I was just about to hit delete when I happened to re-read the email. It was an invitation to the annual alumni reunion at my old college. I did the math and realised that this was the tenth year since we graduated. I don’t know when I turned into such an enthu cutlet but before I knew it I’d typed out a mail and sent it to everyone from our batch that I was in touch with. Sadly most of my friends are no longer in Delhi, but I did try!
The one thing I have going for me after losing my waistline, is my clear skin but as luck would have it I broke out into a batch of huge pimples a few days before this and all I could think of was – oh horror, am I going back to college, ten years later, looking like a pimply old has been?
I tried packs, I tried lotions, I tried ointments, I tried potions. An old friend did suggest relaxing, cutting down on work and commitments and also getting my PCOS checked but that would be far too easy. I just continued to work frantically (hey! Christmas is coming and I have my annual leave coming up – I need to get everything done before I leave!). And then I gave up. I was a timid nobody when I got there and it seemed appropriate that I go back there covered in pimples and hiding behind pillars.
I wore a silvery grey pochampalli silk with a purplish-fuchsia border. This after much school-girlish delight and planning. And getting a new blouse stitched for a pretty blue chikan saree which I eventually dropped because hey – its only winter for 3 months of the year and I have more silks than I know what to do with.
The OA was rather amused at how much of a tizzy I was in, over the whole thing. And I couldn’t explain it to him. He’d been one of the popular guys in college. At the forefront of almost everything. I on the other hand, was a timid mouse, in conservative salwar kameezes and only showing up for choir and musical events, or the hiking club. You realise that the cliques formed in college still play on your mind. You still feel nervous about walking up to the prettiest girl and saying hi, you still don’t know if the college president is aware of your existence. You still hope you won’t get tongue-tied or put your foot in your mouth when you do manage to untie it.
But the day dawned bright and sunny and as I put on my sunglasses, the OA grinned and wanted to know why I was hiding behind them. I hate people who know me so well. As we parked and I got out of the car, the place was flooded with memories. Cousin K who is studying there this year was waiting in the parking lot to relieve me of his laundry!
I took very hesitant steps because it was so much like coming home and yet, so much not. The couple sitting on the stairs and chatting were a familiar sight, but they were not familiar faces. Some of the professors rushing by, debating the finer points of something were something I was used to, and yet, they were new too.
I won’t get into the screams of excitement as we met people we hadn’t met in years, but I will take great pride in saying that I walked up to people I remembered from college who I’d never spoken to before, introduced myself and chatted. I wonder what has changed in thirteen years that makes it so much easier. So much so that I laugh and tell the brightest girl in class who once intimidated me with her sheer bossiness, to shut up! Today she is a dear friend who comes home and babysits my children if I am going out. Brushes their teeth, puts them to bed and sings them to sleep while I go out with the OA, a load taken off my shoulders, knowing that my children are in the safest hands possible - saner than mine for sure!
One of the prettiest and most popular girls in college surprised me with an ‘Oh I’ve heard so much about you…’ while I steadied my knees. Ten years ago she’d have walked by without noticing me. The two tall guys who were perhaps not the most popular people, but well known enough, are now reserved and quiet while I take over the role of introducing, smiling, making conversation and promising to catch up.
I think its safe to say I forgot my pimples. The lunch was just as crappy as ever and as we struggled to step over and slide into the long dining hall benches in our sarees, we turned time back ten years. Passing the chapattis, jostling for the oily chicken, turning our noses up at the poisonously green palak paneer.
After lunch we took our spouses for a walk around the college, pointing out spots that were dear to each of us, listening in surprise to things other batchmates said, little revealing things we missed in the rush of classes and exams and dates! As the boys (men?) took their wives past their old rooms, the OA grinned and wanted to see the College Boyfriend’s room and wanted to know if I’d ever been sneaked in there. I laughed and pointed out that CB didn’t live on campus, he was a Delhi boy. The ribbing broke the ice if there was any, and the other guys, warmed up to the OA who until then was being treated with the polite courtesy that you treat a classmate’s spouse. If this guy could tease his wife about her ex, he was probably okay.
We posed for pictures and we’re still an unruly bunch to fit into a frame. I remember ten years ago the girls rushedto the restrooms to brush their hair out and refresh their lipstick and the boys stood taller and broader when the cameras came out.
The years haven’t been kind to us, we’re now balding, greyer, waistlines are broader, wrinkled, pimply(!) – but we all just relaxed, put our arms around our batchmates, some old friends, some new – and smiled into the camera and the blinding sun.