Dr Purnima Chauhan, IAS (retd), President, EBA
The excitement and exuberance of the much awaited “Bedeian Alumni Catch-up, Mash-up” slated for 19th and 20th November in Shimla City begins with the Bedeian alumni congregating after many years! After partaking of a traditional Himachali lunch and braving the crisp mountain air, a vibrant walkathon down the heritage Mall Road with donning vibrant blue hoodies and caps emblazoned with Bedeian logo and looking at the world through their smart ‘kaala chashma’ they will take a heritage walk down the memory lane.
A vintage map of all the famous personalities of Shimla given to each of them will help rediscover Shimla from its rich heritage perspective. This map was designed by the Ex-Bedeian Association President, Dr Purnima Chauhan, a retired IAS officer, with her team when she was Secretary of the Culture Department and launched the revival of cultural heritage under the ‘Aaj Purani Raahon Se’ (APURSA) Scheme that maps hundreds of lesser-known cultural intangibles of Himachali heritage. To showcase another vanishing practice, St Bede’s has invited the ancient Sancha practitioner of Chopal to the carnival on the second day in the College. He will roll his mysterious twin dice in Shakuni style and then read fortunes from his centuries old Laal Kitaab called Sancha and written in Pahari scripts of Paawuchi and Pangwani that have nearly vanished with the decline of such traditions.
While keeping the Bedeian flag flying high, each girl is an ambassador of such ‘vocal for local’ paradigm that can regenerate lost livelihoods!
One can look forward to the bonfire, dinner, and a DJ spontaneously igniting spirits, memories as well as talents. Animated memories shared around the bonfire over dinner will make yesterday return once more. This sentiment of a shared bond runs as deep as the vintage of the college!
On 20th morning, St Bede’s College will host and greet the girls as they walk in with friends and family to enjoy the cultural show and the Batch-walk followed by a carnival with a treasure hunt around the College, a game of tambola and flavoured with food aromas from stalls set up by enterprising students and alumni to evoke entrepreneurship among the eager students. Cupid’s arrow will strike as old romance is rekindled through the Request Corner Jukebox. And Santa comes early with his Lucky Dip Loot Bag!
Nestling in vintage grandeur amid spruce, fir and oak trees in the mountains of Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, St. Bede’s College began life in 1904 as a teacher’s training college with twelve students. Its origins can be traced to the second half of the 19th century, when it was founded for orphaned children of British soldiers. Over time, the managing organisation, the Congregation of Jesus and Mary, felt the need for a centre of academic excellence, and that’s how St. Bede’s evolved from being once housed in a small block to a sprawling campus with six buildings. It has 1,200 students on its rolls—not just Christians, though they do get priority in admission—and a faculty strength of 65.
The college takes its name from St. Bede’s who was probably born in 673 AD and was made deacon at the age of nineteen by Bishop John of Hexham. Since Canon Law laid down the age of twenty-five as the norm for admission to the diaconate, Bede’s scholarship and devotion must have been recognised as exceptional for him to have been presented by Abbot Ceolfrid six years early. He was advanced to the Priesthood by Bishop John eleven years later. He worked ceaselessly to compile extracts from the works of the venerable Fathers on holy scripture, and to make commentaries on their meaning and interpretation compiled for his ‘History’ which he completed in 731 AD richly earning him the title ‘Father of English History’. St. Bede’s passed away on May 25, 735 AD. This first of the English historians has inspired people over centuries with his scholarship and Bedian alumnae have spared no effort in keeping the banner flying.
A meeting of the Ex-Bedeian Association (EBA) was held on May 27, 2022 as Principal Dr. Sr. Molly Abraham welcomed the ex-Bedeians and the faculty members, which culminated into the formation of the new executive body of the EBA for a term of two years. Sr. Molly nominated Dr. Purnima Chauhan as the President, Mrs. Sheetal Sharma as the General Secretary, Mrs. Guneet Kaur as the Treasurer, Dr. Deepti Pajni as the Convener and Dr. Gitanjali Mahendra, Mrs. Neha Walia, Mrs. Preeti Koundal, Ms. Snighda Bhatt and Ms. Jyotika Brari as the executive members.
The vision statement of the EBA as finalized was declared, “St. Bedes alumni association seeks to converge, connect and catalyse student alumni interface on the edifice of past and present goodwill for creating a social capital as assets to the contemporary society.” Recently Nupur Sood, Devyani Goyal, Sheetal Vyas and Anjali were co-opted into the EBA.
On 5th June 2022, the EBA and Bedeian students collaborated with the Earth Day Network—Asia Pacific to embark on a ‘clean the mountain campaign’ in Naldehra, near Shimla. After climbing mountains to gather 1.5 tonnes of garbage, the Bedeians participated enthusiastically in a fulfilled eco-antakshari of popular Bollywood songs with the village women from the Mahila Mandal of Baggi Jubbar village while savouring the refreshments sponsored by Inner Wheel Club Shimla.
The EBA vision to converge was evident in the scintillating, zest filled Shimla alumni dinner meet held in Zion Hotel, Shimla, on 30th July 2022. Despite the invite going out only to Shimla alumni, Bedeians enthusiastically converged from Chandigarh, Panchkula, Gurgaon, Ludhiana to reconnect with old friends. The title of the event, “Its Yesterday Once More” was spot on! As each girl arrived sporting different shades of ‘pink’ the mood also turned into this soft colour! Excited chatter filled the hotel lobby, the lift, the terrace, the spontaneous warmth was infectious. Time seemed to stand still as the ‘meet and greet’ flowed into sumptuous dinner, DJ, dancing, spontaneous singing and the inevitable antakshari around the bonfire under the starry summer sky. The clock striking the midnight hour went unnoticed as the girls savoured each minute. Cherished moments were captured in candid camera by Vandana Bhagra creating new memories to cherish as each girl reconnected with classmates with the promise ‘till we meet again’.
This November event has already ignited nostalgia among alumni as far back as 1950s. Decades will come together to share, enrich, learn, and empower not just each other but also the institution and the society. A slew of activities to fulfil this vision will strengthen the bonds over generations. So come and join by the deadline of 10th November 2022 until we say ‘sayonara’ and await what 2023 will unfold!