Written by Ashish Jebaraj
”Why did you come today ?”
Was the first question I was asked at the SV Alumni meet 2019.
Who asked me that?
“The Kingpin Bernice”
She asked that as a joke, and I will not fail to acknowledge that Bernice was to me, personally, the most hospitable person.
I will also use that question as an opportunity to share my reminiscence of the alumni meet.
The lyrics of the song, sung by Priscilla and co., of Pluto,* during the Sing Song, effectively summed up my feelings about the meet.
“Such a feelin’s comin’ over me
There is wonder in ‘most every thing I see
I’m on top of the world”
And that’s how the song goes….
For those of you, who find long narratives difficult to endure, please bear with my rambling.
The vivid greenery all around, the constant messages by excited and uninhibited people in the ‘meet whatsapp group,’ the exquisite timing for the power supply outage at the start, the rain that prevented the participants from escaping during the first morning session, wonderful speeches by Stephen Jothiraj, Rojo and Shim Matthew, Rojo’s presentation, Ajai Kuruvila’s Edison Daniels lecture, the Sunday morning trek and Paul Raj’s stand up humour are the images that first come to mind, when I’m asked, ‘How was the meet?’
When I decide to take a closer look to find out what were the ‘high points’ of the meet. I can see so many coming up, like air bubbles from the pump in an aquarium that provides oxygen, essential to the fish.
I’ll go ahead and name some of them.
The surprise and excitement to see people coming in and asking, “You also came ah?”
The start which seemed like a disaster, with two speakers having to pull out at the last moment, due to unavoidable circumstances, to losing the power supply and managing without a sound system in a hall with bad acoustics, the whole morning. Mingling with strangers and asking them questions in the chaotic ice-breaker. The planned program schedule that did not manifest at first, followed by the spectacular restoration after the initial hiccup.
‘What are the odds?’, asked Steve,
We’ll overcome, Boarders Believe!
And Overcome we did indeed
That’s the nature of the SV Breed
Moses’ beard and Paul Raja’s head;
The eyes of all the alum beheld,
Should I fail to add:
The sight of Sunny Jose’s curly Hair,
Stories of Samrajan Sir’s Principles Fair?
There was so much in this meet,
To create memories beautiful and sweet!
Meeting and talking to the seniors from the beginning of time, the early batches: Vellore Darling Vijay, Aryaas Andrew, Vijay TV Arunagiri, Helena Poriyal, Richard Wurmbrand, Idolizing Mercy and them, in their turn, interacting with us juniors, as equals. The chatter of the juniors among their own batches and their energy, their tangible happiness in one another’s company. The times spent happily waiting in line to get food and seeing that nobody was in a hurry at all, (except Blesso) nobody tried to get front-chance, because we were surrounded by people who loved us. Having to wash our own plates after eating, relieving memories and discussion during meals, while thrashing the food.
The concern shown to each and everyone who faced difficulty and the support provided to them, to the ones who got scratches during the trek, to those who needed a helping hand multiple times – again during the trek, specific instances like OT Joshila and CMC Daniston bandaging Abhishek’s injured foot, Prince John lending his flask to Bezaleel’s daughter and the shock and disappointment of everyone who saw the pretty Glady Raju’s phone drop and the screen noringify.
Multiple episodes of ‘Jabez VS Everyone,’ every time he tried to get everyone inside the hall. The relentless efforts of all the organizers in making sure everyone had a good time. Sherbin’s commitment to souvenir sales, Daniel Paul’s logistical ingenuity, Paul Raja’s expert decisions on Meet cuisine, Johnson’s faithful liason with the kitchen staff, Stephen Jothiraj’s tactical capabilities, Paul Raj’s relative silence during the whole meet, (except when he had the mic and the entire audience roared with laughter, punctuated by moments of silent attention). The rapid response of the participants to instruction and the great expression of relief and satisfaction when the first break was announced.
Bernice, Gladcy and Kiruba’s hospitality and kindness in making everyone feel included and them always being together. Belzaleel Theodore managing the public address systems with his accomplice Brightson. Moses’ skillful compering under pressure, Sam Prince’s legendary questions and his policy of ‘not speaking more than 60 seconds.’ Joshua Immanuel’s memorable presentation and his thoughtfulness. Mr. Daniel Devadoss Presidential Address at the introduction along with, Tea and Mari gold biscuits at the breaks were lifelines.
Jason’s superior navigational skills in leading the trekkers, and everyone blaming Biscuit, the dog for taking the wrong route. Our hearts which went the whole way up the trek with those who went to the top and legs which could manage only half the distance or remain on the bed, too tired from Saturday night’s late talks. The empathetic descent with Hepzibah and Evangelin and my description of the mid-previous night’s dream. The football games with the boys, guided by Augustin giving his team division ideas. That terrible shrill whistle piercing the eardrums, in a vain effort to achieve silence. The presence of Priscilla like a bright light during the entire program. Scooby (Ashish Mukherjee’s pet dog that made it to the meet) making both the Mukherjees run around and spectators participating in the ensuing chase and the resulting applause when he was captured.
