They say by the time you reach 40, you would have figured out life and its purpose. If you are 40 already and still have not figured out what you want in life, I think you are dealing with existential crisis. Seek whatever help you can. Thankfully, am not 40 yet, so, I still have time. But one thing, I think I have figured out already, is the purpose of “friends” in life. Who are they and how are they made? I have my own definition:
“A friend is someone whom you can call at 1 AM at night for no particular reason. A friend is someone who can show you the mirror. A friend is someone who knows your inherent nature and accepts you the way you are. A friend is someone who checks-in when the whole world checks-out.”
There is no definite process of making such friends. They just happened to get made for almost every human being on this planet. But I know of a factory where they are made in plenty. It is one of the many factories spread across India.
The name of that factory is “Sainik School Bhubaneswar”. This factory has no carbon footprints. This factory imprints tales of sacrifices, patriotism, discipline, friendships and brotherhood. These tales become lifeline of all those who graduate from there (SSBian). Yes, the batchmate loyalty reigns supreme, but an SSBian greets a senior or a junior with almost same joy as he would greet his batchmate. No wonder the alumni network is so strong. It was this realisation that drew me back to OBA meets after a decade of keeping myself aloof of everything to do with it. I know many of my peers who have not had this realisation yet and have deliberately opted out of the SSB brotherhood, but I am sure they will eventually come to its fold. Thank God I had this realisation sooner.
The OBA meet of 2021 was my fourth in the past 21 years but it is the one I would like to forget. It was pure luck that such a gathering was even possible amidst Omicron scare. In hindsight, I think it wasn’t so lucky for the school. Few of things that I experienced have made me realise that the future does not augur well for the association if the status quo is maintained. It was Bismarck who said, “Politics is the art of possible, the attainable — the art of the next best.” What unfolded at the meet was totally opposite to that. Politics became the art of the impossible. I had never imagined that I would see two senior SSBians speak over each other on an OBA day. I had never imagined that the august Vivekananda hall would become a venue for election campaigning. I had never imagined that I would see two seniors almost get embroiled in a physical fight over lunch in front of Annapurna mess. Goddess Annapurna would have sighed!
Thank God there were no students in the premises. What legacy we would have left behind?
I would like to poke the conscience of those seniors and ask them, “What sort of impression your actions and words would have made on those impressionable students?”
It was amidst all this clamour that a junior came to me and said, “Sir, I just had the opportunity of being part of diamond jubilee celebration of one of the other Sainik Schools. I earnestly wish the same can be replicated by SSB. Can you do something about it.” I honestly don’t know what made him think that I could do something about it. But as things unfolded later in the day, I doubted the junior’s wishes would be fulfilled. In a way this write-up is a result of that interaction with the junior. Sincerely hoping that the powers to be will not disappoint and not let OBA days become a forum for politics and electioneering. Please figure out other avenues for that. I am sure there will be ways. Let us make the diamond jubilee a grand success; an envy for others.
Lastly, EC members, after having heard some of the speeches by my revered seniors, I would humbly want to point out something: if you wish to make it an association exclusive to servicemen, count me out. Armed Forces do not have a monopoly on good administration. If you are a serviceman who has cleared SSB and made a career in the armed forces, good on you. But do not forget that each SSBian, irrespective of his profession, is the flagbearer of SSB values: unflinching love for the country and a strong feeling of brotherhood towards other fellow SSBians. I personally know of many SSBians who opted for a career outside armed forces and doing pretty well. So, if you wish to make it a fiefdom of servicemen, I am afraid it would be one small group devoid of vibrancy and hues of talent that people from all spheres of life would bring to the table.
Long live the SSB brotherhood. Let this brotherhood be devoid of petty politics, jealousy, ego and aristocracy. Let us give that junior some inspiration and a deep sense of pride of being an SSBian. Let us all work towards the betterment of our alma mater.