I had walked away from Rahul Joshi, my head still reeling with the talks we had had. But I was glowing inside, happy for him and amazed how each one of us had travelled his or her own path and reached his or her own destinations; and such amazing ones too!!! I will always remember Rahul’s ‘Doctrine of Nothing’.
The performances were over by now and the audio-visual person was playing a presentation diligently put together by our hosts Teju and Avinash with inputs from Sridhar. Slides with pictures of the alumni and their family were being projected on to the huge backdrop of the stage. People sat on the chairs or stood around in the hall and clapped and cheered. The Reunion had taken some hard work to organize, to convince people to come, to participate, to collect data. Most of the collection of pictures and other data had been done by Sridhar and other arrangements were courtesy Avinash, Tej Singh and Macha. Avinash and Tej Singh and Sridhar had also put together an Alumni book, although I must confess the idea was mine, consisting of pictures of the alumni and their family along with a message which the concerned alumnus wrote in his or her own words. The book was a smashing hit and would be a treasure which all of us would cherish for all times to come.
In spite of all the canvassing and cajoling and convincing that was done on FB groups and WhatsApp groups and over FaceTime and telephone calls, some of our friends didn’t or couldn’t make it to the reunion. They had their reasons, I am sure, but they missed a party of a lifetime, I will say this much.
Shalini didn’t come, and Monica Seth, and Dhar, and Gaurav Goel, and Dahia, and Sunil Kumar Gupta, and Bhim from Bhutan. In fact, Rahul almost didn’t come and Maheshwari decided to come at the last moment. I am glad they came, and I am glad we all could meet one more time. I would have been happier if others had come too, but life hasn’t been the same for all us.
Sunil Kumar Gupta and Dahia and Gaurav Goel had been interesting characters, but I will not dwell more on them here. Dhar had been my buddy for quite some time, before Appu and I grew close, and then, later, he had drifted apart. I would have liked to see him come. Monica and Shalini had been good friends to a lot of us and I would have absolutely loved to meet them again, but one cannot force the hand of fate, I guess. Apart from these people everyone else had come and had enjoyed the reunion to the hilt. And now, we sat in the semi-darkness of the hall as the slideshow played, one by one, according to our roll numbers and reminded us about ourselves once more.
While the slide show was still running, a huge cake in the shape of the digit ‘Twenty-Five’ was wheeled into the hall and brought in front of the stage. The children all gathered around, Tej Singh leading them. The children cut the cake under the supervision of Teju, and to the accompaniment of great cheering from the other friends. The cake was quickly distributed amongst all and people started to drift towards the dinner stall – it had been a long night!
There was a group of people, however, who had no intention leaving. The boys sat around the tables and talked loudly and laughed and patted each other’s backs. Incidences from the past were recounted to pull the legs of many. Umesh, Maheshwari, Rahul, DK, Mona everyone sat around. Another round of drinks was ordered. The women and children had finished their dinner and were just starting to leave. Appu and Sutanu stood by my side, as I waved to Vaishali and the kids. Swati waved to Appu, gesturing to him to be careful. Sudipa said bye to Sutanu, then looked at me, long and meaningfully – I understood and nodded. It was strange how with friends no words were necessary.
Soon the hall was empty except 10-15 boys. Avinash was there as DK, Rahul, Maheshwari, Macha, Appu, Sutanu, Umesh, Mona, Somu, me and a couple of others. The party was loud now and boisterous and smoke filled, since Macha had lit up inside the hall itself. No one wanted to go, no one wanted the night to end, there was no end to the talks and the laughter and the gossip. We had made a huge circle of chairs at one end of the hall and sat on them, gossiping. The hotel staff pulled up some tables close to us and laid our dinner there, we were being given the VIP treatment courtesy Avinash, whom everyone seemed to know.
I do not remember how long we sat there, eating, drinking, chatting, laughing, but slowly, one by one, each one of us started to leave. Soon the party was over, and the boys started to disperse, each going towards their respective rooms. I and Appu accompanied Sutanu to his room first, knocking the door gingerly so as to not wake the kids. When Sudipa opened the door, and Sutanu stumbled in, we went off, walking towards our rooms, giggling, pushing each other, joking.
‘Good night,’ I said to Appu as he entered his room, and then I ambled towards my room – tomorrow was another long day. Avinash and Tej Singh had planned a visit to the Gyanvapi Vishwanath Temple in the morning followed by a ride on the Ganga and lunch at a heritage hotel. Tomorrow was another interesting day.
To be continued………………………………….
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