They came from all over the world; Pune, Mumbai, New Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Atlanta, San Francisco, Geneva, Manchester. Wherever and whenever they could manage connections; air, train and by road. Some had planned well in advance and could not yet make it. For some, it was an impromptu decision. Others tore themselves away from work even if for a day to be with their buddies. For some spouses and children, “Dad’s enthusiasm” was infectious. They came too! All roads lead to Jamshedpur, the steel city of the East, where all were congregating from 17th to 20th Dec 2015 for a reunion. The batch of Loyoleans, circa 1978- thirty seven years after they had walked out from the hallowed portals of the Loyola school gates, the arch above which read “In His Service.”
‘Why thirty seven years?’ some asked. ‘Why not twenty five or fifty?’ Because celebrations of togetherness need not be constrained by the niceties of the calendar.
Eyes scanned every face in the railway station and airport lounges for a whiff of familiarity- the smile, the pout, the eyes until recognition dawned strong or faint. Then…the loud ‘Hey!’ startling other passengers. The clasp of hands, the hug, the backslapping and familiar expletives. Living in an immediately transported moment of yesteryears and the realisation that time may have altered appearances but not the heart which beat within.
The preparations by many of the sixty odd who finally made it were sedulous yet frenetic. The Loyoleans who had made Jamshedpur their home anchored brilliantly with meticulous planning for the itinerary, venues, transport, events, and mementoes. Spouses too caught up in the crescendo, joined in the preparations. The ‘disbanded’ “Fools” picked up the threads practised virtually over the internet till they could meet- songs, notes, chords and created music more wonderful than any magic they had ever woven before. The indomitable spirit of the 77 year old teacher from Kolkata saw her traveling all the way to be with her former students. The one in Chennai who had been marooned in the floods and unmindful of the calamity around him, had created the most beautiful sketch of the quadrangle and the red stage of the school, to be etched on the mug as memento and indelibly in our minds forever.
Then the celebrations and the joie de vivre burst forth, unable to be contained any longer- parties, fireworks, nagadas, the cricket match with the current batch, the walk down familiar corridors, past classrooms and the quadrangle, the photograph with our beloved and respected school teachers, the gala spectacle at the new school auditorium and the bonding and bonhomie at the alumni dinner. The school bus ride through the wonderful city, down familiar roads and past houses where we once stayed and grew up in. The wonderment of how much had changed and the sudden reflection of ourselves bedecked in the school tie and blazer at the classroom glass panes-had we changed too, when we felt so much at home? In a sudden flash, we perhaps also saw the silhouette of many of our colleagues who had departed early for afterlife and who we remembered fondly.
Moment after wonderful moment departed colleagues was captured in phones and cameras and relayed via WhatsApp to enable those who could not join to enjoy vicariously.
Then suddenly it was all over, the time to leave, hearts heavy with both the sweet sorrow of parting and wonderful memories of the weekend. The warm hugs as the eyes closed shut an errant tear or a lump rose in the throat.
Just as Jamshedpur struggled between its identities as a small town and a large city, these sixty had struggled over the last three days between adolescence and adulthood. They wondered at the ten years they had bonded many moons ago and the futility of it all now of who scored more marks, ran faster, or looked better. They were all winners today in their own right and in their lives had found their own place in the sun.
There is perhaps no better leveller than a school reunion and like their school song which they sang with gusto, they promised one another that the “echoes would ring again” in November 2018.
Bhaswar, a 1978 batch of Loyola, is an Engineer and did his management from IIMB. After many years of corporate career with international banks, he runs his own learning solutions company in Chennai and lives by the maxim 'Carp Diem'. He loves theatre and also dabbles in writing. A number of his short stories have been selected in contests and published by the likes of Penguin. Contact Bhaswar Mukherjee.