha among them. Dravid is helping set up the first indoor school cricket pitch. “Our school never differentiated among students. Within our gates, all are equal,” adds D’Lima. Noted old boys including the late Mark Mascarenhas, Sabeer Bhatia, Jimmy Anklesaria, and Singapore’s JY Pillai have contributed to school buildings and scholarships. Associations flourish in Kerala, Goa, Coorg, UK, USA, Canada, Australia and soon, Dubai.
Mallya Aditi International School (MAIS), on the other hand, is just 30 years old, with a mere 25-30 students per class, which has grown into an alumni bank of young achievers in virtually every field. “Everyone had such a good experience in school,” says Nikhil Bhandarkar, Aditi Alumni Association (AAA) president. Aditi alumni, spread across the globe, still trek to school when they visit India, meeting with principal Sathish Jayarajan (Mr Jay, as he is called), “to chat and bounce ideas off him, as in school.” December is the much-anticipated winter alumni reunion, while the global alumni meet enables alum to catch up in London and New York. Cricket matches with students and staff, blood donation drives, 10K runs, and alumni speaker series to motivate youngsters towards creative career paths, are some AAA initiatives. “We’re more like a family than a factory. Though all of us in the AAA lead busy lives, we view our school connection as a must-do,” says Bhandarkar.
Most importantly, alumni associations play a vital role beyond the bonhomie: they also act as a safety net. “Out in the big bad world, it sometimes feels like you’re jumping off a cliff into a void, but your school alum are always there to help.” So if high school is about making memories that last forever, alumni associations help make that true.
-Ruma Singh (Ruma Singh presents a column on observations, insights and what’s buzzing in the city. m firstname.lastname@example.org)