Good morning teachers and students. Each year, our farewell to class 12 and class 10 students are held on separate days. This was when things seemed hunky-dory, but this year it’s being held together. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. My message to you will be in the form of this story that I narrate to you. So, I just need your undivided attention for a couple of minutes. Last year, in 2020, the entire world turned topsy turvy with the virus. Schools, offices, and businesses were completely shut and life came to an absolute standstill. The loss of life, economic losses, and emotional losses too, was huge. Nobody could ever fathom such a situation. The virus seems to have its own mind multiplying into different cousins and is terrifying the world even today. Life has become frustrating for everyone globally.

In the beginning of the academic year of 2020, we started the year on a high note. It began with the orientation of our teaching faculty to make them better educators. It was followed by the investiture ceremony to introduce new student leaders in our school, The Board examinations had started smoothly and then, suddenly, we were told by the government to shut down. So, with half the Board examinations still pending, we were forced to send our students home. Everybody panicked as it swept us like a cold wind from the north. It covered everything in its path. Our country took preventive measures; a nationwide lockdown was declared. Only essential suppliers such as those of food and medicine were allowed to remain open.

Teaching shifted from offline education to online mediums -- Whatsapp, Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, YouTube videos. We all resorted to electronic media. We used whatever we felt comfortable with. It was challenging to teach and evaluate. It was a daunting task, no doubt, but most of us reinvented ourselves.

This is my first message to you. As George Lopez said “When things are bad, it’s the best time to reinvent yourself.” We would have to see ourselves in a different avatar doing the same things in a different way. If you want to connect with your teacher, then you just turn on your computer. It is as easy as surfing movies on Netflix.

While staying at home, you started to discover yourself slowly settling into a routine. You will have found your interests, in the hobbies which you have a knack for or discovering the latent talent in you. When time is not of the essence, you have lots of time to discover where your true interests lie.

For me personally, I always liked to walk. And so I walked endlessly, completely surrendering myself to nature. I never had an interest for badminton in particular but started learning. And by now, I might not participate or win any tournaments, but I sure can play well to my utmost satisfaction. I am always trying to improve my skills at badminton. And this is my second message to you. Hobbies are great distractions from the worries and troubles that plague our daily living. Once we immerse ourselves in playing sports or music, daily stressors hold less significance.

Towards the later part of the year, our short walks and playing took us on a long trek. We completed the whole Singalila trek of 82 kms. It took us four days to reach high up in the mountains amid perfect vistas -- of snow-capped mountains, beautiful rolling hills and tranquillity everywhere. It was kind of a good retreat and reality with oneself. High up in the mountains, the sky seems so much nearer, with billions of twinkling stars. Even more, the sun rising in the horizon and lighting up the entire mountain range is a sight to behold. As Angie Weilands says “In the soulful place where earth and sky meet, nature embraces one divine heartbeat.” It was truly a magical experience.

And this is my third message. When you are so close to Nature, you feel that you are just a tiny speck in this conundrum of cosmic drama. Not one of our lives holds true in front of Nature’s spectacle. So, visit the mountains every chance you can for they will teach you humility.

In secondary school or higher secondary school, it’s too early in life to think of a career when all you are doing is busy gathering knowledge. Your atomic constituents, mostly neutrons and protons, are firing with the continuous information you are coming across. All careers act as a big maze of paths and hedges. It’s rather puzzling to comprehend which is the suitable path. You enter college and as your chemical brain starts to settle down, paths become clearer to you. Then one day you need to set out alone. An opportunity will come your way that is the time you mobilize your career. Now this brings to mind a musical group from even earlier than my growing up years. In the 1960’s, there was a pop group known as the Jackson 5 consisting of the brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael. Later, they decided to go solo. Michael acquired fame as Michael Jackson -- the singer, writer, dancer who went on to become the pop icon of the 1980s and 90s. He was one of the greatest performers of the 20th century. He almost had a cult following among his fans. Michael Jackson was everywhere and famous in possibly every nation of the world. Previously as a group of five, it was easy but as a solo artist, it was difficult. Therefore, Michael would call his manager at night, often way past midnight, to write a tune or pen down lyrics of a song which strangely came to him at night. His manager would say, “Michael, do you know what time it is? Couldn’t it wait till the morning?” The next morning, the manager would ask why there was such an urgency in the middle of the night. Michael would respond that if he did not capture that tune or lyrics in the middle of the night when the opportunity came to him, and that if he allowed it to pass, it would go to Prince, another famous pop star of his generation. And this brings me to my fourth message to you. As William Ward said “Opportunities are like sunrises. If you wait too long, you miss them.” Capture them when it comes your way and then you have a career you will cherish.

So as you go along and we bid you farewell, remember to reinvent time to time, nourish a hobby or two, be closer to Nature and grab any opportunity that comes along your way. These will be the success mantras in your life. And on that note, here’s wishing you much joy and happiness as you begin a new chapter in your life.

Ora et labora (Pray & work)

Mr. Chetan Tewari