Thursday, 6 December 2012

My Xaviers

The watch tells me it is 12 o'clock. The middle of the day. 12 hours have gone by. 12 hours yet to come until   this day is done. 50 years have gone by for Xaviers. 50 and many more still to come.

As I look around I see the famliar faces. I see my teachers. I see my colleagues who were with me in college. But I also don't see some faces -- faces which have shaped my destiny. For this I am sad, for we remember them  today.

The many beautiful voices of the choir we just heard, shows us how many of us work to sing a single tune in harmony.

Most Reverend Father Anil Couto, Archbishop-Designate of Delhi, Reverend Father Walter, Principal of St Xaviers college, distinguished dignitaries, members of the staff, and my dear friends. As I stand here I feel honoured and privileged to be part of these celebrations. I thank Fr Walter for extending to me this invitation.  

As I look at the campus today it is so different from what it was in our days. There are new buildings, new colours, new themes. But apart all this physical change, one thing has endured -- the values of St Xaviers college -- Catholic values --the values of St Francis Xavier.

And these values were instilled in us by our teachers, to whom we are so grateful today. Indeed the learnings outside our classroom have endured more than those inside it. Whether it was Ms Ann saying, 'Make friends with people from all communities,' or Ms Ava saying 'This too shall pass away,' or Prof. Rajashekar instilling in us the way to respect our teachers -- or Prof Newman buying a set of my books for the library --- they all gave us lessons for life.

It is this confidence which has enabled me to excel, go out of Goa, prove my worth and return to Goa to give back something to this land. Shirlene, my colleague [the compere] has put it eloquently. After being away for 20 years, Brian has returned home to find his Truth.'

The upbringing in Xaviers in my formative years made it all possible. Apart from memories I have nothing to recall the past. But I want to share with you something I have preserved for 26 years - the Mr Xavier sash of 1986-86 [shows the white satin sash to thunderous applause].

All of us ex-Xavierites want to continue to be a part of this family. We need a strong Alumni association. We also need greater interaction between students of our colleges so we can build on the spirit of Xaviers.

On behalf of the ex-Xavierites, I want to thank Xaviers for making us what we are. For showing us what we could be. Prof. Newman purchased copies of my first self-published volume of poems Last Bus to Vasco: Poems from Goa (2006) for the library. I would like to present a copy of my second self-published book of verse A Peace of India: Poems in Transit (2010) and a copy of Indian Literature (2004)-- the literary journal of the Sahitya Akademi -- which includes my poetic debut on the national stage -- to Fr Walter, for the college.

I'd like to end with my poem dedicated to all ex-Xavierites in tribute to the lovely memories we share:

My Xaviers

by Brian Mendonca

In sylvan haunts
Behind the leafy library
I used to sit on the steps
And watch life unwind in the praca below.

On trips fromI Vasco to visit my brother
As soon as Xaviers came into view on the hill
I remember mum's playful --'Look! there's Kevin!'
And I used to strain my eyes, but only see the college.

Xaviers was 'baths', and 'crook' and 'Gondo'
C-Am-F-G. 'You Drive Me Cray-ay-ay-ay-zee.'
And lights flashing from the women's hostel room below
where Norma waited.

Classical music (usually Wagner)
wafted eerily from Fr Miranda's room
on night when we kept uf
Studying for our Boards.

Ricky used to strum his compositions
'When you are down  . . . and feeling blue'
I met him at the graveyard gate at Velim
Later, dad sent me his obituary in the papers. . .

'Kalusha' (Caroline) sat by the sea at Calangute
playing the guitar singing 'I Believe in Music'
As we went in the blue college bus
Singing carols for the aged. . . .

Time moved on, so did we.
'Pop', 'Vice-Pop', Professor Mendonca, David
Across time and space we are here once more
Only the college remains, where it once stood.

House of memories, exalted on high
In the journey of life, your Light shines on
Thy values sustain, where others may flounder
All hail to St Francis from hill to shore.

This is Brian Mendonca signing off from the 1986 batch of Xaviers. If you need me I am at Thank you one and all.

Speech given at the Golden Jubilee celebrations of St Xavier's College, Mapusa, Goa at St Xavier's college on 4 December 2012 at midday. Pix taken by student photographer on Brian's Canon HD.  The poem 'My Xaviers' was published in the BMX  Reunion 2006 --  a souvenir titled Those Good ol' Days: Stories from Two Schools and a College in Mapusa, Goa. All thanks to Frederick Noronha for being at my heels to write it!

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