01 August, 2010

A page from a diary on a reunion

Tale of the 17+1 idiots & Murphy
24th July 2010 said the date on the calendar. Edward Aloysius Murphy kept whispering in my ear “If things can go wrong, they will”. I didn’t imagine it, he actually did. Why should I be hearing him just now? It was weird. How and why his words become gospel (Laws as people refer to them) is again beyond me. No sooner this question flashed across my mind, the sky clouded and it began to pour. Such was the shower that it not only rained cats and dogs but also cows, buffaloes and asses. Talking about asses I could imagine that even the clothed ones out in the streets of Mumbai would be soaked instantly. The Mumbai rain does come down in copious quantity but never is scary; it’s only after the deluge of 26th July 2005 that it has attained this aura. Now people are scared to come out when the rains start.

We had a reunion of the batch of 1984 planned at Chembur, Mumbai today and this rain did not augur well towards people attending.  Sure enough as I looked at my screen there was Shivdas Nair online; He who stayed in a sea facing penthouse - the apartment and not the magazine (don’t raise your eyebrows at me while reading this, these are his words in toto). “Kau, look at the rains outside” typed he, “it would be absolutely idiotic to venture out.” He didn’t even stay that far away from the location but that’s Murphy’s Law at work for you. C est la vie. One name scratched out.

When we are driving intent nay sayers don’t have a place in the plan if it is to be executed at all. My thoughts went to the previous night. Shanky and Murugan had arrived early and we had met up. Four of us (Bhaskar, Murugan, Shanky and I) sat together then discussing on what to do the next day. In the name of planning lots of C2H5OH in various forms was imbibed. Then someone voiced what if no one comes in tomorrow? Another voice slurred out loudly…Hum hai na…hum char jun…Venue pe jayenge, bahut dhaandal karenge aur apney aap me hi reunion manayenge. But then in that haze we hadn’t taken into account the absolute enthusiasm of the other people who had confirmed.

Smilingly my thoughts returned to the present. One name had been scratched out. Then came two calls, the first was Vinita from Pune who asked “Is it raining in Mumbai? I am starting now.” The second one was Varsha from Kalyan who just called to ask “Are we on for today am confirming on account of the rain? “ You bet we are on, was my reply and instantly enthusiasm surged back through me. Now I knew that things have started to fall back in place once more.

People had traveled from places as far as Doha (Sujata), Bahrain (Sobha), Singapore (Anjali), Salem (Murugan) and Chennai (Shanky) Tamilnadu and had come in. Pankaj was traveling from Beena in Madhya Pradesh and some were last minute confirmations but each one called up with a resounding YES. The dropouts ironically happened to be the people who stayed in Mumbai. It was a shame. They may have their reasons genuine, fragile, facile or whatever but reasons nevertheless.

At 3.00 in the afternoon Bhaskar and I had reached the venue while Shanky and Murugan who were with us through the morning had gone home to freshen up. The venue was a mid-sized conference room on the second floor at Chembur gymkhana, cleared away for us to have our do. As we waited outside at the smoker’s corner blowing rings we saw the first umbrella come in. It was Tarun & he had hardly changed so we had absolutely no problems in identifying him. For a while it was just the three of us catching up and then along came Neepa and the chatter started.  After then like clockwork at almost five minute intervals people started coming in. Anjali, then Sujata,  Shanky and Murugan . The real prosaic moment was when a few had gathered and Srikant walks in. Not one of us recognized him and we thought it is some gymkhana member who has wandered into the wrong room. Anjali’s reaction was the most comical to observe. She actually looked once at him and turned back to converse with us but the guy was still standing in the room smiling. Till Tarun yelled Chakraaaa and his characteristic laughter confirmed his identity. Chakra became the joker in the pack and for every new person who entered the room it became a game of guess who this is? Another hilarious part was when we had to rescue Sriram from committing hara-kiri in the washbasin. He was trying to drown himself. When asked what happened ‘”He said he was identified as Shivdas by Pankaj”

