What are the odds that fate would prevent your two biggest speakers from making it to the event?
What are the odds that the power supply decided to abruptly go on a vacation minutes before the delayed start?
What are the odds that the back-up power supply (generator) would not carry the load to even switch one microphone on?
What better occasion than this to remind everyone that we have overcome greater odds.
What an occasion to remind each other that we are boarding schoolers!
That’s how we started. And ended.
The final program was Rojo Shalom’s. When he took the mic, we were already 2 hrs behind schedule. With the clock breathing down his neck and lunch calling out, Rojo took us through his material with calmness and assurance (at least that’s what we witnessed). Using a few questions that are pertinent in a boarder’s head, he quickly reminded us that we’re boarders and we can overcome anything.
That’s how we ended. Just like we started.
Inbetween, we were taken down the dream land that is the Alumni Meet. Here’s my account of it for those who couldn’t make it.
I carpooled with a few of my friends and arrived early by 7am on Saturday, just in time for the coffee near the dormitory. Paul Raj had just woken up and in no mood to tell jokes. To quote scriptures, ‘His time had not come yet’. Jason, Rojo and Jabez, looking like three wet bears, just got back from scouting the trail up the mountain for tomorrow’s trek. Priscilla, with light make-up on, neatly brushed hair, elegantly dressed, tumbled down the pathway cheerfully telling she’s off to play football in the rain soaked field with burly ex-boarders.
My heart was filled with joy when I saw Esther and Revivan, two of my classmates from school. With these two, I had shared life. We immediately talked about those who didn’t make it and stated our shared sympathy for them.
With the power supply playing truant rendering our presentations, videos and speech notes useless, we huddled about to find the best way to start without a mic, or projector. Moses Ashirvad, taming the bull by its horn, grabbed the mic and impromptu recounted an anecdote from school, setting the tone for the alumni meet. Ashish Jebaraj, climbed on the chair to be seen by all, injected much needed excitement into the dark room as the ice broke between different batches. His innovative ice-breaker started conversations transcending generational gaps. And through out the event, he was a sugar rush refreshing our tired minds.
Our day begun with a passionate presentation on the history of SVAA. It was memorable because we had many of the founding fathers in attendance. It was also a time to reflect on how to make SVAA bigger and better.
Following it, we had a presentation on #SimpleLiving. Financial prudence is something we need to practice to be good stewards of our money. We learnt how urban living is fraught with dangers that are wrongly called convenience and how we need to carefully navigate to avoid spending money on lifestyle conditions such as diabetes etc later.
As if to test the mettle of our intestines (after the power supply had already tested our nerves), the kitchen decided to delay lunch. And this helped some of us burn our extra fat. However, the biryani tasted even better because of the delayed gratification and more than made up for the lost fat.
Post lunch, we boarded the vans to go to a nearby aviary to watch and feed birds. It was a welcome outing. We even had the chance to find out who was the worst archer among us (borrowing Ashish Jebaraj’s line). The outing refreshed our nerves and we were ready for the evening.
By the time we got back to the venue, the bajji had gotten cold, but thankfully the tea was hot. This would serve as a stop-gap snack till the Chapathi beef curry dinner that would satisfy the demons inside our stomachs (and heads) later in the day.
The music program ‘Anthems of the Times’ was relaxing. Esther and Roel started it off with the Simon & Garfunkel hit Sound of Silence. And followed it up with Carpenters’ Top of the World. Who wouldn’t want to dance to it. So I did. Cliff Richard’s Sing a Song of Freedom from Soulwin and co truly got us in the mood. The variety on offer was great. There was pop, country, secular, christian alternative, christian worship song, action song, and what not.
Once the final stanza of the final song was sung, the house fell silent as we all watched that man, Paul Raj, walk to the mic, and clear his throat. Then he set up his sketch titling it “Those things that are not better together – second saturday and unwanted visitors, teachers and corporal punishment, logic and missionary children names”. Incidentally the theme of the meet was ‘Better Together’. Needless to say, our rib cages ached for the next 45 minutes. By the time he finished, we were sure that this man was a treasure.
The beef and chapathi dinner was a quick affair for me. I hit the sack in no time. I blame it on the lack of sleep the previous night and my #SimpleLiving routine of early to bed.
Jabez and Jason ushered in the next morning. They started knocking on the beds by 5:00am for the trek. I was up and about, ready to scale the mountains.
The trek was clearly not a walk in the park (of course), and many of us were found out. For some of us our make-up also was found out, because as the day broke, we could see clearly that the lipstick didn’t match the hairclip nor the sandal buckle. Jason was humble enough to admit that he took us on the wrong route halfway up and retreated and changed course (despite doing a scouting climb the previous day, and doing the trail 32 times before). Among us were responsible guardians who would give us a hand, lift us up the rock, wait till we were ready to resume, stand at the intersection to show us the right way and also take deceptive pictures of us doing a valiant climb job.
The footballers, who clearly wanted to boycott the trek, sleep-acted till Jabez left the dorm, and then jumped out with their football boots already on asking ‘has Jabez left?’.
The dormitory is a heaven and brings back nostalgia from childhood. It is the best format to stay in at alumni meets if you come single. In the morning I used Sudharson’s slippers, and found that my soap made it to the bathroom before me. Since Sudharson said he forgot his toothbrush the previous day, I didn’t dare to check if my toothbrush was already used. I ignored the hot water tap and took the chilling cold water bath – by now, my regular routine in alumni meets – just to relive the old times. After the bath I opened my new hair cream and perfume (two things that I don’t normally use, but brought to alumni meet just to show off). Much to my dismay there was no one in the dorm at that time to see it.
Priscilla’s ‘praise and worship’ style singing worked in gathering the attendees to the venue. It was a trick we used to trigger the behavioral conditioning of those who are regular church goers (just kidding). She followed it up with a presentation on The Legacy of Uncle Ivan with pictures and anecdotes from the seniors.
Ajai Kuruvilla, the Edison Daniels Lecture on Life speaker for this year, was his animated self, talking about his life story. He recounted how he quit the rat race, started farming and even cut his bridges to his security and survive only on his farming. He is now a fulltime farmer, farm-schooling his children and living out the love of God among farmers. It was a glorious message to all and also an eye-opener to us on natural farming methods. Many of us got hooked.
With the weight of the running clock on his shoulders, Rojo strode up the dias to take the mic. He gave a fitting end to the program.
By now we were racing against time to lay claim to the kitchen for lunch as a few other groups had also come to the venue for lunch.
The chicken and fish meal was delicious to say the least. Mountains were made and dams built to regulate the flow of sambar. It was hard to get the dam-architects to clear the kitchen area as more liquids were on offer – rasam, buttermilk, payasam, etc…
The heros – Daniel Paul, Theodore, Bernice – all worked hard to settle the bills, mobilize travel and get the equipment onto the vans for transportation. Meanwhile the goodbyes and hugs kept on coming.
As we boarded our respective rides back home, the feeling inside each of us was ‘indescribable’ as Blesso said. And as Josh’s opening presentation pointed out, it was just like March 30th at school – people leaving with the knowledge that next year, we’ll meet again, crack the same jokes, wearing the same clothes (#simpleliving), laugh the same way, thrash lunch, play football, sing and feel like a child at school once more. Like Shim said “as long as possible” we’ll keep coming to the alumni meet to feel the love and bonding of shared childhood.
I’m grateful that we can come together once a year like this to relive our childhoods. And that’s just not the only reason we come together. We come to draw from each others experience, network and life. Each program is set to enable this ‘drawing of value’ from each other’s experiences. We are better together. Better. Together.
Till the next one!