Meeting up with old friends and classmates is a memorable experience in itself. But when one gets to relive the schooldays after 40 years, it can only be called a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And that is exactly what 60 of us had last weekend when we met for the reunion of the class of ’72 of Saraswati Vidyalaya, Nagpur. For me, it was a 44 year reunion, since I had left school after completing my seventh grade.
Note: My kids tease me for calling my friends ‘boys’ and ‘girls’, but that is what we were for the duration of the reunion, so pardon me!
As reunions go, this one was a highly organised one. The whole process had begun a little over a year ago, when one of the boys had casually mooted the idea of a reunion in the Diwali greeting he had shot off to few of his classmates with whom he had kept in touch. The idea was instantly snapped up by the others and what followed could only be called a movement of sorts. Within a week of the proposal, a Yahoo group was created and friends were being inducted into it left, right and centre. The reunion was given a name too — Chalees saal baad…
Enthusiastic mails were exchanged, school photographs got uploaded which initiated animated discussion about the identities of the students and teachers. Nostalgic trivia was shared.Then came the forwards and jokes as everyone wanted to share nuggets of wisdom and moments of laughter with their friends. Some classmates discovered that they had been neighbours for years without being aware of it. With all this, also came the sobering knowledge of mortality as they found that several of their friends were no more.
For me the reunion began in the Duronto I boarded on 21st from Mumbai. There were three boys, one with his spouse, and we enthusiastically shared theplas and roti-subzi along with snippets of old Hindi songs and tried to bridge the gap of 40 years. One of them told me that he had attended my wedding in Mumbai, on behalf of his father who was my elder brother’s friend without even knowing who it was! Another old friend picked me up from the station the next morning and I relived my childhood days, when I used to visit his home with my mother – we were family friends.
When we went to the assembly point from where we were to be ferried to the resort that was to host us for the day, I felt that I had strayed into the venue of some wedding. Hugging, back-slapping and laughter were in order, as we found long lost friends. The two buses that took us to the resort was rent with raucous laughter, singing and hooting as we were transported back nearly half a century.
Words would sound trite if I tried to describe the day that unfolded at the beautiful resort. Introductions were slightly different. We were each given a small intro of two or three of our classmates and were to add our own comments while introducing them. The session effectively brought out a lot of ‘secrets’ about each, the nicknames — which at those times must have been irksome, but which now only made even the subject join in the laughter.
We had CEOs, doctors, bankers, deans, professors, teachers, homemakers, businessmen, entrepreneurs and bureaucrats. (We even have a lone MP amongst us who unfortunately could not make it to the reunion.) But the titles mattered little as we, the boys and girls of the class of ’72 mingled with each other on equal footing, each a superstar in her and his own right. The spouses and children looked on indulgently as we acted like little children, squealing and laughing and having a whale of a time.
Post lunch, we had some games including cricket. I am proud to say that I clean bowled my friend in the very second (underarm) ball – even without being able to see either the stumps or the bat! Truly remarkable, wouldn’t you agree? Evening brought out the Latas and Kishores amongst us to the fore as the boys and girls belted out the evergreen hits of Bollywood of the 60s and 70s, to the accompaniment of enthusiastic dancing, as the rest of us huddled near the angeethis in the chill of the lawns. I surprised myself by staying awake till 12.30 AM!
The next day was ‘Back to school day’ and was perhaps the best part of the reunion. We were all dressed in blue and white, our uniform colours. The old prayer group led the prayer song to Ma Saraswati, the deity after whom our school is named. To make the nostalgia complete, a march past and mass drill session were also organised. The drummer of the class of ’72, provided the beat and the head boy and girl led the march past, as we tried to walk briskly behind them – the entire proceedings conducted by our own PT sir, who stood ramrod stiff even at his age!
The Nagpur group, which had meticulously organised the show had thoughtfully provided one of the most relished parts of our school days – the uble ber (boiled dried berries) and borkut (powder of the dried berries). The former delicacy had been brought by one of the girls from her home. Another one had lovingly made puran polis for her classmates. Mmmm…the tangy and sweet tastes brought back memories of those days rushing back….
The felicitation of the teachers was an emotional affair, with the teachers being as moved as the students, as some of the students fondly remembered their primary/middle/high school days. Our middle school English teacher who is no more, was especially remembered for her sleuthing ways as she used to ‘catch’ errant students and report them to their parents. But every student recalled her wonderful teaching of the language. The IITians of the group paid rich tributes to the teachers who had given them such strong grounding of maths and science subjects, that they could clear the entrance exams without having to take any coaching.
This session also saw some ‘confessions’ of pranks played and the secret wishes of the boys wanting to ‘connect’ with girls since there was hardly any interaction between the sexes in those days. One boy recounted how while playing sankhli or chain tag, he used to try to get tagged when a girl was the last link in the chain, so he could hold her hand! And when he eventually did, he felt ‘he had died and gone to heaven.’ He of course refused to give the name of the girl!
Precious nuggets of such memories, good natured teasing, affectionate banter and oodles of fun marked our reunion. As I look at the memento that we each got while leaving, my heart fills with joy. And to think that I might have missed it all, had it not been for some wonderful friends who decided to include everyone who had been part of the group at some point in their school life and not only those who graduated!
Some friendships are forever, aren’t they?
Photographs courtesy: Bhavya and Ramya