A real estate baron’s favourite hangout zone was the car-parking lot of his college.
An outdoor advertising legend was a constant backbencher at the same college.
Learning to stay positive was the biggest takeaway from the college days for another alumnus, now a leading exporter.
A glittering business awards ceremony turned into a collage of flashbacks and personal memories on Wednesday evening.
The Xavier’s Business Award, presented by the St Xavier’s College (Autonomous), Kolkata, and the St Xavier’s College (Calcutta) Alumni Association, in association with The Telegraph, felicitated 10 business leaders at the institute’s auditorium.
Nine of the recipients are former students of St Xavier’s College. The lone woman in the group, a former student of Loreto College, is married to one.
In his inaugural address, Father Dominic Savio, principal of the college and president of the former students’ association, set the context of the ceremony.
“30 Park Street is not a mere address but a feeling for all Xaverians across the world. The alumni association has been a pioneer in social and philanthropic activities. The institute is 162 years old and one of the best in India. It has reached this stature because of its former students who are spread all over. They reflect what St Xavier’s stands for,” he said.
The awards were not for business acumen but for the recipients’ contribution towards society, in keeping with the St Xavier’s spirit, added Father Savio.
Wednesday was also the foundation day of the alumni association, which started in 1985.
Harshvardhan Neotia, chairman of the Ambuja Neotia group, was the first awardee of the evening.
“It is always overwhelming to get recognition from your alma mater. Certain flashbacks, which go 40 years back, come to my mind. The days were spent mostly on mischief.... I forged bonds both inside and outside the classroom. Back then, the parking lot had very few cars. It was mostly a hangout zone, like the tea shop on Russell Street. The spirit of service and the tremendously cosmopolitan atmosphere in the college are its lasting legacies for me,” he said.
Some of the loudest cheers were reserved for Numazar D. Mehta, popular as Noomi Mehta, the chairman of the Selvel One group. The emcee for the ceremony, Biplab Ganguly, was in a fix while describing Mehta. “I wonder what to call him; an advertising legend or a septuagenarian who plays all kinds of sports,” he said.
Mehta, the only double Xaverian — he went to St Xavier’s Collegiate School as well — in the list of awardees, said the “greatest thing is that this place is very inclusive”.
“It takes in people from all corners of the spectrum. I have always been a backbencher myself. Being here has taught me a lot. The greatest feeling is to walk through these gates and be received by smiles. It feels like I am back home,” he said.
Sanjay Budhia, managing director of Patton Group, said his college life had taught him to be positive, no matter what life had in store.
“My second daughter was born with special needs. But my wife and I kept smiling. I learnt this lesson from St Xavier’s,” he said.
Before the awards were conferred, all the secretaries — from the “91-year-young” Sunanda Sen, the first secretary, to Firdausul Hasan, the incumbent — of the alumni association came together on the stage.
“We have over 8,000 members. We do networking, organise fellowships and fundraisers throughout the year. We reached out to tens of thousands of people in the aftermath of Cyclone Amphan and during the pandemic. This is the first time we are celebrating our foundation day. We aspire to reach new heights in the coming days,” said Hasan.
“It was an amazing experience. We will make it a point to have this annually and recognise Xaverians for their contributions to society,” said Imran Zaki, former secretary of the association and advisor for Wednesday’s programme.