Sunday, June 14, 2015

A (not so) belated note to Lyceum

22 years isn't much. There are schools that have passed that period and contain more students and teachers. Some haven't and hence have less of both. A few have mushroomed here and there. They come and go.

My school wasn't "epic" like other institutions. But it's epic on its own right. And at the end of the day, that is what matters. To us.

Lyceum wasn't the first choice for us back then. It was new and built at a time when private schools weren't "favoured". It still isn't, but that's another story. The point is that building and developing a school from scratch this way isn't easy. The point is that Lyceum has "made it". It's still "climbing", yes, but developed far beyond what you'd expect with 22 years. It turns 22 today.

There are those who've lived with my school since then. Some have left. Others have remained. They've aged well and my guess is that what's ours has become theirs as well.

But why? Is there a "Lyceum touch"? Some secret that only those in it can understand? Yes.

I've come across people who've changed allegiances after they shifted schools. People who've taken in Lyceum even though they left early on. People who've refused to "accept" Lyceum for the simple reason that they'd been in another school before. Human beings aren't one-dimensional and nor for that matter are children. They change quickly. Lyceum's a school, after all. There are others like it. Older ones. Popular ones.

Let me explain. It isn't age that sets us apart. The "Lyceum touch" (if such a thing really exists) comes from togetherness. Togetherness in what you do. Togetherness wherever you are. No alienation. No snobbery. No separation based on class or race or whatever "mark" you may have. In other words, no distinction. You hobnob with everyone. Regardless of background.

What's the secret to all this? One word. Discipline. That's scripted into everything we do. Whether we're in or out, that stays. At times, I admit, this jars. At times we wonder why we have to practise abstinence in everything, even celebration of victory or mourning of defeat. But gradually, we understand. It is because victory and defeat, like every other thing in life, can change. Victory is not about going jeering at the loser. Defeat is not about getting angry at the winner. There's something else to them. Something more.

Other things count as well. We study and are expected to study. When a match or competition comes around, when we're more concerned about scores and winning, study is prioritised. Not that this takes away fun. But if fighting for "colours" means sacrificing that test or getting your grades down, there are no two words about it. Study you must.

And by a miracle, this works. I personally never played a sport, but I knew and saw friends who played what they loved but almost never lost their grades. We didn't have heroes venerated in stadiums and matches who didn't win back pride at academics. That wasn't just the school, of course. But it factored in.

Ms Jamna Padmanaban, my O/Level English Literature teacher, wrote a piece for Lyceum's 20th. That was two years ago. This is what she had to say:

"It has always been a strong belief of the school management that what builds society is creative, inventive, vital activity, and this is fueled by integrity of mind and purpose, a spirit of tolerance and hard work. In order to achieve this, we need a very vital ingredient: 'discipline'. In Lyceum, it is clearly evident that even though students work and play together, bound by a dynamism and energy, there is a heightened sense of discipline and restraint in all activities. There is a unique awakening of awareness in every heart."

That spirit of tolerance isn't a cover, by the way. I've come across children who've been taught to tolerate inclusiveness on one level but who unfortunately never abandoned those class distinctions which were inculcated in them. Lyceum isn't like that. It's "private" as far as schools go, yes, but for those who are in, there's no alienation. There's no inclusiveness-in-name-only here. You have genuine friendship. Genuine togetherness. That's what Ms Jamna referred to as "dynamism and energy". That is what fuels both.

I never got to enjoy school the way others did, but then again I never got to enjoy anything until the 11th hour. I didn't make use of time the way I should have. Looking back now however, seeing all those memories, wondering whether I should have taken to mischief more, the least I can do is be thankful. To all those teachers, to all those headmasters, to my first mentor (Mr Dimuthu, whose birthday is Lyceum's as well), and to all those memories that seemed bitter then but have grown sweeter since.

Time flies. This we know. For Lyceum, it's flown a little faster that it has for others. That is how we've gone up. For the most.

We are grateful.