I have faint memories of the Banaras club, having attended a few parties there during my college time. That night, however, I could not recognize it. Maybe it had been too long, I thought, as I got down from the car inside the Banaras club. The banquet hall was on the first floor of a building which stood at one end of the club. There were people outside, to guide us towards the stairs which led to the banquet hall. A short flight of steps brought us to the brightly decorated door which opened into the banquet hall. The door was decorated with grey and blue balloons, banners and standees which said ‘1994 IMSONIANS’ and a couple of young girls were ready with rose stalks and vermilion paste ‘tilak’ to welcome us. The inside of the hall was as well decorated with banners, posters, flowers and balloons.
We were the first ones to reach – me, Appu, and Sutanu with our families. Others soon followed, Shyam, Sri, Avinash with Shweta. The banquet hall was arc shaped; one end had a bar and the other end had a small dance floor, a sound system and a backdrop with the snapshots of our batchmates and the official logo of our reunion. The boys naturally gravitated towards the bar, as the ladies sat down on the sofas, looking at the children run around the hall. I stood with Appu and Sutanu, nursing my drink in my hands, and watched the door as the others started to trickle in slowly.
Abhinav walked in looking around and smiling his hesitant smile. He was roll number one of our class, and the ‘cho-chweet’ guy of our batch. He was a neurophysician and thus he and Appu often discussed medical and other issues with each other over long telephonic conversations.
There was Dilip Kumar, or DK for short, from Kolkata, our hot-shot cardiologist and the quintessential ‘Bihari Babu’, simple, hard-working and brilliant. Then there was Vivek Logani, an outstanding joint replacement surgeon in Delhi and a singer par-excellence, followed closely by Umesh Kohli, another cardiologist and a fun-loving guy. We had been to Kohli’s home in Faridabad during our MBBS days, and still remembered the delicious butter-paratha and curd which his mother had served us in the mornings.
Satyendra was there, a physician and a professor of medicine at the medical college where I worked.
Vibhuti Bhushan came, the surgeon from Patna where he too worked in a medical college, and then Prithviraj Yadav was there, PRY for short, general surgeon in private practice. We had been to PRY’s marriage to his village in Jaunpur, near Varanasi, when we were still in MBBS.
Gaurav Jindal came; he used to be an orthopedic surgeon in Delhi and had recently returned after a long stint in the UK, but had lately moved back to Muradabad, his hometown, and had set up his practice there.
Venkat came, the illustrious neurosurgeon from Tirupati, the temple town, followed closely by Neehar, another neurophysician friend from down South. Long ago I had visited Venkat’s home in Tirupathi and he had taken me to the Balaji temple at Tirumala hills, where we had got our heads shaved as was the custom, and to the Sai Baba ashram in Puttaparthy. I still remembered his parents warmly. Venkat had also always been cuddly and soft, like Avinash and Dhar.
Shanti Swaroop Dhar had been a close friend of mine, but we had lost touch along the way. He had given the reunion a skip too, so there was no way we could make up for the lost time – maybe I will have to catch him later!
Monashish was there, Mona for short, our endocrinologist and one of the craziest guys I have ever known. He had married Meenakshi, from our batch too, and the two of them made an amazing pair. Mona hid a brilliant mind behind his stupid antics and a quaint wit.
Sameer was there, Sameer Mehrotra, another cardiologist from Delhi. He was married to Sheetal, Sheetal Bedi, another of our batchmates. Sheetal had, unfortunately, been unable to come. But we were happy to see Sameer after so many years. Mona and Sameer were our intra-batch couples.
Somnath came, the ophthalmologist from Siliguri. He was known as Somu during our MBBS days and was one of the most jovial and outspoken persons of our batch. He was also a part of the singer trio of our batch – the others being Logani and me.
We all hugged and shouted in each other’s welcome, and then pulled each other to the drinks’ stall; the party was getting noisier.
The girls of our batch came in a bunch – Amita was there, the pediatrician from Kolkata, and Vaishali’s friend, followed closely by Stuti, Payal, Neeti, Rajul, Monica, Meenakshi, Ruchi and Puja. Stuti, a gynecologist, was a Banarasi, or native of Banaras, but was settled in the UAE along with her orthopedic surgeon husband.
Payal was a gynecologist in Jammu, Meenakshi, Mona’s wife, was a gynecologist too, as were Ruchi and Rajul. Monica was a radiologist, as was Srabani Mitra who had come from Malda. The other Payal, the reticent Payal Rathore was a pediatrician and Neeti was an ophthalmologist.
I had not followed the lives of the girls closely after leaving Banaras and thus knew very little about many of them. Maybe this was the time to make up for that deficiency too!
Everyone went around meeting everyone, talking, laughing, holding hands, hugging. There was so much happiness in the air!
To be continued………………………………….
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