There is much I wish I had said. Two years ago, at the time of writing this, I was still in Loyola. A place I considered Home, in many more ways than a place can be. I wrote an article for The Loyolite, the annual magazine, almost exactly two years ago today.
I’d tried writing an article every year I was in school, more for the time spent cutting class and sitting in the library “writing” with my friends than any real wish to be featured, although I did hope. And I was, in my 11th for a surrealistic story I’d ripped straight from the pages of Murakami. In my 12th then, I knew that what I wrote might end up getting published, and I obsessed over what I wanted to be the last thing I would ever write as a Loyolite. I thought over what I could recall as the common themes behind 12th articles - melancholy, nostalgia, and a rendition of the ending of a Robert Frost poem. I thought then that what I would appreciate most in the long run was something entirely different from what came before. Which worked well in theory, and resulted in my article on the zaniness and inanities of Loyola life, titled, “The time my friend snorted chili powder.”
Perhaps at the end of this, I’ll find that all I wanted was to write these thoughts at all, and will appreciate my 12th self’s foresight in writing the article. But for now, I wish I’d said more. More than I could have then. The biggest takeaway from ex-Loyolites who talk about their time is that it was some of the best of their lives; and yet, as much as I’d tried to understand that, I overestimated its meaning in aspects, and undershot it in others. Loyola is far from a perfect place - and I doubt many people intend that meaning in anything more than hyperbole - but it is still remarkably better than the supermajority of other institutions, educational or not. That is what I wish I had said; the pandering aside, an honest evaluation of the qualities and shortcomings of the school, all of which still results in the same conclusion, no matter which way I look at it: Loyola is beyond the ordinary.
Loyola has perhaps the strongest bond with its children that most people would have known of. But is that a result of deserved acknowledgement of the school’s merits and the emotional connection they share, or a feedback loop sustained through generations of seniors mentoring their juniors? If I had to identify the first point at which I can remember consciously realizing the connection I felt to Loyola, it would be around my 10th grade, when I first attended tuitions. It was there that I first felt the tribalistic nature of schools, the competition between us, and the air of unspoken superiority we walked around with. But for all the cynicism and overcorrection I sometimes fall back on, I still recall distinctly the difference between a Loyolite and a Santhomite, or a Chempakite. Even today, I can reliably identify Loyolites in the news depending on what they’ve said or done. That kind of heuristic cannot exist without justification. Therefore, we can assume there is some quality that the school imparts, which sets its people in stark contrast.
Any sufficiently powerful persona however, requires equally vigorous training. As most any Loyolite can assure you, the atmosphere in the school is one of peaceful ferocity; fights were commonplace, but not malicious, or enduring. I recall multiple evenings when I would chill out with people I had been brawling with sometime in the day. Such stories are some of the most enduring in the memoirs of many alumni. It went further up the ladder, with harmful and toxic behaviours met with intense or physical instruction. And as alarming as that may sound in principle, perhaps the strongest of Loyola’s positives was its ability to be an outlier - batch unity across diversity, hardcore footballers chilling in class in the Games periods with the less sporty, and backbenchers scoring the highest in exams - to possess characteristics that are unlikely to be beneficial - and yet were, through a mutual understanding between junior and senior; fights were never personal, never wrought with bad intentions. In an all-boys school, some exertion of pent-up energy is inevitable, and was thus carefully regulated to positive outcomes. Yet, Loyola is not perfect or all-encompassing in its methods, and I also knew of a rare few who did not benefit from, or appreciate, these means to a common end. There lies the most egregious of Loyola’s hidden flaws: the outlier in the outlier.
If I had to ascertain the most important characteristic of a society that imparts exceptionality, it would be freedom: something we've never been short for. From the classes, where teachers don't so much regulate, as they do empathize, to final creative control over the School Day drama and La Fest (or the newer LOUD), coming into your own is the greatest opportunity we were given. And like chaos is born of escalating order, an odd equilibrium is built off the chaos. This more than anything, I believe, is vital to the bond we share: it's ours to form.
Ultimately, however, we live in a world of optimised profit, and this is no different in education. I am not going to denounce all forms of material improvement as detrimental or soulless - that seems counterproductive. However, it remains that the changes made to the school are driven by something entirely different than the betterment of the students; they are done in the name of bringing in more funds to fill the school’s coffers. Rising fees, in a school which boasted equal access to all classes of society, increased conformity to the workings of external society in a structure that produced some of the most unconventional concepts around, and politics among the teachers and management, all contribute to a sense of downfall in the school’s systems. The sole point of light in the rising darkness of the future of Loyola - the enduring grit and ingenuity of the students - might soon too, fall to the systemic changes in the works.
I cannot assert either way the question posed a couple paragraphs ago without bias, but perhaps it is both - we form our connections with the school, long before we see why it is deserving of it. But in the end, we do. And even with everything that changes, the image of Loyola we have, different to the one, will remain, forever. And isn’t that the only answer that matters?
13 Jan 2020
5 min read