Ever visited the IIMA Alumni site? It's different.
It boasts 30,000 members, which is good. Then there's its emotional pitch: 'To be a member of this exclusive fraternity, get out of college. No more submissions. No more deadlines. No more exams. Just close-knit kinship.'
More interesting is the ingenious marketing at work. During the Gujarat earthquake, for instance, it managed to raise a few lakh for a college building within a few days. Phone calls and print invitations could have been ignored, but customised emails made a difference.
Reunions are special, at any given time and under any circumstances. And apart from meetings in real time, they're getting to be a common occurrence online. I had one too, a couple of days ago, when Meetali (now a software programmer) surprised me with a message. Not exactly a social butterfly from what everyone else remembers, shy, unassuming Meetali had reconnected with classmates and created an e-group.
Pictures of our college farewell party, unflattering comments about teachers and what each of us is doing - it all circulates freely now.
Meetali's not the only one who enjoys renewing old connections. After hearing from 27 of his classmates, a guy called Huzeifa Cutlerywala wrote: 'The thin and lanky are probably not lanky anymore. Having gained prosperity monetarily and intellectually, this bunch is probably worth a few crore around the world. That's quite a chunk of change for the Rs. 90 per month we paid for our education at St. Mary's'.
For those who miss reunions in the flesh, Web sites are the next best thing. Ask Hasnain Panju, who found too many unflattering pictures from his days at St Mary's posted online.
Even for Webmasters, nostalgia transforms simple text pages into full time operations. Derek Nazareth of IIM Calcutta insists that part of the fun in assembling the site came from interacting with people he had never met before; their only connection being an institution located halfway round the world.
Despite the years in between, most people admit to being drawn to former classmates, like siblings sharing an intimate past. Boski Sharma and Sharad Gupta met online after a gap of 12 years. They promptly fell in love and are getting married next year.
Schools or colleges without their own sites turn to places like Batchmates and Alumni that list institutions from all around the world. Inder Gopal found his school buddies when his son checked out batchmates: "I couldn't believe that Shishu Niketan, a boarding school in Mussoorie which doesn't exist any more, was listed." Today he receives updates on new members who join and has also put up his own photo gallery.
Apart from Web sites, e-groups and chat rooms are also buzzing with reunion activity. Sminkal Kachcha from IIM Lucknow says, "Everyday is like stumbling into a time warp. We have different e-groups for colleagues from the institute, hostel, and sports teams. It helps renew friendships, stay networked and maintain professional connections".
Witty descriptions win the day. Read the postscript at an IIM Calcutta e-group: 'Open to all Bombayites of the IIMC class of 2000. Prerequisite: should have travelled on the Bombay-Howrah train route at least once with the gang!'
Bhakti, my class seven classmate, and I can now exchange jokes without being caught by teachers. And when we need to capture the warmth that email excludes us from, there are always instant messengers, web cams and voice chats…
More Like This
--How Ollie beat the school bullies
-- Easy Admissions: Pick a college and click
-- Study Abroad: Seven sites
-- Electronic Fix: Hanging out is cool online
-- Keyboard Teachers: Classrooms versus Cyberspace
-- Learn@home: Get an online degree
-- Computing: Seven sites for the computer geek