Earlier this year, the Bishop’s School Camp Principal Mr. Joel Edwin reached out to me to meet. Little did I know then that it would set in motion a truly special sequence of events. It was a unique opportunity to reawaken the school spirit that was dormant all these years.
A sunny May-morning Rahul Kocchar and I visited the school in response to Mr. Edwin’s email. The school was on holiday and we met up with & Mr. Dawson & Mr. Edwin at his office. He wanted our support to get the class of 1994 together. Our class was to be guests of honor at the Junior School Sports Day on 11th December. Although their email had gone out earlier, the response was tepid. Rahul and I reached out to our classmates that same day to begin organizing an outreach.
Mr. Joel Edwin brings with a fresh perspective with him to alumni relations. I remember our first meeting at the 150-year anniversary organization team meetings. Mr. Edwin and I’d never met but he spoke to me like a headmaster might speak to any student. He welcomed me back to the fold with scolding. Why had I stayed away from school for so long? It’s this level of familiarity and sense of family he maintains that is the driving force behind renewed school-alumni relations.
When Satish, Vikram, Kishore, Rahul, Vishal, Janak, and the other boys met up for the first couple of meetings, the extent of their ambition was astonishing. In the first couple of meetings our key goals were set. We were to throw a dinner for our former teachers, many of whom had retired. Teachers were to be driven to and from all the events. The class of 1994 would pay a fitting tribute to our beloved former Principal Mr. B.W. Roberts by creating a bust in his honor. Would the school approve of the bust? Would the alumni contribute to achieving our goals and attend enthusiastically?
The core team backed up their intentions with strong efforts and co-ordination. Answers to all questions had to be sought out. Satish brought together the class of X-A reviving old connects. Confirmations and donations began pouring in from alumni all over the world. As the big day got closer, the tempo of the core team began to step up. More joined the core team to help manage music, connect with teachers. Speeches were written, the core team met with each teacher to invite them and to take pictures for secret mementos. The school support staff was also to be recognized, especially the long-serving members.
The big day had arrived and we met at Harding Hall for breakfast and to put on our school ties and belts. Once again we were to be schoolboys. We walked over to the Jeejeebhoy Ground as guests of honor along with the wonderful and former Junior School Principal Mrs. Roberts to flag off the Sports day. Altogether 55 old boys had made it from all corners of the world.
As the day progressed, one by one our former teachers began to arrive. Former Bishops headmaster, Mr. Guzder, Mr. Dupratt, Mr. Fernandes, Mr. Chavan, Mrs. Jolly, Mrs. Postwala, Mrs. Singh, Mr. J. Bhaskaran, Mr. Varghese, Mr. Dolas, Mrs. Randhawa, Mrs. Daniels, Mrs. Oliver, and many other teachers were in attendance. Colonel Simant Upadhyay of ’94 gave a moving address encouraging all to step up and live up to every challenge.
That afternoon, we assembled outside The B.W. Roberts Building to pay tribute to Mr. Roberts, to our former teachers who were no longer with us and for the unveiling of the bust. Those who spoke about Mr. Roberts shared a glimpse of the kind of person that he was, the love that he had for the school and the people behind it. He was a General in every sense of the word said Mr. Guzder, and galvanized those around him to action. A special moment was a moving rendition of “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ol’ Oak Tree” by two present students. A fitting tribute to the man who led us in every regard.
The night’s Dinner was our tribute to our teachers, to be with them and to enjoy their company once more. Several more moving and sentimental speeches were made by teachers and students as the drinks flowed and the night wore down. Our teachers thanked us for their mementos, a personalized picture of them with words students would often use to describe them.
25 years on we still enjoyed a sense of belonging and warmth that we had in school. To watch the spark of recognition flare in our teachers’ eyes for each and every one of us was priceless. To echo Mr. Dolas’ words, we all went away from that day with our glasses full of emotions. I know that the love and respect we extended to our teachers that day would go a long way. Even as I write, some of the boys continue to help teachers out with the funds that were gathered. If anything, what the class has done is only a reflection of their sincere efforts to shape us through those 11 years, to smoothen out our rough edges and perhaps to show us a glimpse of who we now are.