Distance may part and seas may divide us

I racked my head for a while to get an apt title for this posting and my eyes fell on a line from our revered hymn book. I couldn’t have found a better heading.

As I begin writing now, I can’t help but feel a lump in my throat and a tinge of wetness in the eyes. What a ride the last four days was! It’s going to take a long while for all of us to get over the 25th year reunion. And when I say all, I mean each and everyone who made it, including the amazing bunch of spouses (spice as we now call them) and lovely set of kids who made our gathering one of the most magical moments of our lives.

Preparations for our get together probably began a couple of years ago by a group of determined and driven folks in our batch and to see it all come together was a crowning glory. Right from the hotel stay down to the fleece jackets, T-shirts and bags for the spice and kids, the thoughtfulness and care taken was something else. The 300 odd songs from our school times on two CDs was an extremely nice touch!

We landed up in Holiday Inn Ooty on the 3rd of May in a mini convoy of cars from Bangalore constantly trying to keep the red dot of a car in our radar. The dinner at Shinkow’s was more significant for the nostalgia than the food which has deteriorated since our school days. I guess around thirty Old Lawrencians from our batch showed up with families and the booze and food created a riot of activities and merriment that was a portent of things to come.

One of the salient aspects of our gathering was that despite things being informally done, somehow they fell into place and was more fun than a series of choreographed and military like events. The picnic on the 4th is a good example. We all knew we were going somewhere but no one knew exactly where. Depending on whom you asked and when, you got different answers which just made it all more fun. Finally, someone figured out where to go and the buses and assortment of private transports got going.  As was the trend, the spot was great and even though we had a ‘Purple Uncle’ fall off the jeep, we all had a ball! One of our wonderful spices had organized a team game by the lake which our team handily won thanks to dogged exhorts by her Lawrencian hubby. It’s another matter that two of us landed in a team by accident but that’s another story.

That evening is arguably the most memorable and touching ones of our lives. We had invited the family of one of our batch mates (who is no more) for dinner. A 30 minute slide show (of close to 500 photographs) put together expertly, professionally and with brilliant accompanying music ensured copious tears as we looked on a past that was so much a part of what we are today.  A rush of memories long lying dormant in the inner recesses of our brains was out in full force. Each photograph evinced shouts and comments as each one of us travelled back in time reliving our childhood and the thinking of the way things were. Our hearts and eyes took quite a beating to see the visuals of our departed classmates along with thoughts of our times with them. Though I had spent less time in school than most others, the memories were still overwhelming and I furiously wiped away the tears as fast as they were appearing. The most touching moment for me was when my eight year old daughter ran to me right after the show to give me a big hug with her moisture laden eyes. I don’t think we have all recovered yet from that thrust into our formative years that this slideshow evoked. Amazing work by George, Sanjay and Lekha for the brilliant effort on the photo slides. I am going to stop writing more on this right now just because I have too many emotions which words just cannot do justice to.

More drinking and dancing followed along with photography sessions with every conceivable group and formation. Guys only, girls only, House-wise, primary school wise, city-wise; we pretty much exhausted all combinations. A great musical performance by Sunita was all that we needed to cap off a remarkable evening.

5th morning saw our ‘86 group at school, a first time in many years for a lot of us. We showed up in full strength to inaugurate the solar water heaters that we had sponsored. It was wonderful to see a tangible outcome of all the money we had put in. Again, more photographs in nostalgic locations and positions followed. With the kids and spouses left to their own devices for a while, we all showed up for the OLA AGM which was in the girls’ school. For the first time, we guys were actually welcomed into this highly sought after area of our school (during our school days that is!). I actually didn’t follow much of what was going on in the meeting, my sole contribution being the distribution of some documents to the attendees.

Dinner at the Savoy was a relatively quiet affair with some of us joining the professional Badaga dancers for some intricate moves. One of us with a unnaturally good memory and aided by others regaled us with tales from our school days, most stories which should never have got out in the first place! All in good taste and definitely brought laughs and groans depending on who the target was.

The moment we were all waiting for. The Parade on the 6th morning! Bright and early we all got into Top Flat (the big ground) to witness and be part of the 153rd Founders’ Day.  A flurry of emails and Yahoo group postings on dress code still failed to deter some of us from flouting the agreed upon attire though we still showed up smartly dressed but non-compliant.

The parade was actually very well done and we were especially impressed with the girls’ guards which just seemed a tad more sharp and coordinated than others. Our great time finally arrived. 75 of us from the batch of 1986 joined the parade in organized chaos and marched past the guest of honor marking a record attendance for any alumni batch in the history of the school. Granted, the entire march lasted about 20 seconds or so but for us, we were back in school, back to that uncomplicated childhood, for a moment our present lives and pressures forgotten; just happy school children marching away to glory without a care in the world. Not many outside our group will really understand how much that fleeting instance in time mean to us and I will not try and explain it either. Suffice it is to say that 75 hearts beat as one during that march and nothing has or will come close to how we all felt right then.

The final dinner on the 6th was the culmination of one of the biggest emotional rollercoaster of our lives as we internalized what a unique group we were and the fact that so many of us had made the effort to come together from all corners of the world for a once in a lifetime event.

I won’t go into details of the other activities we did except say that hosting a lunch for the teachers of our batch was a very caring and sensitive gesture. I’m sure I’ve missed a lot of stuff that happened but the idea was not to give a ball by ball account, rather capture the essence of my reunion experience.

Personally, I got to spend precious time with some people whom I knew better than others and also to chat up with those I didn’t really know too well in school. We caught up with each others’ lives and exchanged contacts vowing to undo the self-imposed isolations of our last 25 years.

Our batch is no more a bunch of kids who went to school together but an extended family of sorts that to my knowledge is non-existent anywhere else. Hats off to Mathew, Aparna, Palani, Rohan and the multitude of others who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to implant priceless memories in us that we will talk about and cherish for the rest of our lives. Here’s to the class of 1986, the best family to ever come out of our glorious school!!

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