Badge, Hat and the Sound of Music | Sunday Observer
The life of a Thomian house prefect and the strange old man at the Big Match:

Badge, Hat and the Sound of Music

2 May, 2021
Flags flutter at the Royal-Thomian
Flags flutter at the Royal-Thomian

On the morning of the first day of the 139th Battle of the Blues, I was both excited and nervous at the same time. It was a mixture of feelings because on one hand it was going to be my first time entering the boys tent as a house prefect, but at the same time, I was well aware of the task that a house prefect must complete at the big match. I went to school in my uniform with my tie, a badge, hat and a golly.

Just as I was about to enter through the gate, I saw an old man with a bald head and a half-shaved face and a Thomian T-shirt. He asked me if I was a house prefect. Excited, I said “yes”. Then, sounding like a philosopher he said: “Son, when you’re selling souvenirs, remember your badge. When you’re with your fellow house prefects, remember your hat. And son when you’re in the boys’ tent, don’t ever forget to listen to the sound of music”.

He then smiled and walked away. I didn’t really understand what he said but I still thanked him and thought to myself that he is already drunk. After this strange moment it was the agonizing wait to find out exactly what my souvenir quota was going to be. In the end, it turned out to be quite a manageable amount and I was confident that I could complete such a task (a crucial mistake).

A few hours later, we were at the SSC making the tunnel and as soon as that ended, we had to start selling souvenirs. While some of us were thinking as to why we didn’t bring wheelbarrows to carry all our souvenirs around, others had already started selling. I can remember how the drunk uncles always said: “I left my wallet and came today putha” or how the aunties say that they had already bought one.

When they clearly haven’t. After a few hours, I realized that I have many more souvenirs to sell. I had got the feeling of how much of a daunting task selling souvenirs was. At that moment, I remembered what the old man told me: “When you’re selling souvenirs, remember your badge”. But I certainly did remember the badge because throughout the day, there was one thing that was constantly bothering all of us. They were our badges. The house prefects’ badge was made of steel and it had a few sharp edges. It would keep on pricking me until I pinned it in the “perfect position”. Then it hit me! I just had to be like my badge and constantly keep bothering the drunk uncles until they buy a souvenir from me just to chase me away. Within a few hours, I had sold all my souvenirs.

Hours went by but some of my friends hadn’t sold their souvenirs yet. It hurt me. To sell a souvenir you need to have persistence and my friends were struggling in the heat of the SSC to sell their last few souvenirs. As I had finished my quota, I decided to walk around the ground to explore the different parts of the SSC which I had never seen before. As I was walking the heat got to me, so I decided to remove my hat. Then I saw something special in it. The house prefect’s hat is made of straw. The strips of straw are held strongly together by friction because each straw gives space for the others and helps each other to be in it. Then I remembered what the old man told me. “When you’re with your fellow house prefects, remember your hat”. So I knew that I had to be like the straw in my hat. I went back and helped my friends who couldn’t sell their souvenirs and I encouraged the others who had finished to do so as well. At the end of the day, we had sold all our souvenirs.

In the evening session, everyone is tired and keeping the boys’ tent up and running is very hard. This duty was ours. Getting on the fence, singing all sorts of “bailas”, chanting THORA paras (an exclusive Thomian cheer) and dancing while having the time of our lives was what we had to do. In the 139th Battle of the Blues the Thomian boys’ tent was buzzing. There was a smile on everyone’s faces. It didn’t take me a long time to figure out what the old man said. “When you’re in the boys’ tent, don’t forget the sound of music”. I figured out that what he meant was to listen to the music and embrace the opportunity that I had to sing along and enjoy the Big match with the students and my fellow house prefects. So I did exactly that. At the end of the day, my voice was gone but I went home having made some unforgettable memories and thinking to myself that the old man I met in the morning is a genius.

One day had ended and there were two more days to go. The next day while I was looking for potential customers, I met that old man and I said: “Sir, I will never forget my badge, hat and the sound of music”. He was too drunk so I couldn’t really figure out what he said. But I think he must have said “you are welcome.”

A Thomian, throughout his life, would go through many phases when attending the big match. Starting from a small school boy holding his brother’s or parent’s hand to the many age categories of old boys and everything in between. While all of these phases have many unique aspects, considering my personal experience as a third generation Thomian who just became an old boy and the experience of many others, I would say that the ‘house prefect’ phase is the most memorable phase of a Thomian attending the big match.

The life of a house prefect during a big match can be very tough. It can be a great or a terrible memory. But one thing for certain is that if he remembers his badge, hat and the sound of music, he will have a wonderful time.