Mangaluru: What happens when classmates reunite 10 years after they last met on a common platform? Friendship and bonhomie are rekindled, talents explode, memories are recalled and there are calls for more such reunions. This is exactly what happened when the St. Aloysius High School Class of 77 (10th Std) reunited at the School's portico 43 years after leaving school, and 10 years after they last met at the same venue on January 5, 2020.
The Class of 77 then assembled at the new school hall after all-round self-introductions and screams of "I recognize you! You are..." in the presence of Fr. Gerald Furtado, the Headmaster of the School and Fr. Dionysius Vas, the Rector of the St. Aloysius Institutions, for a brief programme which began with a prayer by Vinod D'Souza.
David Pais, ace athlete of yesteryear welcomed classmates and guests alike and gave them a humorous historical perspective linking the class to the introduction of India's first Cola '77' after which the group led by Vinod D'Souza sang the School Anthem in unison.
Fr. Gerald Furtado, the headmaster, and Fr. Vas, Rector then addressed the students, expressing their happiness at the continued interest shown by the group in the Alma Mater, explaining the new infrastructural and academic developments in the campus including the effort to make it a zero-waste and plastic-free campus, and urged alumnae to participate in the development of the school in whatever way they found feasible, citing examples of the participation of other batches. Surprisingly the class of 77, listened to the Headmaster in absolute silence, something they would not / may not have done perhaps, in 77!
It was a matter of pride for the batch, when it was pointed out to the dignitaries that a sapling planted 10 years ago on the campus by the Class of 77 at its first reunion after 33 years, right in front of the hall, in fact, had grown into a mighty tree and was well preserved with the board highlighting its pedigree still visible clearly.
The Class of 77, about 45 of whom had gathered at the school then presented to the Headmaster, a purse of Rs: 34,000 (collected on the spot) towards the school's poor students' fund and a couple of fruit saplings to be planted on the campus in honor of the class of 77.
Classmates had come from as far as Burundi in Africa and Chennai in India to be a part of the event. The formal programme at the school ended with the rendering of the National Anthem.
After a photograph for the history albums, the group proceeded to CA Nithin Shetty's farm at Manjanady for the fun and games that all reunions demand, and incidentally by the school's own school bus! A nice way to jog memories of another day!
On arrival, the class found that CA Nithin Shetty as the host, had it set up beautifully, with the layout decked in the colors of the School's Uniform - White and Blue - and all arrangements from the seating, to the eating, from the sound to the ground, flawless and tastefully done under his personal guidance.
The informal programme at the farm began with 3 minutes of Physical Training (PT) as taught to the class of 77 in High School by the then PT Master, Vincent Master many recalled. However, after finding themselves unable to bend beyond their knees there were cries of 'enough, enough!' The PT Master for the occasion Vinod D'Souza too, found himself stretched and quickly wound up the session! Age and the good life had taken a toll, but it was just the right start to what was to come.
Dr. Ashok Pandit, one of the four doctors in the group, one of whom was a Vet, welcomed the gathering suggesting self-introductions with background sketches. Important because, he said, the classmates had drifted apart and it was time to reconnect by sharing personal stories - Where they are, what they do, their families, and their plans for the future. Indeed it was both a useful exercise and full of fun and laughter as each one shared their trials and triumphs. Many tried to recall faces and shapes of classmates as they were in 1977, but this was 2020, and shapes had changed. There was hair loss too, and more than 50 shades of grey! Many were apprehensive of the longevity of the Class and there were calls for a bi-annual meet, but only time will tell whether that demand would be fulfilled, given the logistics involved. Some, however, were full of positivity, sure that all classmates present and some more would live to the ripe old age of 90, provided they followed the theory of 'sustainable addiction'! He didn't elaborate on what he meant by that, but most got the message..
There was an impassioned plea from one of the Classmates to keep politics and religion out of the class's conversations, either in person or on WhatsApp and restore the status quo ante of 77 to the innocent camaraderie the group enjoyed then. His request was greeted with wholehearted agreement and with a thumping of the tables.
As the very unassuming host CA Nithin Shetty had just celebrated his birthday on January 3, 2020, he was given a pleasantly surprised when a lovely inscribed cake was presented to him to cut to the tune of "Happy Birthday" sung by the entire group with happiness that was unbelievable. Both he and Ivan Prashanth Andrade, the convenor of the event were then honored with a shawl, a platter of fruits and a garland by the Classmates for their efforts in organizing the event.
This was followed by the class watering the 3 Arecanut trees planted on January 3, 2010, 10 years ago, trees that have just started to bear fruit. Subsequently, the group also planted three more saplings in honor of those classmates who had gone to their heavenly abodes in the interim. This, after observing a two-minute silence in their honor.
Returning to the site of the fun and games, the band of Nelson, Brian D'Sa and Robin (all professional band members in their hey-days) assembled and belted out a few old English hits, when the Ivan Prashanth organized surprise package entered the venue - Lidwin teacher, a teacher of the Class of 77, now in her 80's. She was feted with a shawl, a bowl of fruits and a garland and as the classmates gathered around her, the conversation turned into a quiz on memories, the answers to which most had at their fingertips. But Lidwin Teacher took the cake. She could remember most if not all by name. Speaking on the occasion after being feted, she said she was delighted to be remembered, invited and feted. She wished everyone a long life and a great reunion.
She stayed on, drawn by her love for the Class of 77, as the band played on, and as their inhibitions evaporated, the classmates, one by one, joined the band in the singing and dancing. There was Dr. Gurumurthy singing Hindustani Classical, Dr. Ashok Pandit on the Mouth Organ, Sunil Rao superbly singing an old favorite from the film Manzil, and Dr. Satish Kini, Dr. Sahil Bantwal and others karaoke-ing through the noon. A sumptuous buffet only added to the energy.
Vinod D'Souza and Brian Fernandes compered the event. The fun-filled event finally wound up at around 4 PM after all emotions were exhausted.
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