22 Aug

Identity Crisis of an Alumnus


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STOP. For an instant, take in this information:

  1. When you search for “jadavpur university alumni” on Google, you get this.
  2. When you search for “alumni association of jadavpur university” on Google, you get this.
  3. When you search for “how do i become a member of jadavpur university alumni association” on Google, you get this.

If you have got the drift of my endeavour, I am trying to learn how to become a member of the Alumni Association of Jadavpur University. I will assume the following:

  1. Warts and all, alma mater is alma mater – it means “nourishing mother” in Latin, and mother, however lousy or great, is mother still.
  2. And when you leave your nourishing mother, you want to be in touch with your nourishing mother.
  3. Every institution should have some form of association for those that depart from its portals.
  4. It is a shame and a great loss if it does not.

As inquisitive students of JU, I remember the thousands of trips we must have made around the central ground (god knows what is it called; if you are god, you can email me with the name here). And invariably the thousands of times we must have wondered what is this board, saying ‘Alumni Association’, doing here. Does anything happen inside? Who comes in? Who goes out? For years and years we saw some ghastly concrete structure being made right in front of the Ashirbaad canteen, a structure that encroached on the yard in front of the popular joint. For years and years we were told that the new building shall have accommodation for the Alumni Association. If and when it comes up. I think some building did finally come up in that yard. I vaguely remember having seen some board put up in one corner (or was it some other building that I am mistaking for). I don’t know if the Alumni Association has any building of its own. But regardless of any physical infrastructure, if the Alumni Association has any presence, it is felt through its absence – winds rush in to fill the vacuum. Thus, many who leave from JU enquire about it. I remember many of my friends asked this question. I am presuming on their behalf that most, if not all, would like to become a member of any Alumni Association. That they would like to have some reunions every few years, meet up with old fellows, check out who has got the most beautiful wife or girlfriend, and what not. If and when they can afford, they would also like to make some contribution towards the nourishing mother, monetary or otherwise. If only someone told them how to go about that.

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If you check out the official website of the nourishing mother, you will find the following:

  1. There are five pages under Alumni section, three of which are dead links (they don’t lead anywhere, as no pages have not been built. The webmaster, very thoughtfully – or is it thoughtlessly? – has added a Magazine page, but alas! there is no magazine!).
  2. The Activities page is an essay in poverty, and jubiliates in the vacuum of unaccomplishment (my dictionary says no such word exists; well, I can certainly coin one).
  3. The Membership page seems to be from Shakespeare. It must have got mislaid when the Bard was composing the character of Shylock. I cannot help but reproduce it here:

The Alumni Association by its very constitution survives on its members. If membership dries up, the Alumni can not remain functional. For the last few years we have noticed a decline in membership. Since the Association does not belong to a select few but to all past, present as well as future students, the functioning of the same becomes troublesome. We sincerely hope that things will improve or we as students of Jadavpur University would lose a body that should ideally be a part of our makeup.

If you wish you can donate to Jadavpur University.”

So much for Alumni Associations. But then grouping up is a natural instinct. Whether it is through fora like Orkut or Batchmates.com, people team up. Resourceful (in both senses of the word) people from US of A, who are invariably from the Engineering Faculty, have made their own tinpot arrangements to cater to their own little interest groups [Bring up your Google and check out for yourself – there are more websites on JU communities than you can imagine]. Thus, instead of a community of all ex-JUians, we have clans spread over the wide wide world and the other www. I have also come across scores of other fora, on Orkut, on Blogspot, many of them being manned or wommaned by my heriocal successors in the institution. A year and a quarter back I floated a suggestion through a fellow JUian who has his way with women and children that the present JUDE fellows can make a database of present and past members of the Department and then fill up data on a continuing basis, which could later be turned into an online and self-updating database. Last heard, NASA was also planning to go to Mars.

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