(This piece was penned to commemorate the Silver Jubilee celebrations of passing out from school (SSSSX))
For a change, I ignored my wife’s advice (Before you jump to the (obvious!) conclusion and arraign me for being a plump, middle-aged, paunchy, bald, grotesque-looking henpecked specimen of a husband, let me hasten to explain; I am not – any of the above that is!). I am all ears, all the time, to my good lady, since she is nonpareil when it comes to indulging me, whether it is that ‘sex on the beach’ (the vodka based drink, you randied, perverted souls!) at the social do, or the more than occasional stag parties with the boys, that seeps well into the wee hours of the following morn. Why, she even overlooks (with a fashionable brush of her Chanel nail-polished fingers) the stockpiling of memorabilia - a la Pakistan on nuclear arms - a passion of mine (not to forget Pakistan’s) that borders on the irrational (psychotic?). But this time round, she would have none of the nonsense. There was a school reunion of hers (at Mumbai) around the time that we were planning ours. And, she wanted me to accompany her - no doubt, to show off her ‘prized catch’ to her peers - and hobnob with a dozen (or two) odd guys-n-gals, whom I knew as much as Mother Teresa would Julian Assange! Ergo, I had to put my foot down (a trifle too harshly, I admit – so, if you see me limping at the reunion, you know the reason!) and decide, once and for all, who wears the vest in the house (since we both wear trousers, I didn’t have the luxury of using that garment as a metaphor for discrimination). So, here I am folks, off to the grand reunion of the Class of 82 at Bhilai, while my better half proceeds to hers in ‘aamchi Mumbai”. Will I hit pay dirt, or will she have the last laugh. Well only time, I guess, will tell.
On to more serious issues now. Let me begin with an enigmatic poser – what is it with reunions, that throws up such a groundswell of kaleidoscopic emotions? Is it a vicarious desire to turn the clock back by a couple of decades and push back the straining seams of our trousers at the waist (as I had alluded to earlier, since the apparel is worn by members of either sex, I am acknowledging both male and female classmates here), “de-thin” and “de-grey” our hairs, and hark back to an age of simplicity? Or is it a nostalgic wish-list of traveling in a time capsule to revisit us, as we were, during the times that we lived in? Going by the “goings-on” on the twin group-sites that we have, that would seem the obvious answer. However, the obvious, as they, say hides facts that are not so apparent.
Aroon Purie, that living legend at Living Media (the India Today Group), had famously remarked that the best advice that he ever got was this: “If God wanted you to look back, he would have given you eyes at the back of the head”. I would beg to disagree. One does need to look back once in a while (pardon me, my Good Lord!). For, it allows one to mark the passage of time, that inexorable entity, that has a habit of running out of our grasp. The ‘look-back’ helps us to contrive our memories and build a monument with the otherwise fickle running sands of time.
A reunion is nostalgia time, big time! No reasons to hide those sepia tinted, often, mushy memories. All those nicknames and sobriquets with unbelievable histories - Gulati (Anupam), Kerli (Prabhakar), Malli (CK James), Barganda (the venerable and decidedly dangerous Chemistry teacher, Shri MC Verma), London (the math teacher Shri Mishra) - come tumbling out of nooks and crannies where they remained embedded and sealed, like a Glenfiddich 15, to be opened and savoured at such an occasion. And, what of the school-boy crushes that bordered on neurotic fantasy, the jokes that were never funny, or the legends about people that never die - who, for instance, hadn’t heard of the boxing prowess of the redoubtable Shri Rizvi (the Princi), or the power (and pain!) that Shri Paul (History teacher?) packs in his whack, or, for that matter, the meticulous mind of the very erudite, yet humble, Shri Chandwani? It’s time, ladies and gentlemen, to re-reveal all of these and more, all over again!
I guess, I can steal this opportunity to offer an ode to our respected (and respectable) teachers. More than our schools (which are but dispassionate edifices), it was our schooling, shorn off rocket science and “how to …” advices, that have put all of us on the track to where we have reached. From the sublime to the practical to the preposterous, we have had pedagogues who have shaped every moment of our lives. On a philosophical note, the compass bearings, and the exalted value standards set by many a mentor, have allowed us to resolve moral conflicts and retain our sanity in an otherwise maddening medley called life. I doff my hat to all of you, Sirs and Madams (Misses!), for having steadied our boats as they rocked to-and-fro during our formative years
A trip down memory lane does wonders to your ego, besides being a cathartic experience. A reunion satisfies a “Maslow Level Three” human need, one of belongingness to a group. As we excavate our past, it instills a sense of oneness with guys with whom we spent some of the most memorable times of our lives. It brings forth a warm sense of communion, and I, for one, would love to wade, and be engulfed in the lambent luminosity of the grand reunion of the Class of 82. Look forward to the event, to let my hair down, behave as I did 28 years ago, listen to old numbers, re-tell the same jokes, and pretend that we were back in time and space, to the corridors and rooms that we infested in a bygone era, living the lives that we have led before. See you at the reunion!
PS. One would wonder (and rightly so), what the title of the passage has to do with the narrative. Well, good things are made better (best?!) with a modicum of wait – just like Dom Perignon Vintage 1961, or the famed Indian pickle! So hold on to your collective breaths till the next reunion, where I promise to unleash the best kept secret of the last 28 years. That, is a soldier’s word.
PPS. This piece has been the effort of a stringent timeline set by the curt telephonic message from Dinesh. His order was loud and clear - deliver in a day, or perish! Given the potential for deterioration in the state of my dental health, and the complimentary services that I hope to wheedle from the gent in question, I was left with no options.
PPSS. The author, a proud alumni of SSSS-X (of the Class of 82), is a second-generation Bhilaiian, who has migrated to a different pasture in response to the calling of his profession. But, heart-of-hearts, he is an out-and-out Bhilaiian. He currently lives at Delhi with his wife and two sons. A music aficionado and a wannabe violinist, he is a gourmet of fine wines, and enjoys his plain-vanilla ice-cream with a tinge of chocolate and a dash of Single Malt Scotch whisky.