Marking 100 years with a ball

Old Boys Association of St Joseph’s High School first hosted it in 1936

The Old Boys’ Association (OBA) of St Joseph’s Boys’ High School celebrated their centenary year last year. And to bring the year to an end, the OBA is planning to revive the traditional ball dance event ‘Blue and White Ball’ after 15 years on August 31 at JW Marriott Hotel, Vittal Mallya Road.

The first dance was held on September 5, 1936, at the Baccalas Summer Garden where the band ‘Elite Aces’ performed and Humayun Mirza, the son of Sir Mirza Ismail, the former dewan of Mysuru was the Chief Guest.

“The ball was a formal show in its primitive years which was usually organised in ITC Windsor. However, to keep up with the time and to be more inclusive of the younger generation, we changed the format to a casual affair and called it ‘Blue and White Bash’. It shifted to Bowring Institute and more recently, at Catholic Club,” says Gavin Cordeiro, 1974 batch alumnus.

During the Second World War, the ball was organised twice a year to raise funds. The revenue generated was contributed to the war funds, charities, OBA Scholarship and School Endowment Fund.

“Continuing the tradition, we raise funds with every ball event we organise. The proceeds collected out of the ‘Centenary Blue and White Ball’ will be contributed to the OBA Scholarship Fund. We are expecting about 800 people this year,” says Rahul Tadimalla, 1997 batch alumnus.

Traditionally, after the ball, a ‘Blue and White Prince’ and ‘Blue and White Princess’ are crowned. Earlier, they would also give a ‘Made for Each Other’ title to one couple.

Sharing fond memories of the traditional event, Gavin Cordeiro, says, “Back in the 80s, we used to have the ball in the ballroom of Windsor Manor, which was classy and extremely formal. Being an old boy, we had familiarity with the formality. Those days, the menu was primarily al-a-carte, so we had the choice to order what we wanted unlike today, where five-star hotels come with a ballroom and a buffet package together. After it was shifted to clubs, it was never the same again.”

A G Krishnaswamy from the batch of 1972 and the past president of OBA, used to be the barman during the event. He says, “The ‘Blue and White Ball’ was a tie and jacket affair. So we used to keep extra ties for those who would turn up with one. They could pick one for a small fee. The ballroom looked scary from behind the bar as the dancefloor would be full all the time except for when the band would take breaks in between.”

The most preferred music those days was retro and melodious ballroom music. “We also used to get requests for modern music but not rock and roll. We used to have the ball around Christmas, so not many people would attend, that’s how the popularity started thinning. To increase the attendance, we changed it to a bash -- predominantly for youngsters; the older generation then stopped going to the bash,” he recollects.

Zaki Khaleeli of the 1973 batch played an integral part in helping to organise the event. “Everyone had to come in their formal suits and saris and everyone looked forward to the ball. I was the president then and it was the first year of my marriage, I had the pleasure to dance with my wife,” he recalls. 

He adds, “Organising the ball was a lot of hard work because we didn’t have the infrastructure that we have now. From lifting chairs to cleaning the place after the ball, we had to take care of every little detail to keep up with the name this event garnered over the years.”

Reminiscing one of the eventful memories, he says that once he stopped his senior from entering the ball because he didn’t adhere to the dress code. 

“I was like a troubleshooter for the event. I was always at the gate making sure people don’t gatecrash. My most lasting memory, that we still joke about, is when I didn’t let one of my seniors enter the venue. He was wearing a combination and not entirely a suit. I am looking forward to living the good old days,” he says.

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