Published in the Mind space section of New Indian Express on 05th November 2015
I attended the annual general meeting of the National Association of a voluntary organisation of which I have been a member for more than 30 years. I was delighted to meet some old friends whom I had not seen in over 25 years. It was sheer joy to connect from where we left off after all those years and to take a stroll down memory lane. It is on occasions like these that we not only meet old friends but also make some new ones.
Talking about connecting with old friends, it is always an immensely pleasurable experience when you meet your classmates from school or college. The bond you develop with them is something unique. It does not matter what positions your friends have reached in life or how high and mighty they have become — the conversations always lead to the many adventures and misadventures involving such friends during the good old days. The ‘nicknames’ given to friends and teachers would be recalled. A teacher who came to the class always wearing a neck tie was called ‘Mr Tie’. The idiosyncrasies or unusual habits of some of them would be discussed threadbare, providing a fun time and some boisterous laughter.
A couple of years ago, a small group of my school mates from the 1958 batch of SIWS High School in Wadala in Mumbai got together after 53 years at our school premises. We all were over 70 by then. The venue was the same class where we sat during our last year in school. As the friends started arriving, I could barely recognise half of them — especially those who had gone completely bald. I could not really recognise any of the ladies from the group. However, a few among the menfolk with abundant grey hair had managed to retain some resemblance to their old selves. While some looked healthy, others displayed the ravages that time had inflicted on them.
There was one friend, an active sportsman during our school days, who managed to maintain a good physique even at 73. He looked fit and energetic. While recounting his life story, he proudly declared that he had two sons and three grandchildren but was still trying for a girl child with his only wife of 40 years! His greying but graceful wife could be seen blushing, listening to her husband’s boastful claims about his virility.
Another friend, who took to writing poetry in Tamil post-retirement read out a poem he wrote specially for the occasion. Since then, he had been filling up the group’s ‘inbox’ with poems composed on every conceivable topic on the earth — with the blessings of Kanchi Paramacharya, as he claims in every poem. A friend who was known for his meticulousness even in the school days managed to locate an old diary in which he had received the farewell comments from friends and teachers, all complete with the respective nicknames. The words brought alive the personalities of those described. That was really nostalgic!
When another friend started recalling the true and imaginary one-sided love affairs of the classmates during the halcyon days, one could see the spouses of those gentlemen whose names were mentioned perking up and listening carefully! On the whole, the group had a whale of a time, and at the end of the day we all decided to meet regularly to catch up more about our families.
A few of us have become so close after five decades that it is difficult to believe we were not even in touch with each other all those years.
A group of six friends based in Chennai formed a Chennai chapter of the SIWS ‘58 batch and meet regularly. Any batchmate visiting the city is sure to be entertained at a dinner meet by this group.
Thanks to social media platforms like Facebook, it has now become easier to connect with long-lost friends. And WhatsApp allows one to communicate with such friends on a minute-to-minute basis. The world really has shrunk!