Alan Mendez’s connection with Don Bosco continues. From a notorious kid who loved to rebel to a polished, self-made entrepreneur.
By Allan Mendez | Opening Doorz Editorial | April 11, 2022
DBL Diamond Jubilee Celebrations
Nomad or No Mad Harvester, a lone wild bird in a lofty flight to be unschooled, rebel to the core against being dogmatized or straight-jacketed, being partial to just one and only one, “My dear DON BOSCO.”
A billion reasons for this heartfelt adulation and reverence towards this distinguished compassionate nurturer of minds. However, what truly sets our school apart (despite all the much-needed discipline and cornerstones put in place to keep us from straying) was that it was an institution that did not institutionalise.
A notorious kid brought to Don Bosco
On June 10, 1981, a young, notorious kid, straight out of a vernacular medium school was incalculably lucky to be accepted into this home. Thus began the most memorable four years of my life.
Besides the impressive building, my first memory of school was the aroma of the freshly baked bread and the triumphant, larger-than-life Chef Mr Braganza, (I’m sure many reading this will relate to the picture, defining the bottomless pits that we had for our stomachs!) The dog biscuits and the insipid tea were treats then.
This magnificent monument built on top of Tungarli Hill in the ‘60s instantly cast its magical spell on me. It had a welcoming embrace… still has. Connecting the dots backwards, and after a thorough examination of my privileges, I feel truly blessed for being allowed to indulge in all the amenities that were provided. Right from the school library to the down pitch–it was and still is a treasure house.
A 360-degree development
Dramatics to debates, elocution to athletics, music to merry bands, and the entire year was filled with activities that we were blessed to engage in. Today, I feel a sense of gratification that Don Bosco Lonavala is a place where I can head straight to, sit in the magnificent Chapel and get completely re-energized.
Reminiscing of my time here makes me all the more grateful to all those mentors who silently and diligently worked trying to groom us without taking away our originality!
This list is long, the efforts endless, the sacrifices selfless, and the love limitless. All I can say is, “Thank You.”
A warranted mention which can be safely documented is that I was probably the worst student DBL had. I was the not-so-nice-to-know-guy, the perfect backbencher, the first from last in the academia hall of fame. I was also the obvious topper on the Principal’s punishment scroll; a perfect recipe for doom… till someone changed this, someone who was my worst critic, my tormentor—the late Bro P M Thomas, our principal. His office door on the outside was forever decorated by my convicted, guilty presence. One day I overheard my ‘tormentor’ express to a fellow villain, these exact words, “This idiot (uttered in his distinctive Malayali accent) is meant for the stars, I don’t know why he wastes his time here!”
I still feel his words were overly optimistic, but that day wisdom knocked on my wooden head and thankfully I let it in. Two life lessons I gained that day. One, correction isn’t criticism and two, my story was not going to have a sad ending.
This incident changed my entire perception of things, and my self-nominated tormentors and villains became my friends, guides, and mentors. Bagged biases, prejudices, opinions, and a tendency to define me in opposition to other views started to transform bit by bit—I started to grow differently.
Taking challenges head-on
Living a life on the edge has always inspired me and I think that is why I chose a profession in one of the most hazardous industries—the Oil Field. Whilst on my way to war-stricken Saudi Arabia at the height of the Gulf War, a phrase from a book at the Bombay airport (one I could not afford to buy then) caught my eye, “One day you will leave this world behind so live a life to remember.”
A phrase I saw in passing made an impact that helped in redefining an obscure path with no expectations of the outcome. This life I led isn’t for the faint, knowing each time I go out might be my last.
Almost 30 years of travelling, working around the globe engaging in missions that ran on a razor edge between being a missionary or a mercenary, then retiring with all my limbs intact, is an achievement in itself! Many of my fellow mercenaries were not that fortunate. I did not even have a chance to say my last goodbye.
From the high seas to the rough roads
As I tread along on life’s journey, as usual against collective traditional wisdom, I have donned a very different role (leaving Jason Bourne and Indiana Jones in me behind), to run a small humble Café Called Maka Bawa.
It was a concept that spilt out with the spirit of Old Monk inside and set forth the square wheels in motion of a DIY project. From inception to completion it was a fantastic ride of sweat, tears, pulling my hair out and joy I enjoyed it all.
It’s a profession that’s new to me, with a huge learning curve and I’m loving it. It’s still early days to call it a success tale, it is evolving and if the Lord permits, it will get there. I also run a small Home Stay called ‘Cestlavie’ and am in the process of starting a small resort in the valley of Atwan.
When I began ‘Maka Bawa’, guess who was there to bless it? My classmate and now the Rector of DBL Fr Blany Pinto. Having him here was an emotional and a happy experience, knowing that Don Bosco will always be with me…
The connection never ends!
Also read: Don Bosco Lonavala to Disneyland