March 3, 2014, the 175th birth anniversary of Jamsetji Tata, a historic date for Indian industry, “Founder’s Day” for Jamshedpurians, young and old, and the day that sparked off the reunion of Loyola’s Class of ’58.
A few days later, Dhan Madan, arguably the most colourful member of the class of ’58, emailed his numerous Jamshedpur friends reminiscing about the good old days, and wondering whether a reunion of the class of ’58 was a possibility. The email was duly networked to several of Dhan’s classmates. In less than 10 days, at-least 8 had enthusiastically clambered onto the reunion bandwagon. Emails zipped around, and furious googling, supplemented by down-to-earth searches, swiftly tracked down thirteen of the surviving fifteen of 1958’s “Magnificent Seven-teen”. A Jan 2015 date was agreed upon for the big event — gentlemen of our vintage can ill afford to take the long view — and the classmates based in India took over the planning. V.R. Nair worked his contacts to organise accommodation and local logistics. Jamshedpurians, Tushar and Zarin Kabi, took care of happy hours’ hospitality, and Dhan’s emails ensured that the enthusiasm for the reunion continued unabated. We had hoped for a full turnout, but two classmates, based overseas, dropped out due to health and other reasons.
Fast-forward to Jan 14, 2015; 11 old geezers milling around the confines of Beldih Club’s Residency, with 7 rather bemused spouses in tow — bemused by the easy familiarity with which the classmates rolled back the years and started spinning yarns of the good old days. Fortunately, apart from the inevitable silvering or dwindling of our flowing manes of old, and the odd wrinkle, we were all in good health and spirits.
Naturally, a visit to the school was top of the list. Rev. Eric Cassel, our classmate, and former Principal of Loyola School, had requested Mr. Prem Prasad (class of ’62) to be our guide; not that we needed much guiding. We stood in the famous quadrangle taking selfies and weefies, then milled around near the Principal’s office, which many of us had visited for various reasons, some less memorable, such as “Jug”. One eagle-eyed member of our group noted that Fr. McGinley’s name was misspelt (as McGinlely) on the Principals of Loyola School roster board; such egregious errors would have warranted a few thwacks of the good Father’s leather strap. On to our Standard X classroom, where we sat down docilely and ruminated about the flood of knowledge imparted by Frs. Hess, Dineen, Power, Kirsch, Welch, Judge and Messrs. Pandey, Osta, Deverell to name but a few. Nostalgia overwhelmed us, and anecdotes bubbled up from suddenly agile minds. We could not wallow in nostalgia too long, however, and had to move on. New buildings such as the Knowledge Centre ( “Library” in days of yore, the domain of the crusty Mr. Sinha) were pointed out to us, we saw good old handball being played, and shot some hoops ( tried to, anyway) with some kids on the basketball court. We met the current Principal, Fr. Puthenpura, who was delighted that the tug of the alma mater was still so strong.
The remaining 2 days of the Jamshedpur reunion passed by in a blur. The hectic round of activities included visits to TISCO’s Centre of Excellence and the steel plant itself, a picnic at Dimna, meals in Bistupur, meandering around Northern Town, Kadma and Circuit House Area identifying old homesteads, and treating ourselves to the timeless taste of Fakira’s chanachoor. The XLRI campus was an eye-opener too, as we recalled its humble beginnings with evening classes in the school’s premises.
The group also visited the Parvati Ghat Bustee, where an NGO, Parvati Ghat Bustee Kalyan Samiti has achieved remarkable progress in improving the standard of living of this underprivileged community. These achievements include providing the residents with identities (‘Aadhar’ cards), instituting basic education, arranging on-site medical support particularly for the women, and improving basic infrastructure. The organization’s activities are spearheaded by ex-Loyolean, Mehernosh Madan (class of 1960), brother of our classmate, Dhan Madan. We were very impressed by the selfless work done by this organization, and agreed to do what we could to garner support for this noble cause. Most enjoyable were the many hours that the group spent chatting away over meals, ‘chai’, and other libations. It was wonderful coming together again after more than half a century, getting the spouses involved in the Jampot ethos, and generally having a jolly good time. All over all too soon; another reunion… well, hope springs eternal!!