Despite Ms. Susan Brown’s comforting looks and assurances, I cried the day my parents first left me in Nursery B. Over two decades later as I sit here knocking away at the keys on my laptop I can feel my eyes moistening again. I begin to reminisce, I think of the box locked away in my room in Calcutta filled with memorabilia and memories of my fourteen years in St James’. While those memoirs remain stashed away in a cardboard box, I cannot begin to articulate the gratitude I carry each day and how much it means to me, to have had the St. James’ School experience.
How does one capture the essence of growing up in a school like St. James’? A simple walk down memory lane or a patchwork of phrases strung together will never really suffice. Looking back, I wonder if my parents knew the wheels they were setting in motion when they enrolled me as a pupil at St. James’ in spite of having a much easier option.
I am so proud to be a student of this great institution (I deliberately stay away from the phrase ‘ex-student’ – I’m a Jacobean for life). It gave me not only a sound education but also reinforced my family values and taught me lessons for life. I still remember my first class teacher and later a number of teachers who taught me different subjects. How can I ever forget Yasmin ma’am sharing her canteen food with me or Mrs. Joseph’s cold stare when I happened to say the S word or even Mr. Sinha comforting me when I couldn’t make sense of my grandfather’s death.
Teachers like them were of a rare breed, very different from one another and yet special and unique in their own way. If it were not for them, I would never have been the individual that I am today; I would never have even considered becoming an educationist myself. In 2007 I got to be on the other side of the fence and teaching alongside stalwarts like Mr. Sayers, Mr. Sengupta and Mrs. Ghosh was an experience like no other. Till this day they remain my heroes!
I intentionally highlight the teachers in this message, for they are the ones who made my time at St. James’ rich and memorable. Today, most teachers see themselves as service providers but their fancy degrees and qualifications don’t always guarantee that they will make a difference in the lives of their pupils. The secrets to ‘what makes a good teacher’ continue to be more complex than ancient alchemy and yet the mentors I remember fondly from my years in school had it down to an art and I salute them for it!
Forgive my verbosity, but I could wax eloquent about my alma mater and it would still never be enough. Every summer I make my way back to school for a brief visit. Today the colour of the walls are different, the parent shelter looks strange without the red cement benches, the field is not as I remember it (not that I spent too much time there anyway) , the faces are new and the stories are unfamiliar but while all of this reflects change and progress, there is a familiar feeling; a sense of some guiding force that still sets the school apart. A spirit that keeps every Jacobean grounded and yet gives him everything he needs to soar and achieve whatever he sets his mind to, just like it did 150 years ago.
Happy 150th Founder’s Day to every Jacobean, wherever you are. I hope to see many of you at the service and reunion tomorrow morning.