by Ganesh Gunasekeran (4D)
Crazy. Tiring. And yet, fun. That probably describes the past week.
Be it preparing for a choral competition or unwinding with some Raffles Voices (RI’s school choir) batch mates after the competition or preparing with my band, Triumviratus, for our Founder’s Day busking performance. But Friday, the very day of our Founder’s Day Celebrations was indeed the highlight of the week.
The morning started off with the Founder’s Day Ceremony. During the ceremony, both Principal Mr Chan and the Guest-Of-Honour, Mr Peter Ong, Head of Civil Service, reminded us about keeping the Rafflesian spirit of excellence alive and of the roles we are to play in society as Rafflesians, in their speeches.
After the ceremony, I was responsible for taking care of two seemingly ordinary elderly guests. It was only after I started to engage them that I realised that I was in the company of two legendary, former teachers of RI. They many interesting anecdotes of good and bad times for Raffles. For example, I never knew that the gymnasium in the RI Grange Road campus was reduced to ashes in a fire in 1979 until one of them told me about it.
It was extremely inspiring to see RI teachers of yesteryear, still brimming with passion for Raffles, enthusiastically spurting out story after story, despite the fact that they had left the school some 50 years back. In fact, one of the gentlemen, Mr Patrick Pestana (Senior Assistant in the late 1970s), had come all the way from Down Under to attend the festivities. Though I had only just met them, I already found myself feeling attached to them.
Later, I performed to a predominantly-Year-5-6 audience with Triumviratus. I was pleasantly surprised when our performance was acknowledged with a warm round of applause even though we were all unfamiliar faces, being the only performers from Year 1-4. It was something I really did not expect. Perhaps there was something that tied us all together?
After a choir practice in between, I then attended the Homecoming Dinner. I felt honoured to have the privilege of bringing around and interacting with the Guest-Of-Honour, Professor Tommy Koh and his wife, Dr Poh. They were lots of fun to talk to. I am hardly unfamiliar with Professor Koh’s background. In fact, other than hearing about him in the news, I also read out his citation when he visited us earlier in the year for the Raffles Ambassador Series, so I am very familiar with his long list of accolades and achievements. Hence, when he received the Gryphon Award, I expected him to simply deliver his vote of thanks and leave us with his insightful visions for Singapore for the next 50 years. Instead he insisted that he did not deserve the award, citing the fact that the Award had only been previously given to our late founding father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, as well as Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong. His humility was a reminder to all of us of what it meant to be a true Rafflesian.
Equally inspiring was the very thought of being amongst so many generations of Rafflesians who had kept in contact for all these years and who were still full of pride for their Alma Mater. I could not help but look around at the proud, cheery faces of our alumni as they sang the RI and RGS anthems with gusto.
As Neilsen, Head Prefect of 2015-2016, put it, I have never felt so Rafflesian in my life, so attached to Raffles, so proud of Raffles. I love this school for all its strengths and weaknesses and I want to see myself back in Raffles in 20, 30, 50 years down the road. Happy 192nd Birthday, RI!