The presence of the most beautiful spouses of the Alums who became part of the fabric and accepted us as their own, and the lovely kids who were like little Priscillas, whose ‘father and mother are parents’.** The sacrifice of Binny Singh and Jehu in capturing the joy of others. Sudharson being himself, going barefooted to the bathroom and demanding soap from Judson. The unnamed and unsung heroes who brought soap left them in the bathroom for the guys who came after them, but, came without one. Also, the unshakable confidence we had in others who would be willing to share their soap and therefore, forgetting ours.
Knock knock knocking on toilet doors in the morning. Going two by two, one to guard the door to the washroom outside the hall, because it was difficult to lock it from inside. Sleeping on bunk-beds in the dorms. The boating that I missed. The elevating Anthems of the times, illuminated by Joshua Samson’s ultimate guitar, The “I survived Boarding school,” badges we wore with pride, the printed mugs and T-shirts, and Rachel’s squash that sold out, will remain long or rather short, with most who got them.
Christopher Marandi struggling up the hill, laying flat on the rock exhausted, and the same guy bringing showers of water drops from the tree-leaves on everyone drinking tea, after the rain. The trip to the fundera bird park and the immense satisfaction when the birds sat on our arms, shoulders and hands and everyone taking pictures of one another, with no reservations on age-gap or relationship or batch differences. The SV Alumni Archery Association of our school competing to identify the worst archer among us was a highlight.
Nikhil hiring people to find the lyrics of the school anthem, Binny’s “Make us violent warriors Jesus” and Immanuel Joel Sings, “Over the Force Within” are welcome edits to the song that unites all of us. Florence’s clear command to us, to sing the ‘National Anthem” instead of the ‘School Anthem’ and the laughter that erupted was another fortunate accident.
The anji paisa muttai from Andrew, that we all enjoyed. The group picture that keeps us all together, even though we’re all over the place. Singing ‘Happy Birthday dear Children’ to Sathya, Sunny and Anita after the group picture. A capella singing, Petra’s incomparable songs with Roel and Esther late into the night. The lack of mobile network, of which the majority did not care and the rest were oblivious to, in addition to the minority who depended on Asha Jessica’s mobile phone hot-spot. Unexpectedly meeting old friends after many years, some, for the first time after leaving school was refreshingly joyful.
We did have our serious moments. Shim’s grim reminders that life is not as long as we think it is and the fact that we are not as young as we like to be, were necessary. Singing ‘Lead Kindly Light’, to acknowledge those who have gone before us, and the stories of Uncle Ivan, our founder, by Priscilla, were moments that made this meet special. Ashish Paul, Augustin and Daniston dropping off Bezzleel and family at the last moment, when they appeared outside, right as the train arrived inside Jolarpettai junction was an exciting experience, for them at least.
And need I write about Ajay Kuruvila’s remarkable story of faith, and his conviction that God does not use our wisdom, Shim Matthew’s clarity of speech when he stated that the world runs on connections and his passion toward the juniors, (I am tempted to sketch a cartoon strip titled, ‘Shim – The Partialled’***) Stephen Jothiraj’s examples of Simple Living and his homemade games, stitched clothes and free cupboards. Rojo’s insights on the psychology of boarders and his desire to help those of us who are caught up in our survival patterns. Paul Raj’s astute observation skills and hilarious associations of names, including but not limited to, “Bahiya Dho(2) Anda Berjiyo” and “Beat it,” Michael Jackson category of corporal punishment receivers make me laugh every time I am reminded of them.
I have not included so many names and events. If I did not talk to you, I wanted to. If I have not mentioned your name. Please feel free to ask me what I remember about you. If I don’t say anything, you’ll get a Dairy Milk chocolate from me. I hope to see you all again. I’m sure there are so many things that you all enjoyed which I haven’t captured. There are people whom I enjoyed meeting whom I haven’t named, along with Gifty’s gift of the exercise band, which I will treasure. Not to forget, that we missed our friends who could not make it this year and determined that we would make sure that Bernice has more work with registrations, next time.
The reason I write this is because I want to express my gratitude, joy and satisfaction. Thank you for making me feel accepted and for being included. For tolerating and applauding my efforts and as a bonus, for laughing at my silly jokes. Thank you for being there. Thank you for making the unappreciated effort and untold sacrifices and even ‘telling lies to come’ – Shirley, to make the meet special.
My whole Experience, can be summed up, in the word that Blesso suggested, when Rojo asked about how our time in school could be described.
Did you feel the tug in your hearts when you left?
But, Why did I come?
I did not know when I came,
Now I do!
To be on top of the world. And I am.
God be with you till we meet again.
An SV boarder, A Rebel, A Casualty and A Conformer,****
*Priscilla of ‘Pluto,’ is a reference to the long journey she took, from Mizoram, which lasted about a week, to get to the Alumni meet on time.
** “My father and mother are parents”, is a direct quote from Ajai Kuruvila’s recap of his first ever introduction in SV.
*** “Shim, The Partialled,” is a non-existent term made up to describe how he was always shown partiality in school, which he admittedly enjoyed.
**** “A Rebel, A Casualty and A Conformer”, are some of the ways boarders currently adapt to situations in life, taken from Rojo’s presentation. Do contact him for more details.