The advancement of communication and technology and social media have acted as a catalyst in making alumni meets and college reunions in vogue. However, a movie ‘Classmates’ and an evocative campus where it was shot, has a role, not-so-negligible in popularising the idea.
The film, set in the backdrop of a college reunion, had all ingredients for anyone to associate and cherish everything from companionship, party politics, rivalry and fidelity to make it a symbol of nostalgia. However, it had one more thing, a livid campus, the CMS College, Kottayam, the first college in the country.
The setting had such an effect that it developed a sense of nostalgia among the viewers for college life, especially in the early 90ies, as the college and its campus becomes a motif, thereby adding to the appeal of the film.
However, the college had more to offer than its lush green campus and the nostalgia that it has spread.
CMS College, Kottayam is one of the 19 institutions across the country which was granted heritage status by the University Grants Commission (UGC) with an aim of conserving college campuses which are more than 100 years old.
With a host of luminaries like former President K R Narayanan, former diplomat K P S Menon, renowned Physicist Dr George Sudarshan, poet Kavalam Narayana Panicker, Justice K T Thomas and Chief Minister Oommen Chandy as its members of alumni, thousands keep the the college close to their heart for the knowledge affection and the warmth it passed it to them.
The Book Towards Modernity: The story of the First College in India, written by Babu Cherian and translated from Malayalam by Susan George, narrates the history of the institution founded by the Church Missionary Society of England which is into its 200th year, in nine chapters.
It was Colonel John Munro, the British Resident and Dewan of the erstwhile Travancore, who invited the CMS missionaries to Kottayam.
They who believed that education was the weapon for reformation started ‘The College’, Cotym, which later on came to be known as the CMS College, in 1815.
The book provides an insight into the early history of the college and its evolution which nurtured the town Kottayam which in turn became a model to the state and the country in the field of education and knowledge.
The light on internal power struggles and the intervention of Col Munroe, two forgotten years and two forgotten principals of the college and formation of public spaces are some chapters which will be of interest to those want to delve into the past.
The details about writer couple Richard Collins and his wife Frances Wright Collins and their association with the college are part of the Malayalam history as they are behind the novel, ‘Khadaka vadam’ in 1877.
History is often treated as a tedious subject. However, a revisit into the queer ways behind the birth of a prestigious institution makes one familiar with the bygone era, which we may find inconceivable now.