By Mr Sharad Sharma (PGP 1971)
2021 – The golden jubilee year of our entering in IIMA and passing out in 1971 to carve out our future. The journey of 50 years was full of wonderful memories, with key highlights being the two years on the campus and then yearly batch gatherings at different destinations, both domestic and abroad. Many of our friends left for heavenly abode, leaving their sweet memories in our hearts.
THE PLANNING Our batch decided to celebrate the golden jubilee reunion in grand style as it may be one of the last gatherings, as many in the group have surpassed the age of 74 years. The fifty years of the batch were completed in March 2021, but that phase was dominated by the corona pandemic and lockdown was enforced as a preventive measure. We were also hesitant to travel being senior citizens. Even IIMA also indicated that they may only plan on-campus reunions during December subjected to the pandemic situation. When contacted during April, there was hardly any response from them.
During August, however, the vaccination programme was in full swing and most of us had already taken double doses of the Covid-19 vaccination. I and Kishen (my batchmate) set the ball rolling and slowly people started showing interest. It was impossible to avoid Kishen’s chasing and persuasion. Most of the batch mates were afraid as Kishen’s call would come at lunch, dinner or even at their sleeping time. So, most of them agreed to be the part of golden jubilee reunion. Kishen, our excel expert, also took the responsibility of collecting the contributions/expenses for the reunion.
I took the responsibility for arranging the event at IIMA and Statue of Unity, which was planned after the meet at IIMA. During coordination and discussion with the Alumni Office team led by Mr Victor Pereira, many finer details were worked out to make the show a memorable one. This included making of banners, photographs for memory, musical evening and much more. This was to be in addition to our own group gathering and interactions. A view of one interesting banner is a must which mesmerized every participant. The banner shows the pictures of batch mates in 1971 along with their present photo.
Then I started to plan for a memorable souvenir that can be preserved by classmates and can serve as a lasting memory of this event. After a lot of thoughts and discussions, we zeroed in for a customized wall clock, mentioning the golden jubilee reunion with IIMA logo.
THE HORROR OF OMICRON Finally, 45 alumni consented to join, 23 of them along with their wives. There were two participants from the USA and one from Dubai. The D-Day, 9 Dec, was approaching fast and all flights, rooms and travel arrangements were final. Suddenly, all the hell broke open. In November, a new coronavirus variant Omicron appeared on the horizon and started affecting the population. Overnight, the travel regulations were changed and new restrictions were imposed. The international flights were banned. The participants from abroad were afraid as to whether they will be able to go back if flights are banned. Even the domestic travelers were confused with the ever changing covid protocols for the domestic travel.
Myself, Kishen and others advised friends to wait patiently for a few days for the situation to be clear and the impact of omicron to be known. Luckily, all the participants had taken both the doses of covid vaccination. I even wrote the following message on WhatsApp group, “Friends we have already lost two precious years due to corona lockdown. A person of 40-45 years can afford to lose two more as he has another 45 years to live. However, we, the group aged 74 + years, have only 5 more active years. Let us not waste these years due to corona fear. गुजरा ज़माना फिर हाथ न आयेगा, दोष न देना मुझे फिर पछताएगा।
This somehow motivated the group, none cancelled their flights and all decided to wait. The Gods smiled on us and showered their blessings. The situation improved and the reunion was on.
THE D-DAY ARRIVES, 9 DECEMBER The participants started arriving on-campus. It was a wonderful sight, seeing friends welcoming and hugging each other. It was looking like a gathering of youngsters as the reunion took them 50 years back in time. After registration, everyone went to the banner and started looking for their own photographs. The wives were happy to see the young photos of their husbands.
After check-in, lunch and rest, a group photo session was done where everyone held the golden balloon and flew it in the air at LKP. This was followed by a walk around the campuses, both new and old. Those who came first time after 1971 were shocked and pleasantly surprised to see the new campus and LKP. It was also bringing sweet memories of good old days during the walk around the old dorms where they lived.
THE EVENING SESSION Now the evening was ours to live old memories, exchange notes and to practice our old CP habits, lest we forget this most important teaching of IIMA.
It started by playing a video clip prepared by me, to pay homage to our dear friends who had left for heavenly abode during this journey. It was a tearful emotional moment where the slides were being shown of departed friends with Raj Kapoor’s famous song “जीना यहाँ मरना यहाँ, इसके सिवा जाना कहाँ” playing in background.
Following this, Kishen, the reincarnation of lord Chitragupta (the Lord who keeps record of all humans) came on the stage and took us down the memory lane. He surprised us by showing slides of 50 years old documents, letters, admission card and so much more. The best was the receipt of Rs 135 per quarter fees paid for the PGP course. His collection will be a treasure for archival collection of IIMA.
It was the fun time now. A short stand-up comedy was done by yours truly. Later, Shekar and Vishu put up a brilliant quiz show, showing the childhood photos of batchmates and to identify them. It was hilarious and full of laughter.
Hari Suramaniam gave the background of our email group history and how it has kept us connected through all these years. Hari, by the way, is an excellent recognized photographer, with many exhibitions to his credit. Later, Ranjeet Dugad recited a beautiful poem describing the interesting activities of our batch mates and few incident with our professors. This was then followed by Gautam Shah to give details of his charity foundation and work done for the underprivileged children. The evening then concluded to have sumptuous dinner at the IMDC Mess.
10 DECEMBER 2021 Next day morning, the group went for the heritage walk. We were doubtful if our 70+ age group will be able to walk and enjoy the 2.5 km stretch. On the contrary, they all enjoyed the walk through heritage buildings and culturally rich streets. They also loved the traditional Gujarati dishes served at Chandra Villas for breakfast.
Following this, an interactive session was arranged with the Director and Dean-AER. The Director gave details of additional courses added in the curriculum and initiatives being taken to make IIMA’s presence more visible in the international community. The discussion also took place on restoration projects being undertaken in the Old Campus and the bigger need of safe buildings for the community.
Later in the afternoon, a city tour was done including Gandhi Ashram, River Front and Adalaj Ni Vav. The evening started with a beautiful musical program, with a few members giving their singing performance.
TRIP TO STATUE OF UNITY We bid farewell to IIMA and started the journey from the campus itself. All were excited to visit the World’s Tallest Monument. which has recently become an international tourist attraction. It was mesmerizing to see the gigantic structure and we were proud that Shri Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel got due recognition for his contribution towards the Indian independence movement.
The Golden Reunion ended with saying ‘bye bye’ to each other and with a promise of ‘Dasvidaniya’ in Russian means ‘फिर मिलेंगे’.