The Club(bed)

Today, an LSE alumna’s e-mail landed in my Inbox. It spoke of an online petition by LSE and SOAS alumni disassociating those colleges from Varun Gandhi’s recent hate speech. What struck me was how institutions and fellow alumni rush to claim an alumnus as one of their own when the celebrity alumnus wins a Nobel Prize, but take another route when the celebrity sinks in infamy.

Unlike LSE, Loyola has few high-achievers among its alumni. (For a desperate catalogue, see the Wikipedia entry on notable alumni.) And the school itself isn’t ultra-savvy at riding the alumni horse. Probably the school doesn’t believe in the sport. But it is partly also because the school doesn’t have an institutionalised, well-oiled old boys’ network system to spot an alumnus doing interesting work, or one who is in the news. The school is out of touch with many old boys who studied in the 1970s and 1980s, and left Trivandrum. A few individuals, like Fr Manipadam and Joseph Uncle, are more enterprising, smarter and hence more up-to-date than the LOBA database.

But guys, take heart. Just because we are bad at marketing our alumni doesn’t mean that we are bad at everything. We are as good as LSE or Harvard, when it comes to alumni who are in the news for the wrong reasons. Our silence is so deafening that nobody can hear whether the celebrity studied at Loyola or not. I am referring to the curious case of Himaval Maheswari Bhadrananda, who was in the news last year for brandishing a gun in a police station in Kerala, after he was alleged to be a “fake swami”. Mathrubhumi newspaper reported that he studied in Loyola, but my efforts to find classmates who could confirm it failed. Maybe he studied, maybe he didn’t.

One of the dilemmas in running this blog is whether I should write about a notorious person, and add to his misery. Is it not better to focus on the honey in my ARChive, instead of stinging like a bee? So, I shall end with an anecdote that will instead sting the majority. About Loyola and Loyolites, it tells us more than Himaval Bhadrananda.

I do not recall the venue, date or time of this incident. And for obvious reasons, I am not mentioning the names of people involved (even though I remember who said what). A few years ago, at a LOBA session ahead of that year’s annual general body meeting, a discussion emerged on whether old boy Mr A should be informed. Mr B, a heavyweight in the alumni Association, insisted that Mr A shouldn’t be sent the notification or invited because Mr A had been implicated in a case of financial fraud once.

A few old boys asked: Was Mr A implicated or only accused? If he has finished serving his punishment, why should we punish him further by ostracising him? In any case, how does all this affect whether he should be informed of the meeting? Doesn’t every member have a right to be informed?

Mr B stood his ground and carried the day by saying, “The old boys’ meet is a social occasion where we participate with our families. In Trivandrum society, we have a certain standing. If crooks like him attend, we cannot come with our families. It will also reflect badly on the Association.”

[Himaval news clip — Hat tip: Sandeep K (1994)]

8 Comments

  • Its been an awfully long while since I came looking, and its good to see that you are at it again. I love this one. I’m surprised there arent more infamous Loyolites. Someone must have done something really bad, its just a matter of numbers I guess. Or do you think the moral code thats imbibed by loyolites early in school life makes sure the rotten apples are few and far in between? Interesting thought nonetheless.

  • “Someone must have done something really bad…” — ssssh! I am not permitted to spill the beans. 😉

    Even at the back of our mind when we know that we are doing a wrong thing, we sometimes continue to do the wrong thing. So, there might be a moral code, but we interpret it conveniently. But yes, we are not very likely to find a Loyolite indulging in the giant criminalities, the super scams…maybe it’s because we are good, risk-averse Mallus, or maybe it’s because we are a small crowd, or maybe we know how to get away with crime.

  • Ashok, its to my discredit that I missed this. Getting more of the alumni involved… I have made feeble efforts, feeble, partly because of the limit of my contacts from my batch plus whether they really heed anything that I do say/send out to them. I guess the ’70 batch, age wise, puts us bordering the grandfather category which could be ascribed as a reason for lack of initiative in getting involved. One name that did come up recently who I inadvertently came to know about is a luminary in the corporate world back home: http://www.thehindu.com/2008/03/19/stories/2008031952991000.htm . I did have a conversation with Ramnath , when he was on a visit to the U.S, and mentioned the blog. We re-established contact after 39 years via our mutual friend Jogey Puthumana(’70 batch), a doctor, who lives and works in Manhattan. Anyway, belated as it is thought that this may at least reaffirm my good intentions towards the spirit of this post.

    • Peter, in recent years, batches have tried to re-group together. Within Kerala, I think the movie ‘Classmates’ contributed to the phenomenon. In Loyola’s case, I feel individuals came forward voluntarily to fill the space vacated by LOBA.

  • I’m from the class of ’73. I was googling today to see if Loyola had a website and stumbled upon your blog.

    If any of my old (literally) classmates see this email me at selvyn@hotmail.com.

  • Thank you Deepak. Two months ago, two Loyolites were on page 1 — one for becoming an MLA, another for being arrested. No prizes for guessing which news figured in the Loyola alumni e-group. Even before the judiciary’s verdict, we clubbed him out. 🙁

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