Monday, May 3, 2010

My Last Stand- The Graduation Day Speech

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. This is indeed going to be the most special speech of my career at Modern School, Barakhamba Road.
I wrote the first draft of the speech I make today a few months ago. It spoke of my memories and experiences as a student of this glorious school. That draft was to be the final one till I met my good friend who was my predecessor as the President of the Debating Society and Chief Editor of the school magazine. I was meeting him after a long time and at this point I was bracing myself to face the recently concluded Pre Board Examination. We spoke at great length about the various concepts of Karma in the Gita. Therefore credits to portions of this speech go to my good friend Gaurav Nath Sabharwal of the Class of 2008.
When the war ended in Mahabharat, Gandhari cursed Lord Krishna. She wanted to know why he did not stop the war. He could have saved all hundred of her sons from death at the hands of the Pandavas. Lord Krishna had earlier warned Duryodhana to give away the five villages and prevent the war. Duryodhana refused to even give the amount of soil that could rest on the point of a needle. Lord Krishna replied I could have stopped the war, I am God. But if I did, I would have to be everywhere to stop all that goes wrong. This would mark the end of the conscience.
That is the sort of education this school boasts of. The education I received here beyond all the talk of exposure and opportunity, taught me to choose between right and wrong. This school has given to all of us the skills and the grit to survive under any circumstances. That is what I value of my years at Modern School.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I had the welcome opportunity of representing the school at various debates held in a number of schools. In my first few debates, the reaction our team precipitated took me by surprise. We were typified as the privileged ones. I understood the word privilege in the right sense in terms of ability. However, I am not sure whether they meant it the same way.
When I recently met a fellow Modernite, Mr. Abhinav Chaturvedi, he said to me that the world does not know the excellence that exists within these 29 acres of holy land. He went on to say we Modenites are often misunderstood. If an alumnus decides to drive his BMW on the foot paths of New Delhi in place of the road; creating mayhem in the city. It is front page news. If an alumnus becomes the Secretary General of the Commonwealth Secretariat, no one seems to notice, that he is a product of this school. Later on that day I read the following lines by Ralph Waldo Emerson. He said and I quote
“Is it so bad to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh.”
Coming back to my conversation with Gaurav on the Gita. The Gita promotes the idea of rebirth. The Gita espouses the view that we must treat our life as among many lives. For most people this implies better luck next time. But for me given my experience at Modern School it implies; do the right thing now or you are going to pay in your next birth.
My experiences at this school find their description in Harivansh Rai Bachchan Saab’s poem Agnipath.
Vriksh ho bhale khade, ho ghane ho bade, Ek patra chhav bhi mang mat, mang mat, mang mat Agneepath Agneepath Agneepath.
Tu na thakega kabhi, tu na thamega kabhi, tu na mudega kabhi, Kar shapath, kar shapath, kar shapath, Agneepath, Agneepath, Agneepath.
Ye mahaan drishya hai, chal raha manushya hai, Ashru shwet raqt se lathpath, lathpath, lathpath, Agneepath, Agneepath, Agneepath.

This is going to be my last speech as a sitting member of the Modern School student community. Therefore I would be failing myself if I did not mention the wonderful contributions of the members of the faculty. The blame for my failure, if I shall fail shall be mine alone. However if I succeed, the credit of success shall be of the teachers I have had.
In my years at Modern School I have been taught by a number of teachers. Ironically, the teachers who remain most fond of me have never taught me. My mother often suspects that is the reason they continue to be fond of me. However, I look at it as my childhood hero Sir Winston Churchill looked at it. “I am a keen learner. However, I am not always willing to be taught.”
There is a teacher who is currently seated in the audience whom I shall remain deeply indebted to for her unstinting support while I was down. She gave me the strength and the vision to surpass the challenges that our education system unfairly and unnecessarily throws at us. Her counsel and advice I know shall be available to me for many years to come. I thank you very much Mrs. Bhalla for helping and guiding me as your own son.
Another, one of my special teachers taught me more by her absence than she did by her presence. This dynamic teacher of English ensured that my experience at the school magazine’s editorial board was worth every bit of stress that surrounded it. I am thankful to Mrs. Malini Khatri for being a friend, teacher, mother, guide, confidante, well wisher, morale booster and ego deflator in one person; particularly at the time when I needed the most.
The moments that I spent with the Honorable Principal Mrs. Lata Vaidyanathan have truly gone in a long way in impacting the way in which I look at people and events. Our conversations on a spectrum of topics were often heated. It would be very difficult to have conversations of that nature with your Principal. That is the thing about my Principal that says it all, you are allowed to disagree with her.
To conclude I would like to quote the following lines of from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Ulysses. A favorite of the Kennedy brothers and according to me defines the spirit of a Modern School education
"I am a part of all that I have met
To much is taken, much abides
That which we are, we are --
One equal temper of heroic hearts
Strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."
All in all that sums up what I had to say, but for one last thing that this speech is dedicated to my best friend who is not seated amongst us. Thank you.

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