Thursday, February 23, 2006


"Which schhol/college did you go to?" I don't get asked that question that much nowadays, after all a few years of working would have taken all the knowledge imparted over twenty years and squeezed it all out, leaving nothing but a blank shell. But sometimes, when you go for a meeting, sometimes for lack of anything to ask someone I end up throwing that question. You never know what sort of answer can result. Because even though you might remember nothing from what Mrs Bhandari taught you in Geography in Class 8-D, or what Ashish Roy taught you in the times he did teach anything, all that mattered is that you got a 'stamp'. A 'thappa' of recognition that you went to 'this' college or 'this' school. And by god, it matters.
In the last couple of weeks I met two extremely influential ladies in the world of Indian business and discovered that they had grown up in Delhi. OK, so it was just logical to ask, which school they went to, and I discovered that both of them went to the school that was 'across the hedge'. Before you ask what this confusing bit of code means, it is a term that people from the school I went to - St.Columba's (pronounced as Shah Rukh Khan points out repeatedly - Colum-BAAZ and not Colum-BUS) use for the girls who studied next door at Convent of Jesus and Mary (CJM). The moment I discovered that, or they discovered that I was from the 'other school' made life a lot easier, they somehow seemed to trust me more and talk more - it was as if 'Theek hai, yeh baccha theek school mein gaya tha!' I didn't complain.
On a sidenote, the school is named after a 6th century Irish saint and not the explorer who got lost as many people assume. And yes, Ireland did have some more saints other than St.Paddy. St.Columba is known for a lot of things, but he is most importantly the patron saint of calligraphy and the man who spread Christianity in Scotland.
Now, even though SCS produced a distinguished list of alumni (SRK, being the most famous currently, it also includes Deepak Chopra and Vivek Paul and several others), CJM has one alumnus who has a claim to fame that no other Delhi school has - it has a Nobel Laureate. Heck, even my other school (the one I did the first three years of formal schooling in) La Martiniere, Calcutta can't claim that. Aung Sang Suu-Kyi might be locked up by a despotic administration that is being mollycoddled by the Indian government, even though it allows the Chinese to establish a base in the Bay of Bengal. In fact, India's stand on Burma is quite depressing, but then again, India's foreign policy has never been anything to write home about - given that it is still driven by 1970's geopolitics.
But back to the topic I was talking about. Even though advertising one's blue-blooded educational qualifications might sound decidedly snobby, it somehow always helps break the ice in case you find something in common. Heck, meetings that were supposed to last half an hour have gone on till dinner sometimes. One person I met, a person generally regarded as one of Indian advertising most creative talents, knew my father from college and the next thing I knew we were talking about the (sadly erstwhile) pot plantation behind Muk East and so on and so forth.
Somehow, I've discovered that people seem to open up more when they know that you're one of them or like them or know where you're coming from. Even if you know jackshit about either the person or the industry they work in, but if both of you can relate to school or college that helps. Either that, or yopu discover that the both of you love U2 or Japanese Anime, thats happened too. However, sharing an educational institute, or studying in one bordering yours makes people feel comfortable at a level that I have rarely seen elsewhere.
In a way, I'm thankful I have the 'thappa' I do, I'ld be half the person I am without it.


Shivangi said...

Couldn't agree more. Its like you suddenly belong to the other person's world... or atleast a part of you does. There's an instant connect and it always ALWAYS helps break the ice...

Grazer said...

Seeeee..... I am reading your blog right from the beginning. My eyes are getting strained. Your font size. Please, for one month increase the font size in 'many' of your posts of 2005. I have just reached March-April 2005.

Catch you later. Got some grazing to do in Amity Campus.

K said...

Shivangi : :-)
Grazer : Playing with the template to increase font size is almost impossible (the last time I tried I almost wiped out the blog in the process), you'll have to do that from your browser, or get a feed reader which allows you to manipulate rfont sizes more. You're reading from the begginning, must be damn boring!

thalassa_mikra said...

So you mean to say Amitabh Bachchan and I would commiserate over endless daru ki baatli once he finds out I attended KM as well :)?

Don't get me started on India's Burma policy. I once met the Indian Ambassador to China and asked him point blank if our Burma policy is what it is because we're scared shit of China. Of course there was uncomfortable silence and much hedging.

Even someone sympathetic to the cause like George Fernandes wasn't able to change much. Oh and Daw Aung San attended LSR as well, so LSR basks in her reflected glory too. My ex-boss is one of Daw Aung San's best friends.

shyam said...

Heh, Manga getting you places in journalism? That is one story that should be etched in gold on the walls of the press club, the old geezers there would have a ball over it. I'm quite the sulky, holier-than-thou, always-looking-down-on-other-mortals types, so never could take too well to being the one's who's making the effort to communicate.

You can't edit your CSS because it is not inline and is flicked off the typepad templates. Make it inline and find some hosting for the background images, you should do just fine.

K said...

Don't get me started on LSR, and I'm not a whiney loser on this front. LSR women have a bad habit of making me go nuts. Brrrr.... That said whan Daw Kyi attended the place it was a lot better, however, I'ld rather remember her being from CJM than LSR.
Beat that, among all of Delhi's high-profile colleges, that den of insanity LSR has a Nobel Laureate among its alumni - OK, D-School has one by indirect association - Amartya Sen taught there - but Presidency Cal gets the credit.
SSC's best bet is if they give Literature Prize to Amitava.

Anonymous said...

really? how men LSR women do you know sweets?

K said...

Waaaaay too many, Hon. Thats why I'm nuts today!

LondonChique said...

that's true about delhi.. you're defined by where you went to school. I went to CJM and I'm still in touch with the CJM-Columba's gang... even though i live in London now, if I meet someone from cjm, scs or modern.. there's always that ..did you know xyz from class of 96 or whatever.. but hey, i think it's kinda nice to feel that kinship... jesu mari et al..=)