Friends Seminary and graduation

I cannot keep up with the temperature changes. One day it is in the high teens and raining and the next day it is in the low thirties and sweltering. I get a sore throat as a result. I hope it won’t ruin my day, the reason why we are here.

We start the day by having breakfast at the corner American Diner. Pancakes, maple syrup and tea for me. Next I need to get my nails done. The salon is empty and the girls are free. My pedicurist starts working on my feet. She is hardly looking at my feet as she goes through the motions wielding sharp weapons and at the same time animatedly chatting to her friend in Spanish. I start getting worried, but she doesn’t look like the type you want to upset. Half an hour later she has done both my hands and feet and wants me to hand a fortune over. The end result looks okay, but this must have been the fastest nail treatment I have ever had. I hand her the money and leave.

Deepthi and I have cat feeding duties next. A friend’s cat and her stray friend needs feeding while the owners are on holiday. We let ourselves in and Deepthi puts out fresh plates of food and water for each cat in and outside the house. Time is ticking on. We need to get back and get ready.

After lunch I put on the new dress I bought a couple of weeks ago for the occasion. It is tight and I need to breath out to get myself zipped in. Have I been eating that much over the last few days? Nidhin looks handsome in his suit. The midday sun is quite fierce but the trains are air conditioned.

At the school, we are still quite early. The queues to get into the Hall haven’t started forming yet, when it does we find ourselves almost near the front end. Deepthi and Nishanth introduce us to the other parents as we wait to get in, people from the highest echelons of New York society. There are bankers, heads of big institutes etc etc, but today they are parents gathered together to celebrate their children’s hard work and success. We also meet the Headmaster. He is wearing a yellow bow tie which matches his circular spectacle frames.

‘Friends Seminary’ is celebrating it’s 232nd year as the oldest co-educational schools in New York City. A Quaker school, whose mission is to prepare the students to engage in the world that is and to help bring about a world that ought to be. The leader of the Quakers, a religious movement, was William Penn, who went to Chigwell School (Kavitha’s school) and later moved to America and founded Pennsylvania. Looking up the alumni list I see writers, actors, directors and Theodore Roosevelt.

The Hall is not that big and the spill over audience with no tickets can see the ceremony from the balcony which also fills up quite quickly. We sit in the front row seats. The children walk in one by one to live classical music. The girls carrying a single white rose each and the boys with the rose pinned to the lapels of their suit jackets. They take their seats as their families cheer them on.

Friends Seminary Meetinghouse

Friends Seminary Meetinghouse

The Headmaster starts the speeches. Two of the students are next. The young man starts his talk mentioning the theory of relativity, something I was trying to understand recently and gave up quite quickly as I failed to grasp the basics. He steers the talk to how it relates to individual perceptions and thinkings. How we should try to understand by listening and how we can use this to make this world a better place. It was not a motivational speech and did not come across as such but a young man’s thoughts on how he would like to see a better future.

Next up was a young lady, who was confined to a wheelchair due to a debilitating illness. She reflected warmly on the seven years she spent at the school. She talked about her fellow students, teachers and staff. How they had looked after and prepared her for the future. How she could try to use this experience to change the perception of other people’s attitudes towards disabled fellow beings.

Two very different speeches from two very different angles. I only knew one kid when I sat down to join in the celebrations, but now I felt that I was looking at the future. Children who are going to help mould our future and if this is how the future is going to be, we will be in safe hands. I felt proud and privileged to be witnessing these youngsters come of age. A couple more speeches, readings and a beautiful rendition of ‘A Celtic Blessing’ by six of the students later it was time to present the Diplomas.

Soon it was time for not only the children but their parents to say their goodbyes over finger food in the school garden before they went their separate ways.

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