Saturday, May 08, 2010

Friends, Alumni and the 'Alma Mater'...

Alumni reunions have a special place in my heart. And those who know me well, know that nothing and no one can ever come between me and any alumni event, be it in Mt. St. Mary's School, St. Stephen's College or the Lucknow University. These are the three Institutions where I spent 18 years of my life, growing up and getting educated.

Alumni events like annual luncheon and dinner meets come and go and I am there always and every time. On each such visit to the Alma Mater, one invariably is overcome by a feeling of nostalgia. Its a walk down memory lane. You literally walk through the School and College corridors, and classrooms. And you meet members of the faculty and staff - those people who arrived at these institutions one day, and then time stopped for them. They seemed to have found the love of their life and stayed there !

In my experience of attending in every event, the one experience which eluded me almost every time is meeting old friends and classmates. One does meet an odd one or two. However - most of them haven't managed to reconnect with their Alma Mater all these years.

The last three months were special in that sense. For, in these three months I actually was successful in re connecting with many of my seniors, class mates and friends from School. Friends who I had lost touch with, for thirty years.

How did it happen?

People who had never attended a single reunion event in the last three decades, managed to land up this year in School in March. It took a bit of effort on my part and that of another friend, to round up people and excite them about the idea of coming back to School. And while it was going to School, it was a bit of 'homecoming'.....

We all met up - students who were three to five years senior. Many of whom were role models for us.

And then there were classmates. 'Bum chums' to describe the relationship more aptly. When we met for the last time in 1979, were all looked more or less the same. Because most 17 year olds look the same, and because we all wore the School uniform. And because we were all bound by that one common bond - we were School mates and friends and nothing else in life.

And when we met that evening - we all looked different. Some of us slim, most of us with extra weight at the wrong parts of the body. Some still sporting black hair, others grey, and yet others with no hair at all. Some Officers of the Indian armed forces, some business executives some Doctors and then some who were entrepreneurs...

In thirty years we had moved on, and how ! Life completed one full cycle. We grew up, completed our education, and took up our professions. Got married, had children of our own.

And then we decided to rewind and come back to 'that' stage in life. Where we shared the same classroom, borrowed each other's books, shared each others lunch. When we played soccer and cricket and pranks on some teachers. When we had our first crush on girls together. Shared every moment of happiness, and joy, achievements, setbacks and losses - everything.


Our friends were the beginning and the end of our lives then. Nothing else mattered in those 12 years in School. Till the time came - when a more serious and purposeful meaning of life was given to us. And in pursuit of those newly defined 'meanings' of life, we drifted apart.

Those moments when we met together after thirty years, can best be described as 'magical'. Because those, who one thought had gone away from our lives for ever, appeared again !

In those few hours we were transformed into another World and another time. Forgetting that we had our spouses for company. We remembered our days in School, we remembered our teachers
We laughed and we became sad. We also resolved to go back to School and for a change do something meaningful for our Alma Mater, who had played such a role in making us what we are today.

Time stood still that evening us. Till we forced ourselves to the present. And promised to ourselves, never to drift again.

Just last week, I experienced another such reunion, but in a different role. My wife was part of the alumni, and I accompanied her as a 'spouse' Roles were reversed now. My wife was 'transformed' into another person in another time ! And I watched and experienced that transformation with a sense of amusement. Of how a full grown mature adult suddenly becomes a school kid...

But I understood the feelings and the emotions. Because I had 'been there'....


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