ISM’s alumni are an example for all of Oman to follow
September 12, 2018 | 7:33 PM
by Gautam Viswanathan
One of the initiatives of all seven members of the ISMA core committee has been their Sponsor a Child campaign.

Once we’ve left school, we don’t tend to go back there too often. Yes, we might pop in to visit our teachers, the selfless, dedicated and sincere people who helped us become the people we are today; we might drop by to say thank you to the kind assistants who aided us when we needed it the most, but beyond discussing the memories we shared with our classmates, there is little involvement we have with school.

To every unwritten rule, though, there is an unwritten exception. Meet Mukund Manohar, Aishwarya Hegde, Tanu Bheda, Nabeel Najeeb, Chethan Mallya, Ahmed Behlim, and Dr Matthew Varghese.

Today, Indian School Muscat’s Alumni (ISMA) attempts to give back to the school and its community in Oman through a series of initiatives, including networking events for alumni to meet each other and improve their contacts, mentoring children who are unsure of what they want to do in the future and putting students in touch with alumni who either live overseas or have graduated from universities they plan to attend in the future, so as to provide them a source of help and comfort, should they need it, when they are so far away from home.

But one of the initiatives that has been so close to the hearts of all seven members of the ISMA core committee has been their ‘Sponsor a Child Campaign’, which aimed at providing financially disadvantaged families who were monetarily weak, with the money they required to continue their child’s education. An initiative that was among the first that was aired when the new ISMA core committee was formed about a year ago, the Sponsor a Child campaign was made public on September 5, Teachers’ Day in India and Indian Schools across the world, with a live website to be launched soon, enabling the more than 40,000 ISMA across the world to contribute to such a noble cause.

That is not the only way that ISMA has reached out to the community. Since assuming office last year, a series of charity fundraising matches were planned for people to donate towards these worthy causes. One cricket and one football tournament have already taken place, with assistance from the school and the Oman Cricket Association, and another event is planned for November this year. Proceeds from such events go into an ISMA fund, which is then used to run their activities.

Indian School Muscat

“I think the reason there has never been a strong focus on establishing an alumni community here is because all of us are expatriates in Oman, and so our time here is quite limited,” Mukund told T weekly. “Yes, we all have that connection to the school but we don’t know for how long we are here, so we don’t know how long that connection will last. If you look at universities in the United States and the UK, the culture of an alumni association is very strong, and there are so many things that the association does for students, and I think we must have that spirit as well. School has given us so much and asked for very little in return, so I don’t think of this as a burden, but a responsibility that all of us must have.”

While Mukund serves as President, Tanu Bheda, who passed out in 2005, serves as Secretary, while Aishwarya Hegde, ISMA Joint Secretary, completed her schooling a year prior to that.

“When you grow up in a place such as Oman, there is sometimes a bit of a bubble you are in, and that kind of bursts when you get out into the open world,” said Bheda. “That can sometimes be quite a lot to take in, because you are in a new place, with new people and a new culture and it can sometimes be difficult to adjust to. All of us had no one to help us experience what you can term as a culture shock and we had to do it first-hand, so we realised the difficulties you have when you travel abroad or back home to India, particularly to study. In the States, for example, you have to do a lot of things yourself, and you don’t know where to turn to. When you go overseas, it always helps if you have someone you know there because then you are not alone when you first arrive, before you make friends.”

The playground at the school

Hegde added: “A lot of times, people reach out to us on Facebook, where we have a dedicated alumni page to answer such questions, and wherever possible, we will reach out to people and ask them to help out those who need it. We have a dedicated database of people who are part of our alumnus website, and they are spread across the world, so if we have someone who can help our students, we will definitely put them in touch. I think that with the exception of South America, we’ve got ISM alumni across every continent. Being Oman’s biggest expat school at least in terms of attendance does help us a lot in this matter.”

While the rest of the alumni members passed out of school after the new millennium, Dr Matthew Varghese, who works as an eye specialist for the Ministry of Health in Rustaq, finished school in 1991. He’s seen it all and heard it all, and jumped at the opportunity to become part of the ISMA committee. Varghese, truth be told, was the most excited among the seven alumni to be interviewed for this piece.

