“Time and tide,” as the ancient saying goes, “wait for no man.” Actually, they don’t wait for a woman too but as this saying dates back to 13 th century England, I guess they were far less “politically correct” than we are today. That all of 45 years have flown past since we graduated from XLRI, the well-known business school, was brought home when friends began talking about a reunion of The Class of ’74. Where should this be held? All other options discussed were shot down when someone suggested that we meet at the good old campus at Jamshedpur itself. Sure, the campus would not be the one that we experienced in our times but this idea had a strong appeal for the majority of our class. Nostalgia, Walk Along Memory Lane et al came readily to mind. In any case, our Alma Mater has a wonderful concept of “Homecoming” an annual event to welcome alumni batches from the past. It is common for batches to head there for their 25 th anniversary. We plan to be there (body and mind permitting) for our 45th.
To commemorate the momentous (for us, if not for the Institute) occasion, we are now toying with the idea of having friends share their thoughts, experiences and whatever else they wish to share. The medium for this exercise could be a coffee table book or a blog. Having set the context, let me give you my views of the two options:-
The Coffee Table Book (CTB) makes for great optics. It can be something to treasure for the rest of your life, and is far more visually pleasing to the eye, more so if it is replete with beautiful photographs and is printed on high quality glossy paper. The flip side of it is that it costs a bomb, unless you have some generous alum who is willing to foot the bill. The print order determines costs. Our’s is not going to be so popular as to have a print order running into thousands. The print order being small, the costs shoot up immensely. My Club ( The Bangalore Club) released a marvellous CTB commemorating its 150th year but it wouldn’t have been possible without the financial muscle of three corporate sponsors who coughed up for thousands of copies.
The CTB also calls for a tremendous amount of time and effort: to get contributions from folks scattered all over the world, for someone to collate all the material, to design the book, get it printed and delivered on time within budget, etc.
Also, by design and its very nature, the CTB is time specific. It gets dated by the time you return home after the event. It cannot be updated or amended. People always say, in my experience, that small mistakes that have crept in ( for example, ” My name is “Roopa” my dear. Not ” Roofa.”; “He lives in Salem, North Carolina not in Salem, Tamilnadu;” or, ” Excuse me! You ought to know it is Ms. Rama Srinivasan and not Mr. Rama Srinivasan!” etc) would be corrected in the next edition but ………..here comes the catch, there is NEVER another edition!!!
A Blog, on the other hand, is relatively inexpensive and, in my experience, far more effective. Indeed, I would start with a free platform like Blogger or WordPress. Blogger being part of Google gives it many advantages in terms of connectivity since everyone and his uncle has a Gmail account opened in the 15 years of its existence. A blog and the posts in it can be amended very easily. It can out live the re-union and be a medium for communicating for years to come. Folks from our batch can reminiscence about The Good Old Days as alumni are wont to do; they can tell us what they have been up to over the last four decades; and, they can post pictures identifying themselves in their current avatar ( so that others don’t think they are somebody else when we actually meet).
In addition, you could have many people contributing directly, without channeling every word through one or two persons. If I remember correctly, the “author” limit for Blogger is as much as 100, though we probably won’t need that many.
The blog can have access controls that determine who can see/read the content so that those who are shy of having the whole world read about their exploits on campus can sleep peacefully at nights.
Besides, you can carry it with you everywhere and at any time, unlike the CTB which is too big to be lugged around. You also have the fear that someone may borrow it and never give it back, so the CTB rests in your library, seldom to be seen again.
You could have sections on, for example: XLRI, Then & Now; The Reunion Program & Schedule; Database of the Class of ’74 ( which can be updated as necessary), and of course contributions from our class folk. We can get everyone who is interested to write about where they have been and what they have done in all these years ( pictures of them from campus and now should be made mandatory before they are unleashed to an unsuspecting public), and whatever else people think would interest the group.
For both the CTB and the B, a dedicated team would have to be put together to deliver the goods!
Can we be greedy and have both the CTB and the B? I guess we could! The material in digital form can quite easily be transferred from one format to another. However, there would be issues in terms of size and extent of detail. You can go yackety yack in a blog post but a CTB has to be more pictorial and less texty. Also, as I mentioned earlier, issues relating to costs will need to be thought through most carefully.
These are first thoughts but all this sounds quite exciting to me.