As the decibel level increased the wonderful part that struck me was despite so many years having passed. None required an ice breaker to smoothly traverse the years and strike a conversation. It was that easy. This was despite the peculiarity of the school etiquette where boys did not speak to girls and vice versa. All verbal communications may have at the most been spats then. Later as some of them had interacted with their opposite gender friendships had bloomed. It was evident though that for a good number present here it was the first real conversation with the opposite gender from the class. That was the irony considering that we had spent not one or two but a good ten or twelve years in one room everyday for five hours at the very least. It was as if a dam had burst and people could not stop catching up. Words and loud laughs, giggles and chatter.
After the confirmations and cancellations had been accounted for seventeen were expected at the venue and Punde the plus one was to join us later in the evening. The last one to come in was the first to have started from her place, the one with the longest journey of the day, Vinita. The rains made her journey miserable but her will won over the adverse conditions. When the quorum was complete the Master Of Ceremonies, Mr. Lakshmi Shankar Balsubranian aka Abishek aka Shanky to us, took the mike. While the others sat he recounted on how this whole jig had begun. The suggestion was made to make 24th July the Reunion day such that we don’t wait another 25 years to catch up again. The venue could be anywhere but meet we must. The mike passed on to each telling their own story of what had they done from the time after school. Some chirpy memories of school were shared too.

Murugan and the pen that went up Jeetu’s backside and the corny explanation he gave to the Principal Shanbag when questioned about it. Sriram’s runaway marriage as recounted by Anil who was with them all the way in all their trying times to such an effect that he said if this is what Love marriage entails, keep me away. Exciting and happy progress had been made in the lives of all people here. Srikant recounted his blissful state of affairs, His education as an engineer, his working with Hitachi Data Systems, staying in Chembur and the neat family unit he had. Tarun, the banker at ICICI who shared the story of his marriage and how he wished someone from his school had been present then and yours truly not having gone even after an invite; then Hari turning up after getting just a sms which made this very important day absolutely complete for him. Anjali shared her life post school of Management and a job at Kotak and then moving from Dubai to Singapore. Varsha told the group of having done her super specialization in IVF and having delivered the first In vitro baby of Kalyan. Sujata who had a word after everyone’s account when she got the mike talked about her life in Doha and how she was in the process of setting up a business from there. Nalini on how she is managing her company having done shows on all five continents and continuing in the field of music. Vinita, talked about her life in Pune married to an offshore engineer, on being a successful home maker and furthering the progress of both her sons as Chess champions. Sriram, after that shared the work he is doing heading the supply chain at McDonalds in India a responsibility recently undertaken. Anil narrated on how fulfilling his career had been and how amongst many other innovations in the field of construction development, waste management his company was responsible for changing over the fuel tanks in automobiles from metal to plastic. Bhaskar the HR professional talked about his education, his career & life. Sobha who came in with her daughter Jyoti mentioned about her life and not having known about Murugan being in Salem when she was posted there for 3 years. She even referred and pointed out to her sweet daughter as being a Salem product. Pankaj talked about his early career in L&T from which he had moved into piping & fabrication contracting for refineries, his experimenting with farming on a plot actively cultivating vegetables & flowers. Peter talked about how his life shaped up after his BCom and MBA into the travel industry and the responsibility he handles at Cox & Kings. Neepa who had been talking so much was absolutely short of words when the mike was in her hand. She choked and it indeed was a sentimental moment, said she on seeing so many of us all in one room after a while. She has done her Homeopathy and an MBA in hospital administration and is in the process of setting up a company with her surgeon husband in providing hospital services. Then the mike was in my hand and recalled the exercise and all the people who played their part in getting the information together culminating in this do. Hari and Meera were sorely missed as they had a lion’s share in this, Bhaskar who was with me every step of the way while we were getting this act together. Having done my engineering and working for couple of years with Godrej manufacturing refrigerators and ten years selling engineering solutions moving on to advertising. Then the mike was back with Shanky who recounted his progress after a struggle in the entertainment field. Of having tasted critical acclaim 
to becoming a soap star to directing his full length feature film and then receiving the states honors’.

It was a moment of recounting and then we wanted the singers to sing and Shanky started with a tribute to Kishore Kumar when he sang “Koi Hum Dum Na Raha” …Nalini sang “Waqt ne Kiya” and truly the sorry mike system didn’t do justice to her voice that still retains a poignant quality…but the performance of the day was Anil’s. When he sang “Geet Gaata hu main” the years rolled back as he hummed along. Anil barring some grey at the temples and sides and trousers that were longer looked just the same as he did when in school.

Soon it was time to break off and leave the venue, some of us to reconvene elsewhere. Rains or delays one thing was absolutely crystal “The 17+1 Idiots had beaten Murphy”. Aaaall Eeeej Well.