“It was the best of times; It was the worst of times” – Charles Dickens, A tale of two cities
There are emotions, events and memories for each of us, of our times, spent at Mount Hermon School that fall into either of the categories mentioned above. Nonetheless, there are defining characteristics of a Hermonite that you might identify us by.
Regardless of whichever glorious monument we have ever visited across the globe, we first take pictures of the meal we had and share immediately. (PS, it will never compare to the momo of Darjeeling). We still don’t close our eyes at grace in case our (good) pieces of meat get swapped by our table mate.
No weather forecast compares to the chiso hawa (cool breeze, Nepali), and the mist of Darj.
We fail to understand the strife in the world that surrounds privilege, religion and caste. We shared dormitories with children of missionaries and teachers, princes and princesses, and the business community from around the world. Once within the portals of the school, we were all stripped of any defining demographic detail as we were the same. Mostly poor, cold, hungry but strangely contented! We didn’t know then which God our friend worshipped (or not), and we sure as hell don’t care even now.
We don’t know the word “exclusivity “. The best singers, actors and musicians had star roles in the major production plays, orchestra and choir. The rest were involved in the background. You were a tree, a shepherd or an angel if you couldn’t act. You played the Glocks or triangle if you were not a musician. You melted into the background chorus if you couldn’t sing solo. No one was left out. No one was forgotten.
A single word (again, usually related to food!) can strike up a conversation between a current class 2 student and a sage 80-year-old Hermonite which transports us back to school again.. hot chips, bun singaara, alu dum.
We fail to comprehend the callousness of the school systems today as we had teachers who went beyond the call of duty. With their meagre salaries and large hearts, they worked tirelessly within and outside the classrooms.
It’s hard to find a tone-deaf Hermonite! Where two or more Hermonites are gathered, make no mistake, there will be music! Rambunctious, unapologetic, loud singing and laughter. All. Night. Long.
We laugh and re -laugh at the same stories and the same jokes over and over again, much to the disdain of Non- Hermonite spouses and family, who must learn quick- integrate and accept, or politely stay out of it. And there will be hugging, Non- Hermonites, lots of it, the love follows us everywhere.
Our reunions are categorised into three phases: pre-reunion excitement, reunion euphoria and PRTSD: Post Reunion Traumatic Stress Disorder.
And when the structure of the school fades and the old friendly walls look more grey, our fiercely protective chuddie -buddies remain our best friends, our worst critics and keep us young at heart.
Happy 125th, Mount Hermon School.
Writes: Dr Rekha Samuel, MD, Pathologist, Scientist and writer lives in Kolkata with her interior designer husband Nitil Prasai, also a Hermonite and their two cocker spaniels, Haapu and Phuchi.