Graduation is a meaningful and powerful word—a ceremony at which degrees are conferred. This definition, however, fails to embody the sentiment of the event itself. As the evening of 18th April 2015 commenced, the graduates of the 2015 class of Greenwood High put on their mortarboards, which brought with it an atmosphere of nostalgia, pride, and joy infused with the sorrow of parting. The ceremony was inaugurated with the national anthem followed by a welcome speech given by head boy Siddharth Kumar. Following the thought-provoking speech, the graduates made their luminous entry with tear filled sparkling eyes. The auspicious event was blessed by an invocation dance performed by the girls of grade nine and eleven and the auspicious lighting of the lamp together with a prayer said by the principal. The chief guest, Dr. Kiran Bedi, as well as the board members were then felicitated.
Kharan Narayanan, the valedictorian, then went on to deliver the valedictorian’s speech, which stirred memories of his old school days. And surely, his “sixth draft” of a speech touched the hearts of not only his batch mates but also of all the members present in the audience. In his speech he recalled moving from the United States and giving an admission test for Greenwood High, which contained a Hindi section. However, due to his lack of knowledge of the subject, he made up his answers and letters. Taking the IB is a challenge of sorts, and Kharan was well aware of the difficulties, struggles and sleepless nights that lay ahead of this decision but with his firm determination and consistent efforts he knew he would succeed, and so he did. Kharan enjoys reading, and the paradigm he used in his discourse was from the Indian classics in which teachers are placed above god. Recalling that he is now on the “brink of adulthood”, Kharan concluded his speech by thanking his parents, his sister, his family and all his teachers.
The evening, abundant with ardent speeches, continued as the principal Mr. Aloysius D’Mello took the stage. Reiterating that at this point, the students had a reached a crossroads in their lives, one that led toward teenage and adulthood. He highlighted that he was just like the students, only that they had time, youth and opportunity on their side. Mr. D’Mello stressed on choosing the right career path by elaborating on the dynamic nature of the definition of ‘career’ which previously meant “the track on which a race is run”, and now has developed into its modern meaning. He also laid emphasis on the benefits students could bring to society, and the power they have to impact their country. He then proceeded to remind the students that Greenwood High will always be their well-wisher, and how the decisions of the students would affect their alma mater, and how the school will always welcome them back. And most importantly, Mr. D’Mello emphasized the strength of the parents, the established bedrock for all students, with their continuous support and motivation, the students have reached where they are today. Finally, he closed his speech with a heartwarming a letter written by a grandfather to his grandson, highlighting the importance of limited time, the sea of opportunities, evolution as individuals, and never having regrets for not doing something. He left his students with the perfect adage by Gilbert Keith Chesterton, “It is perfectly obvious that in any decent occupation (such as bricklaying or writing books) there are only two ways (in any special sense) of succeeding. One is by doing very good work, the other is by cheating”, a quotation which will establish life-long values in these graduates by getting them to see the value of doing good work.
The evening moved along with an emotion-filled song “Where are we going from here” performed by Anusha Shreekumar, Shubhangi Das and Saanjh Su Kumar. Following this, the outgoing cultural secretary introduced the chief guest, Dr. Kiran Bedi, a retired IPS officer, who delivered an erudite speech for the graduates based on introspective experiences. Dr. Kiran Bedi began her speech with a friendly touch, by addressing the graduates as “young friends”, and describing it to be a privilege to reach this age. She then stressed on the mission of life, and stressed on making a difference and thus reached out to youngsters who in her words “help mold the society of tomorrow”. Through her speech, she defined the three mantras or the three “m’s” of success: be masters, members of community, and meaning. And to add cream to the pie, she added a fourth mantra, mind-management. The first ‘m’ of being a master was best explained by the use of the imagery of “sharpening ones tools”, relating to the importance of learning, growing and mastering in the field the graduates would choose. Developing this, Dr. Kiran Bedi added on how this “tool kit” given to one at the start of their life, must be expanded by the addition of new tools. The second ‘m’ emphasized on collectiveness and responsibility of each individual in society—reaching out to the community in order to establish a society, capable of learning and growing on its own. Elucidating on this point further, Dr. Kiran Bedi recounted a story in which a successful farmer, who had the best of the seeds and produced the highest yield of successful crops, distributed his seeds to his neighboring farmers, and how in turn he was able to reap the benefits of the healthy pollen that blew into his farm. Thus she was able to successfully establish the importance of both mastery as well as collectivism, in the most incisive manner.
By highlighting, the third ‘m’ which was ‘meaning’, she signified that, each individual had a purpose or meaning in life, which is to have a positive impact on society, or in official terms “good policing”. The fourth ‘m’, which Dr. Kiran Bedi considers quite important for all young individuals, is mind-managing. To be able to “connect” the mind and body and the power of “handling” one’s mind. She reestablished the point on the impacts each decision made by the graduates would have on the people around them, their country—when they do well, society will rejoice with them, and when they don’t, the ripples of their actions will move like a tsunami through society. Dr. Kiran Bedi advised the graduates to not only make the right choices, but also to make mistakes, as these mistakes would add to their experiences. Dr. Kiran Bedi was able to assimilate these important notions of life, through her eclectic speech. These are to be the essential values these graduates will carry all through the journey of their lives.
After Dr. Kiran Bedi’s speech, the proud mother of valedictorian Kharan Narayanan, Dr. Yamini Narayanan took to the stage, to share her thoughts and gratitude. She began with a heart-warming response that the day her son is lauded, a mother is happier than the day he was born. Through this heart-felt speech, she described the raising of a child, which in her opinion requires the efforts of an entire village—one that provides a safe environment, academic learning, and abundance of opportunities for the child. The village in question, she explained is comprised of family, extended family, and the well-suited environment of the school which helped Kharan to grow and blossom into the young man he is today. She is grateful that her decision to have both her children studying in this well-established institution that provides a sea of opportunities for students in every field—sports, art, music, dance or theatre.
Following this captivating speech, the program continued with an adept instrumental jazz piece performed by the students of grade nine and eleven which was followed by a distribution of the graduating students’ certificates and mementos. Then came the most awaited moment of the evening—the final lighting of the candle. The graduates took to the stage for the final time carrying the lit candles in their hands. The candles symbolize ‘illuminating the path that lies ahead of them’. They then took the graduates’ pledge that honors the knowledge attained by them in the course of their school life. The choir then sang the popular song “We are the champions”, clearly reflecting the state of mind of all the graduates. At this bittersweet moment, Associate Dean, Mrs. Kavita Sinha gave the vote of thanks, with a romantic touch to it, answering the popular question asked by the graduating students whether they would be remembered and were they better than the previous batch. To which Mrs. Kavita responded with that the International curriculum was a twenty-four month course, whereas the gestation period of a child is nine months. With a laudatory tone, she described each batch as unique, and each student as a “powerhouse” of ideas bringing positive impacts on 4.9 crore people. What was the right time for every action? Who were the most necessary people? What was the most important thing to do? Through the answers of these three popular questions from Leo Tolstoy’s story, Mrs. Kavita left the graduates with a message that would reverberate through them for years. She said, “the most important time is now, the present is the only time over which we have power, the most important person is whoever you are with, the most important thing is to do good to the person you are with.”
The night came to an end with a reminiscent video of the experiences of the cohort of 2015 of the IB Diploma Programme, which brought sniffles and giggles from the audience. And the surrealistic nature of the night brought a note of levity, as graduates felt the strong urge to take last minute photographs, in order to remember the crossroads of life they had reached.