Downtown

Once a Bedean, always a Bedean

The school is 109 years old and the alumni association has been around since 1925.  

As a journalist, I am often privy to conversations in groups as closed and impervious as iron walls. I have not gone past the gates of St. Bede’s Anglo-Indian Higher Secondary School in Santhome, but I get to learn about the latest initiatives at the school and how much old Bedeans — as its past pupils are called — like their alma mater.

By virtue of being a journalist who is interested in the history and heritage of Madras, I have been grafted into the Bedean family through the Facebook page of Old Bedeans Association.

On the strength of some of the conversations on this group, it could be said that one of St. Bede’s strengths is its past pupils. Many of them discuss their school with ‘non-Bedeans’ with an evident fondness for it.

As an outsider looking inside, I see in many of the old Bedeans a deep-rooted pride about having been a part of the school. They also display a sense of continuity — as if they have never left the school.

To illustrate the point, Raja Selvam, a lawyer, who is a Bedean from the 1999 batch, feels more attached to St. Bede’s where he spent just two years — doing his eleventh and twelfth classes — than the school, which will remain unnamed, where he had earlier spent most of his schooling years.

It’s not always the fact that St Bede’s has had a great sports culture, especially cricket and has given birth to many top-of-the-line cricketers, that makes past pupils proud of the school.

Selvam is one of the old Bedeans who are all admiration for the school for the discipline it instilled in them and the emphasis it laid on charity.

Selvam recalls how he was part of a students-driven project to raise funds to support underprivileged children in the two fishing hamlets proximate to St. Bede’s — Dooming Kuppam and Nochi Kuppam. School books and educational aids were given away to these children in these fishing hamlets.

Stafford Mantel, from the 1995 batch and a key member of the Old Bedeans Association and the founder and main administrator of OBA’s Facebook page, says, “Most past pupils refer to the school with what has now become a famous line: ‘St. Bede’s, the school of our hearts’”.

There are many reasons for this attachment. One of them is a strong alumni association.

“The school is 109 years old and the alumni association has been around since 1925,” explains Stafford.

Past pupils are good at organising catch-up meets, another factor promoting a sense of continuity.

“Recently, students from various batches, ranging from the 1970s to the 1990s, organised a get-together just to meet Fr. Forte, who had served the school in various capacities, including as a rector,” says Stafford, adding “Old Bedean meet-ups happen regularly in Bengaluru and Melbourne too.”

Old Bedeans who have settled in Australia organise a charity dance every year, and this annual event has a good following.

On October 15, the “Old Bedean’s 25 Annual Charity Dance” will be held at Gaelic Park Hall in Keysborough, Melbourne.

Clearly, here is a case of distance making the heart grow fonder.

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Printable version | Apr 22, 2021 2:03:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/downtown/Once-a-Bedean-always-a-Bedean/article14566413.ece

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