Alumni associations are ideal for people who want to go back. But supposing you don’t want to? Many people don’t, because they dislike looking backwards, and they’re awkward in crowds. Observe your child closely. Does he or she look miserable at birthday parties? If so, it may be too late, but you can still get your child into South Point High School.
I was there, and I’ve never regretted it. We had around 70 children per section, and over 20 sections per class. Saying “we both studied in Class IX in South Point in 1986” is like saying “we both once caught a train at Sealdah station at 9 PM”. Your chances of actually knowing each other are equally slim. There’s also the law and order situation to consider. In a section of 70 kids, there is no way a teacher can know what’s going on in the last few benches. That means that many thousands of us were raised in a regulation-free environment where, like the Lok Sabha, the long arm of the law could never reach us. Things used to happen there that I would never tell my kids.
This is very pertinent because the child is the father of the alumnus. It’s unavoidable. It’s a natural process, like TDS. As a future alumnus, what will life hold in store for your child? Let us examine the facts.
A drop in the sea South Point students outside their school. (Photograph by Sandipan Chatterjee)
As far as I know, South Point High School reunions are often held in Netaji Indoor Stadium, where I once recall watching six or seven table tennis matches going on simultaneously. Table tennis is a very fast game, so following the action on so many tables together was quite strenuous. Also, most of the players were Chinese, so it was hard to tell them apart, and quite often you’d be supporting one chap, and then suddenly you’d realise, no, wait a second, that’s the other chap. But we’re not here to discuss table tennis. We’re here to discuss alumni. In this context, whenever you consider a South Point High School Alumni Association event at Netaji Indoor Stadium, remember that you are looking at a stadium full of people, of whom a large number have never been exposed to any form of law and order. Personally, I would suggest noting the date and avoiding the area. Our neighbours who lived around the school certainly would have, except that they were living there. A friend of mine was once severely disciplined for trying on arbitrary pants at a local tailor. I blame the tailor. He should never have left them hanging outside.
In fact, tailors are another reason for being part of the South Point Alumni Association. Given the huge numbers, South Point is the most democratic school on earth, and kids come from all backgrounds. Clothes are not an issue here. If you can afford to be slick, good for you. If not, so be it. So there’s absolutely no need to worry about clothes. At a Doon School reunion, on the other hand, you have to worry about whether you remembered to wear imported underwear, just in case you get lucky. It’s a whole different level of pressure.
The other advantage of a reunion involving thousands is, of course, that you can always claim you were there, even if you were actually at home in your pajamas watching Arnab speaking for the nation, while the nation tries to get a word in edgeways. It’s 50-50. Sometimes the nation wins, and sometimes it loses. But the main thing is, you won’t be meeting alumni.
On the other hand, if you like meeting alumni, where would you find more of them? There are successful South Pointers in every walk of life. I believe one of them narrowly missed out on being the pope. I think it’s because once you’ve been through ten years of South Point, you’re ready for anything. You could leave an ex-South Point student at the North Pole without a compass, and chances are he/she would find their way home, with or without his/her pants.
So if your child is the right age, here’s what you have to do. Switch off the TV, leave the nation to its devices, put on your pants, and pick up that form. Your child will thank you for it. I always do.
(South Point Calcutta has about 13,000 students, and once held the world record for being one of the largest single-branch schools. Shovon Chowdhury is a Delhi-based amateur humorist. In his spare time, he does advertising work for clients who cannot find anyone cheaper. His grandfather ran away from Dhaka to escape Japanese bombing in 1945, not realising that the war was about to end, and arrived in Calcutta just in time for the Great Calcutta Killing in 1946. These shared family experiences have left him deeply averse to sudden movement, which is why he has lived in Delhi for the last 20 years. His first novel, The Competent Authority, has recently been published.)
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