Thursday, October 28, 2004

Keynote Address | 4th National Congress

Delivered by Dr. Jitu Singh of XLRI, Jamshedpur.

Notwithstanding all that was said about me in the introduction, the real reason why I’m here is because the organizers of this meet had a ‘flat tire’. At the 59th minute and 50th second, they found that the celebrity who was scheduled to deliver this keynote address was no longer available. In their desperation, they grabbed me to serve as the ‘stepney’ for the evening. All of you are experienced enough to know that stepneys just about serve the purpose but they are seldom in good condition themselves.

However, on second thoughts, my qualification for stepping into this role is not all that bad. I have undergone 15 years of Jesuit education at the high school, college and postgraduate levels. As if that was not enough, I went on to accumulate 10 years of work experience as faculty at a Jesuit institution. Thus having spent 25 years in Jesuit institutions, I am entitled to be an honorary “Father”. One special reason why I would like this title is that it would entitle me to use the suffix “SJ” after my name. I don’t know what you understood it to mean; but in my school, it meant Sab Kuch Jaanta Hai !!

Anyway, I’d like to add my own welcome to all of you – especially those who have come from other parts of the country. I do hope you enjoy your stay in this town – and have a rollicking time at this Alumni Convention.

Any gathering of alumni from Jesuit institutions spread around the country is a very special occasion. Jesuit schools and colleges are among the best in the regions that they serve. Some even rank among the best in the country. They are known for quality education that is not only limited to the 3 Rs – but also value education and personality development. The alumni of these institutions have left their mark on society. Many of them are leaders in areas such as politics, civil services, defence forces, academia the corporate world, media, sports, art & culture and even the glitzy world of Bollywood.

However, there is one nagging question in my mind. Though each one is contributing to society in one’s own way, have the Jesuit alumni done enough to pool their energy and their capabilities to serve any common cause? What if this elite group of the best educated from the best institutions were to combine together? The resulting synergy, in my estimation, would be the equivalent of a thermonuclear reaction. Their combined explosive potential could take the country, and society anywhere imaginable.

All of us assembled here this evening come from schools or colleges to which we are deeply emotionally attached. I myself have the fondest memories of my student days in school and college – and the all-rounded education I received. An alumni convention like this is an occasion to refresh some of those memories – and catch up with teachers and friends we have not seen for a long time. But after the nostalgia, we must ponder over a question. Have our respective alma maters continued to reach for ever-higher standards of excellence in education? or have they settled confortably at a level they attained during our own student days – and have not gone much farther? Are they resting on their laurels? Do they retain their pioneering enthusiasm and their deep commitment to human development – or have they settled down to a comfortable routine of being mere teaching factories? I don’t intend to prejudge the issue; but I certainly think the question deserves serious introspection.

Finally, we must salute those who made all this possible. If we are here, it is because we share a common connection: our Jesuit education. It was made possible by the dedicated members of the Society of Jesus. Three cheers for them. They did so much for us, that we will forever remain indebted to them.

Thank you – and have a nice time.


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