They stood on the ‘red stage’, their bosom full of pride,
In colourful attire they came, their head held high.
The sun shone upon them brightly, the zephyrs fanned them mildly,
The atmosphere was replete with joy, every man standing had the heart of a boy.
In that moment of glory and bliss, from the sky descended a cry
... Jai Loyola, Jai Loyola.
There comes a stage in life when the beleaguered inner self craves to break out of the superficiality and pretensions. The heart longs for the true and the pure, to reach out to those happy moments of magical wonder, to re-connect with school mates.
The reunion of Loyola 1981 batch was no ordinary gathering. It was an assemblage of honourable men who are true, whose hearts are strong and merrily they sing as they march along. It was an extraordinary coming together to relive the wonder days and get drunk (pun is deliberate) in the recollection of it in the company of friends with whom one cannot pretend. They had not just travelled for merriment. They came seeking blessings from their teachers, they came for inner happiness and satisfaction, they came with a vision to translate their gratitude into action for their loving teachers—the architects of strong foundation of values on which now stands a magnificent edifice. It was a famed event that had all of us standing shoulder to shoulder with a swell of pride in our hearts holding aloft the prize of a renewed friendship, a satisfied purpose and a buoyant soul.
The talk of a possible reunion in December began in mid 2015 and the euphoria blew over us like strong gusts of wind. A thousand recollections surged across tumultuously and a kaleidoscope of images ran through the brain. Excitement leaped in our hearts and our minds ranged eagerly through the past, reliving some episodes while uncovering others that had been completely forgotten. No one wanted to be left behind in sharing whatever little he had and whatever tiny bit he remembered. The trickle of reminiscence went on unabated and the amazing elastic memory of some brought out unknown treasures that confounded us. Call of the reunion had become too irresistible to ignore. All engagements were swept aside and travel plans made at short notice. More than fifty of us travelled from all over India and some flew in from abroad. At the end, the price paid for attending the event was much less than the pain of regret because some occasions come visiting once in a lifetime.
Finally, as dusk darkened into night on 25th December, guests began to troop into Jamshedpur during the late hours while the denizens of the charming little town slept peacefully, wrapped in quilts in the peak of winter. The vivacious group, gathered in the hotel, slowly began to swell and the exuberance of delightful greetings, the vigorous pump of handshakes and the body crushing embraces, the sprinkling of lavish affection and an abundance of good feeling filled up the atmosphere. The warmth of welcome by the locals was enough to raise the temperature of the balmy wintery weather by a few notches. We wanted to be amazed, we wanted to be staggered and the fine gentlemen behind the scenes did such a commendable job they made sure everyone ended up begging for more. Display of such delicate feeling was not for the faint hearted. Thank God we survived the delirious pleasure.
The anatomy of many of us showed a tremendous alteration. The dome that was once adorned by luxuriant locks of crowning glory now remained a cheerless reminder of better days; a flat waistline replaced by a paunch the extravagant boast of which bore a mark of satisfied prosperity; the once hollow cheeks were now fleshy faces in vigorous health and the skin showing first signs of wrinkling and deterioration—an inevitable result of aging. But who cares! It didn’t matter that some of us seemed to have carried our age well while some had succumbed to the onslaught of time; it didn’t matter that some had reached dizzying heights in their career while some were yet not there and it certainly didn’t matter that some had accumulated more wealth than others. What mattered most was that we were friends; friends who are a family we chose for ourselves and who have left their imprints in our hearts.
The two days were replete with alcoholic excitement (pun intended) and a profusion of colourful recall. Disapparelled of pretended civility, the sham sophistication and the controlled decorum, each of us took part in unabashedly coarse jests, raw epithets, the horse-laughter and the savage fun poking, clearly indicating that the pretentious grown-ups were still children at heart. Some stole a few hours in the chilly mornings to visit their favourite haunts and the neighbourhood where they had spent their childhood.
The first thing on the agenda was to pay respect to those teachers and friends who had left for the heavenly abode—a rude reminder that all things human are so transitory. God bless the departed souls.
A trip to the school brought back scorching memories of those halcyon days of carefree skylarking and boundless energy. The walls, the doors and the windows, the classrooms, the staircase and every brick on the floor had a story to tell. Groping in the corners of our memory we discovered a multitude of frozen moments—some blurred and some vivid.
Whisked back to those days more than thirty-five years back faces of friends and teachers, who had parted ways with us in favour of their heavenly abode, floated across our memory. A two-minute silence was observed for those noble souls.
An uprush of emotion seized us while interacting with our withered and fragile teachers who had devoted themselves into creating so many magnificent gentlemen. Recollections gradually reconstructed those days before us and the skin tingled when each of us stood up and spoke of the values that ran in our veins because of them. Eyes were misty and wave after wave of emotions finally broke the barriers of etiquette for some and tears flowed freely. We felt ourselves in luck to have been nurtured by those rare men and women who were selfless and dedicated, who taught from their hearts, who were passionate and who were not in the ‘business’ of education. Teaching was not a job for them, it was a mission they proudly submitted themselves to without caring much about the returns.
The highest satisfaction was reserved for the noble gesture that tallied with our innermost feelings for our teachers. The constellation of good men converged on the idea of contributing for medical support to the teachers who had taught us. Within no time funds were pledged for the noble intention (and at the time of writing this article funds had begun to pour in). It was a historical moment and the doctors of 1981 batch at Jamshedpur promised to take care of the teachers through regular health checkups. It was just a humble gurudakshina we owed to our teachers, a very small gesture of paying back. The satisfaction of being capable of doing good for our teachers was a great joy we carried within our hearts.
The batch of 1981 has some phenomenal human beings who have chosen to rise above the call of duty to be a role model, be it by sharing their hard earned wealth or by giving their personal time in attending to the medical examination of their gurus free of cost. This miniscule gesture of giving pales into insignificance compared to what we have received. It is in the company of such inspiring friends that the heart glows and one feels jubilant. These are the men who do their school proud and justify the values learnt from their teachers.
Bear hugs and beer mugs, spirit in heart and spirit in glass marked the two days. Toast was raised for success and everlasting camaraderie, toast was raised for reaffirmation of the bonds that had faded and toast was raised for renewal of the vows of friendship. Every moment spent in those two days was priceless and generated a treasure of memory. In such delicious moments time quickly glides by with no sign of exhaustion. There were promises aplenty to meet again before time runs out for us. With a heart overflowing with love and affection, and soul ablaze with a new found enthusiasm we returned to the rough and tumble of our respective lives.
The tangible takeaway that have found a place of pride in our homes were a beautifully designed cap with Loyola insignia and a grand coffee mug, to commemorate the event, that will constantly keep our imagination active of the nostalgic memories of our idyllic childhood.
We meet to create memories, we part to preserve them. When those who avidly seized the opportunity of the reunion, on 26th and 27th December 2015, look back two years from now they will most certainly congratulate themselves for being there. Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time, it is the regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable, so said Sydney Harris. For those who missed out ... well, maybe another time.
Vineet Bhatt, ICSE 1981 did his engineering from NIT Rourkela and management from XLRI, Jamshedpur. He has worked in manufacturing and information technology companies and currently resides in Hyderabad.
He has recently authored a book, 'The Rear-View Mirror', that is available for sale on online retail stores such as Flipkart, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Read more about him on his website www.vineetbhatt.com