Unique Event Signing on a 100ft long White Khadi Cloth Capsule at St Aloysius College, Mangaluru to Mark 75th Independence Day. The specially made white khadi cloth was donated by alumni of St Aloysius College Terrence D’Souza, also the proprietor of A R D’Souza & Son, Market Road in the City
Mangaluru: St Aloysius College (Autonomous), Mangaluru organizing a special program to commemorate the Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav celebration on Sunday, August 14, 2022, at 10 am at Eric Mathias Hall, Maffei Block of the College. On the occasion, the college heads, students, alumni, and those who were part of the institution, signed the cloth.
The tradition of signing the 100ft white khadi cloth, started when India turned 50. Fr Prashant Madtha, the college’s former principal, proposed in 1997, that the institution sign a 100ft cloth every 25 years, and keep it in its museum, which will be opened in 25 years. Alwyn V D’Sa, registrar of the college, giving out the details, said that it was decided that every 25 years, the institution will hold a signing ceremony on the white cloth. This is the second event held to commemorate Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav.
“When we sign the white cloth, it’s a positive thought, about what our country will be in the next 25 years. The youngsters (students) have to make a resolution on how they can contribute towards the growth and success of the nation,” said D’Sa. On the occasion, a 100ft long special cloth design, signed by the students and faculty of the college 25 years ago, and kept in the college museum, was taken out for public display inside the hall. In addition, a new 100ft of new white khadi cloth was kept on the stage and the dignitaries and the members of the audience signed. The signed cloth design will be then kept in the college museum, and preserved for the next 25 years. It will be brought out again on the day of the Centenary Celebrations of India’s Independence. This unique event held with a purpose did send out a strong message.
The programme was graced by the proud alumnus of the College, Brigadier I.N. Rai, a War veteran who shared his thrilling battlefield experiences with the students and faculty of the College on the occasion. The other dignitaries on the dais were – Fr Melwin Pinto SJ-the Rector of St Aloysius Institutions; Rev Dr Praveen Martis SJ -the Principal of St Aloysius College; Dr Alwyn D’Sa-Registrar of the College; Dr Ishwar Bhat- Dean of Student Welfare, and faculty in dept of Physics; and Dr Anup Veigas- Convenor and faculty Dept of English.
The donor of the 100 ft long white khadi cloth Terrence D’Souza, also the proprietor of A R D’Souza & Son, Market Road, Mangaluru, joined by his wife Ms Lolita D’Souza and daughter Trisha D’Souza, who also joined in signing on the cloth.
Brigadier I N Rai was commissioned as the Second Lieutenant in the Sikh Light Infantry in 1970 and took part in the historic 1971 Indo-Pak War. As a Captain, he was involved in operations against Naga Guerillas and as a Major, he commanded a Rifle Company facing the Chinese in East Ladakh.
He has also operated in Sri Lanka as part of IPKF. After being promoted to the post of Colonel, he commanded an Infantry Battalion in LOC at GUREZ, for which he was awarded the COAS Unit Citation. Later, as a Brigadier, he commanded the Mountain Brigade in East Sikkim. He has the distinction of being an instructor at Officers Training Academy, Chennai and as Brigadier in Indian Military Academy, Dehradun. Brig I N Rai spoke about his life in the Army, and all the struggles they faced fighting the enemies.
Beginning his speech, he said, “It feels proud to be here on this campus where I had completed my college in 1965-68, and there are sweet memories I always cherish of my college days at this prestigious institution. I was privileged to serve the army and there was never a dull moment in my life during my years in service. The very memories of those days are like a soothing balm,” Despite the numerous near-death-like situations he encountered during his career in the army, I N Rai says his wish is to serve the army again, given a chance. However, he continues to offer his services since his retirement in 2003 by inspiring and encouraging youngsters to join the army and serve the country.
The audience listening to I N Rai talking about his daring stint in the army was indeed music to the ears. “My mother was a bold lady and was proud of my choice and did not dissuade me though heart of heart I believe she was a bit petrified,” he recalls. “A good officer has to care for the welfare of the soldiers, mingle with them, eat with them and their families. A good officer should be able to identify a soldier by his voice even at night and that is when they accept us as ‘Sahab Bahadur’,” added Rai.
Rai vividly remembers the moments just before the actual fight began. The meal given to the soldiers just before the battle is called a ‘hot meal’ (just dal and chapati) because they don’t know when they will have their next meal. Rai remembers eating that meal on the same plate with his roommates H P Nair of Punjab and Lt Karam Singh of Dogra, one who was six months younger and the other six months older. Sadly both his roommates died in that war. Rai said that his friends had a fantastic death as compared to him and that he would have loved to die on the battlefield just like his friends.
“My fellow soldiers died fighting and they had an honorable death. They are the very few whose names are engraved in golden letters whereas mine will be missing.” It was a feeling of mixed emotion after the war, recalled Rai. “One is there was total satisfaction of achieving the impossible. Our victory became the talk of the town and we were treated as heroes. It was a mixed emotion because it was an honour and pride to fight for the country. In hindsight, I would say when we see our own fellow dead on the battlefield we envy them because it was a fantastic death. They are the privileged ones whereas I am denied that honour.”
After retirement, he joined Narayana Hrudayalaya where he was the chief superintendent of Narayana Health City in Bengaluru for 4 ½ years. His family obligations and the death of his three younger brothers forced him to come back to his native. “My family thought that being in the army I would be the first one to die. But ironically my brothers are dead and I am the only survivor.”
Though his 34 years in the army has so many moments which cannot be explained he said, “The 1971 war is the greatest moment of my career in the army. Talking about the army and the memories of his role is what keeps I N Rai going. Despite the constant buzzing sound in his ears as a result of his fatal encounter with life and death in Srilanka, Rai has only the sweet memories of his illustrious career in the army. He said, “Naam namak and nishan – these three things motivate a soldier to fight for the country. I still recall the words spoken by my fellow soldier in my ears when we were grieving the death of 42 soldiers in the Indo-Pak war – ‘Saab dukhi na ho jao. Ye sab kismat wale hai’ and I truly feel it is very true.” Rai who is now settled in Mangaluru with his wife Anuradha spends most of his time motivating youngsters to join the army.
The welcome address was delivered by Rev Dr Praveen Martis SJ, and the briefing on this unique event was done by Dr Alwyn D’Sa. War veteran Brig I N Rai, and donor of the white cloth Terrence D’Souza were felicitated on the occasion. Winners in various competitions held prior to this event were presented with prizes. The vote of thanks was proposed by Dr Ishwar Bhat, and the programme was eloquently compered by Ms Lisha Pereira-III B Sc
The Management of the College had invited all the alumni of the College for this special event. For a week starting from 15 August, the cloth will be kept in the college auditorium, where students and alumni can sign it. Later, the signed cloth will be kept in the college museum.
Ending this column with a thought-provoking poem by Rabindranath Tagore, “Where The Mind Is Without Fear”-
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.