It all started with an almost nonchalant throw away line from R N Dutta: "Let's meet on 30 and 31 December," he said in one of his emails. This line became the idea whose time had come. The enthusiasm was spontaneous and infectious and support grew. Emails flew between computers and these computers were strung across continents: Asia, America, Europe, Africa, Australia. The 1971 batch was on the move and determined not to stop until it had reached its destination in Jamshedpur.
One of the things we were determined to do was to contact ALL of our batch-mates and ensure each one heard about the event. Thanks to the marshalling efforts of our Commander-in-Chief, Ravinder Singh Khokkar (Kooks), this was almost achieved. Of a group of 54, we were able to get in touch with all but six of our mates. Each new 'unearthing' brought much joy as people were discovered in Australia, United States, Kolkota, the Middle-East and elsewhere.
Finally the date arrived, but sadly we lost two of 'our boys' in 2006. They had gone a long way in making the 1971 batch what it was. Charanjit Singh Bhatia (Cherry) used to be our representative on the Student Council. He passed away tragically when he met with an accident on his way back from Ranchi. Muhammed Shah Jahan Khan was the champion athlete in his division year after year. He passed away peacefully after a battle with kidney failure. Cherry was particularly active up to the time of his sad demise in the planning and the logistics of the get-together. In addition we had also lost Ashok Gupta several years ago. All were missed at the reunion. May their souls rest in peace.
The day began with Vijay Trehan uttering the words, "Welcome Home." Boy, did that ring true! We were in the Fasy Auditorium – a place where we watched many movies on Saturday mornings and around which many friendships were strengthened. We were in Loyola School with our mates. We WERE home! And for a hostel boy like myself, that touched a deep chord.
We were happy to see our friends – fifty percent of the entire cohort showed up. There were even friends from year groups outside of our own. But we were delighted that ALL of our teachers still in Jamshedpur graced the event. Mr Pandey, Mr Narang, Mr Dung Dung, Mr Prem Prakash, Mr Osta, Mr Matthews, Mr Joseph, Mr Bhattacharya and Mrs Thomas were present. But the most touching gesture was undertaken by Fr J Currie. He had structured his own reunion trip from New York after seventeen years, to be present in Jamshedpur for the batch of 1971.
So what do you do when you are seeing your friends after a gap of thirty-five years? Well, for a start, we aren't that young any more. Even the youngest of us is in the fifties. But we ate a lot, we drank a lot, we even cut loose on the dance floor and took in a picnic at Dimna. Sadly a planned Internet hook-up with the 'Jamshedpur old boys' (Frs McGauley, Lacey and Hunt) in Baltimore was not successful, but their message brought to us by John Bertram Pereira resonated with our spirits. And of course we reminisced. Stories about paddles, class cleaning, football tournaments, laboratory work, geography and hindi classes and much much else abounded.
And we didn't forget our teachers. Each student had the opportunity to express his thanks. We recognise that they were men and women of extreme generosity and bigness of heart. We recognise that what they gave during their teaching careers, was over and above what was asked or expected of them. It was their giving that made Loyola the Loyola we knew.
But the greatest gratitude is felt towards the Jesuits who 'left everything and followed Jesus'. This calling led them to our strange country, filled with strange customs, languages, food and cultures. But priests like Frs Hess, Judge, McGauley, Roberts, Dineen, Lacey, English, Hunt, Kennedy, Murray, Power, Kirsch, Graham, Currie and so many others did not just overcome these handicaps, they embraced them. They revelled in them and then shared their lives with us. Without them there would have been no Loyola and the batch of 1971 may not have been the successful batch that it turned out to be. I will mention some of them later.
Once the partying was done, there was acknowledgement of the deep debt of gratitude we owe to our alma mater. Bar none, we all feel extremely lucky to have shared in the Loyola experience. With due apologies to those in Loyola currently, we also feel we were part of Loyola during its golden years. And so it was now our turn to do something. What could it be? The consensus is that we wish to keep our charity work private, but opportunity presented itself in two different ways. Suffice it to say that both projects have been undertaken by the members of the group and are under the stewardship of those of still in Jamshedpur.
Here is what some of us are doing: Kailash Dubey makes us proud with his work in the LAA and his charity work. Mahesh Aney is an award winning cinematographer in Mumbai. Rampalli Prasad is a Vice President at Intel. Ratan Bhagat is a Managing Director at Fed Ex. And we can mention other successful doctors, professors, businessmen, managing directors and consultants among our number.
This report would not be complete without some thanks being expressed. Our thanks first of all to Fr. Augustine Vattamattam, SJ, current Principal of Loyola School for allowing us to use the facilities of the School for the reunion. Thanks must also go to Kooks for his persistent pursuit of those 'lost souls' of 1971. He was untiring in his efforts to contact each of our mates and invite them to not only come to the reunion, but also to share a bit of their lives with us. Thanks to our 'Jamshedpur boys': people like Kailash Dubey and Vijay Trehan and their wives, who so ably shouldered the majority of the organisation of the different events; people like Framrose Unwala, Manmohan Singh Sansoa, Parminder Singh, Ranjan Choudhuri and Suresh Lulla for their able assistance in the planning and logistics of the whole event. There were many others – too many to mention – who kept the spirit alive throughout the planning stages, but RN Dutta and Ravinder Singh Marvay require special mention. My apologies to those I might have omitted.
In conclusion, what can I say except 'Thank You, Loyola'? I am so grateful that my parents decided to send me here. I am so grateful that my path crossed those of so many friends, teachers and priests. So many of my good friends came from my time here. So much of the person that I am springs from here. Jai Loyola. We shall be in your debt always.