“A lot of times, and this is the mentality certain parents had when I was in school: that there were certain safe bets when it came to taking a career,” he recalled. “We had plans to hold mentoring sessions for students, and among the most common questions we were asked was how safe it was to go into the fields that were not so well-known. Obviously, being a doctor or an engineer is considered to be a safe profession because you can earn well and you are stable, but one of the most important pieces of advice I would give would be to follow your passion.”

“Today, it is becoming more and more common to take up professions that we maybe would not have taken up in the past, because of two reasons – firstly, we didn’t know that such diverse professions existed, and secondly, our most important priority was a stable and secure life,” added Varghese. “Now that the current generation is better-off than we were, they can do what they want to do and earn well while doing it.”

Mentoring sessions held at ISM are designed to be a place for students to voice their concerns about what the future holds for them, and offer them a safe space without the questions their parents would ask them. But while events in the classroom are important, Chethan Mallya and Ahmed Behlim said events outside it are just as vital.

“What we do is all about the community,” said Behlim, in whose offices the interviews with the ISMA core committee took place. “When we first decided to raise funds, we were thinking about how we could do this in a way that would involve the community. Then we realised that everyone here likes to play sports, so that would be a good way for the community to interact with each other. Then we asked ourselves, what is the sport people here like to play the most?”

“Football was the answer we all came upon,” said Mallya, picking up where his fellow executive committee member left off. “In the beginning, we didn’t want to do it on too grand a scale because we didn’t want to do something that was really big in the planning stage, only to see it fall flat. We pitched this idea to the school management, and the first ever event we had was a teachers versus students football match.”

In the beginning, admit the duo, it was a bit difficult to get people to participate, because nothing like this had been done before. What the ISMA core committee had was plenty of passion, and that was rewarded in the form of a tremendous outpouring of support from fellow alumni across Oman. Word of mouth, is after all, the strongest advertiser. “We began approaching fellow alumni who we knew would be interested in contributing, and they were really keen to do so,” added Ahmed. “All of them were like us – they wanted to help out with the school but didn’t really know how to do so. When we told them what we were doing and what help we needed from them, we didn’t need to ask them twice. One alumnus provided us kits, while the other provided us with the medals and trophies we gave to the teams. Initially, we struggled to get people to come forward, but by the end of it, our football event was so popular that we had to close registrations because so many people wanted to play.”

“We also have to give thanks to the school here,” said Chethan. “Whenever we needed help, the school administration and management committee were on hand to help us. If we needed a supplier for water, for example, they would connect us with someone. They were really helpful in coming forward and organising the juice and the snacks and everything else that was needed for the event, and of course, they gave us the football pitch to use for our event, which is great, because normally the school does not let anyone else use it.”

That football game would set the template for other charity games organised by ISMA. The word was now on the street – a passionate group of alumni were keen to use the name of the school for the good of everyone, and this time, everyone was happily queuing up to offer them their time and resources. With the momentum going continuously upwards, Nabeel Najeeb, the ISMA Treasurer, said it was a huge honour bestowed upon him and the rest of the seven.

“Honestly, we are starting from scratch here because none of us have ever done anything like this before,” said Najeeb, who finished his Class X from ISM in 2000. “To us, every day is a new day in terms of learning something, much like it was at school, and sometimes you just have to sit back and smile and look at the similarities. Right now, the money we earn goes into an ISMA fund and we will then decide how to use that for our various activities.”

“If you had told me one year ago that we would be where we are today, I would not have believed it because we are doing really well in terms of giving back,” he added. “I consider it an honour and privilege to be a part of ISMA, and I think the others will be on the same page as I am. Right now, we are growing, but we know there will be a point when we will plateau and that will be another challenge that we are looking forward to. Our main responsibility will always be towards helping the school in any way that we can. We must always remember that there will be someone who comes after us and we must leave them a legacy they will be proud to follow.”

[email protected]

ISMA Core Committee

Mukund Manohar (President)

Tanu Bheda (Secretary)

Aishwarya Hegde (Joint Secretary)

Nabeel Najeeb (Treasurer)

Chethan Mallya (Executive Committee Member)

Ahmed Behlim (Executive Committee Member)

Dr. Mathew Varghese (Executive Committee Member)

ISMA Links

Official Website:

Alumni Database Registration:


WhatsApp: +968 9988 6521

Instagram: @ismaconnect

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