Saturday, 3 September 2011

Old Students` Day



Good or Great?

That very gate. Those very corridors. Those portals, classrooms, Ah! Even the winding staircase! You wistfully amble across the school compound into your alma-mater. “This used to be my playground …” that melancholic strain, seems to play around you with a surround sound effect. You gear yourself up for more such songs from this playlist, because you are here for the Annual School Alumni Association Day.

Hundreds of ex-students come back to school on this day meant exclusively for them. The most recent pass outs obviously outnumber all the other batches. There is a septuagenarian representing the school’s inaugural batch. Then there is the NRI, now an affluent entrepreneur, who has aligned his schedule to enable him to attend this event and there are scores of other batch-mates with less dramatic introductions but displaying the same pep and verve. The thought of reprising their juvenile antics, yelling out nicknames of their friends and old teachers in harmless banter, the fear of being reprimanded giving way to gay abandon, seems to trigger methamphetaminic enzymes of ecstasy. And then comes that feeling of being ever thankful. Thankful for making you less of a lesser mortal. From the 20 times you were made to repeatedly sing the National Anthem to correct the pronunciation of that one wrong syllable, to the one instance of being lauded for speaking a small truth in spite of its little consequences, all those memories come in a flood, making you climb a mind-tree and wait happily, in no hurry for it to recede.

It is these feelings of joy, ecstasy and more so gratitude that prompt people to want to give something back to their Alma-mater. To aid this in a systematic manner, Alumni associations are formed. The Oldest Alumni Association in India is that of the Madras Christian College formed in 1891. Its membership list boasts of greats like S. Radhakrishnan, Raja Ramanna and many more eminent achievers including Indira Nooyi, holding place of pride in society. Apart from catching up with old class-mates and meeting your favourite teachers, these associations help create corpus funds. Ex-Students of the institution donate into the corpus, helping fund scholarships for meritorious or poor students, felicitating faculty members or other staff who have dedicated probably decades of their life shaping or helping shape lives of students. Even ex-students, who have excelled in some field or the other, bringing honour to the school, are given citations through the Alumni Association. Active Alumni Associations in collaboration with those of other schools help create competitive camaraderie among the schools by organising inter school events and competitions which can even double up as fundraisers for any project in the school. It does seem that nostalgia is a wonderful accompaniment to the need to payback because there are many instances of philanthropists even bequeathing large portions of their wealth for the betterment of their institution that taught them so much.

The Old Students Day is clearly meant to relive memories of the best days of our life and help keep a connect with the institution that gave them to us. Being privy to one such day after an exceedingly long gap recently, there was the obvious expectation of being flooded with feelings of nostalgia, probably even getting an overdose of it. But that was not to be. It had been such a long gap now, more than 15 years, that there was a vague sense of detachment from school. Very few faces from those hundreds present were recognisable. Teachers you revered, apart from those who had left the school, could only try their best to give you that fond recognition.  Hundreds of students pass out of their classes every year. Expecting them to place you immediately after such a long time was just fool hardy. The school`s old fa├žade was tampered with and new blocks with more classrooms had come up. This was a strange feeling of nostalgia coupled with feeling lost in a surrounding you knew so well. Would it have felt the same if the gap had not been so long?

A palpable change today is that in the attitudes of children in schools and the schools themselves. That pride and sense of belonging towards their Alma Mater, that adoration and respect towards their teachers does seem much lesser than that of students of years gone by. As students more than a decade ago, swelling with as much pride singing our school song as singing the National Anthem, upholding the values of our school with no less help from our School Motto and the School Prayer, addressing ourselves as Germainites, Josephites or Cottonians instilled that loyalty and created a bond. This bond seems amiss now.  Most schools today have a very common motto with barely any emphasis on its adherence; no school song exclusively meant for the school and small other details like these which were inherently meant to inculcate this sense of belonging. This is one of the primary reasons why Alumni Associations no longer seem to attract students. 


The Old Students Association is the one way to bond with your institution and any effort, monetary or a contribution with service, to pay back to it only helps in forging a relationship of loyalty and joy for years to come. Schools that don’t encourage this and students who are not a part of their alumni associations are bereft of the benefits and joys of this strong bond of loyalty and reminiscence.






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