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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)]