10 years is a long time

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.

But much missed, were my three partners in crime. M, Anamika and Diligent Candy. College ain’t college without you guys.

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78 thoughts on “10 years is a long time

  1. Hi MM, funnily enough I have a high school reunion coming up and I promptly rejected the invite, even though I will be in Bangalore on the said day! Don’t think I have your enthusiasm 😛 you’re so right, those cliques/groups still play in your sub conscious so many years later. I don’t think I can handle all those insecurities resurfacing!

  2. Reunions !!!

    Just struck me. It will be 25 years since passing out of Campion School, Bhopal in another 2.5 yrs. Time to start connecting again. *slaps forehead* Gawrsh! I am old!!

  3. I think some of our labels from college are here to stay and sometimes its us that reinforce the labels and let them define us. I guess I will always be the opinionated girl from Lit class, who wore interesting jewelry.

    I for one cannot wait for my 10 year reunion, I want to see if the batch hottie has gone bald/fat/greasy skinned and nasty. I hope he hasn’t since it will ruin my fantasy of us hooking up at the reunion, I was supposed to tell him how much I crushed on him throughout college on our last day but chickened out like the biggest chicken there is! So the reunion is my chance to do it right.

    P.S: The saree sounds beautiful!

  4. Awww. I am in my last year of college and we have a gala departmental reunion thingy coming up in a few weeks. I was looking forward to volunteering for the event and this post suddenly made me wonder how OUR batch would be 10 years down the line. I hope we can gaze into the blinding sun too. 🙂

  5. I’m such a different person from my post-grad days, I wouldn’t know what to say to those classmates, I’ve moved out of the field they’ve all continued in. But it would be nice to see what happened to all the crushees!

    But I had a great time connecting with my undergrad classmates, it was so much fun going back and wandering round the college with our new mature worldview (yeah right!) and sniggering at the youngsters there!

    A lot happens in 10 years, I know I sometimes feel like that was a past life, not this one!

      • Oh Poppy!! Am SOOOOOOOOO desperately dying to go to my beloved Beantown!! Just not to the school reunion…I HATED my school life!! (You know why…)

        You know, before we settled on going to Kerala, the MIM and I first considered B’lor. Unfortunately, the other places that we would have done along with Beantown were already full up 😦

  6. Aw, I miss you immensely. And, who are these pretty people? The college prez did know you and you know that…and c’mon you were the Aap jaisa koi girl – you tried to cultivate a mouse image though it did fall flat on its face.

  7. I live close to my school and many times I watch people in the same uniforms and before I can rationalise and stop myself, I look for people who look like my classmates.
    Funny feeling

    ‘I took uncertain steps in 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.’

    these lines described tat feeling beautifully 🙂

  8. Timid mouse???? Who sang “Jawani Janeman” at the Music Soc event and had the whole audi singing along? In that sexy black dress? 🙂

    Wish I had been there. Maybe in our 20th year?? 🙂 I remember my reunion visit in 2003 – missed you guys, but had Nitesh and Arnab for company. Everything worked fine till….but I think I will blog about it. Make more people laugh at my expense that way.

  9. You… “Timid Mouse” ha ha ha… I wonder how much you must have been through to transform into this Jhansi Ki Rani who brings out the swords a drop of of a hat… err.. comment… ha ha

    I am going to miss my college alumini party this year 😦 but most of my batchmates are here in US so we keep having small reunions every year.

    BTW you sang in college? You should post some audio here. We even missed your radio interview 😦

  10. Its exactly 10 years since I graduated from college as well … this reunion sounds so much fun. Only we didn’t have any reunions ..:((
    A lot has changed in the past years … one thing for sure I am more confident now and can strike a conversation with many whom I didn’t even say Hello in college.

  11. I went to an all girls college, but it was still fun and reading this post of your brought back so many memories!! 🙂
    What christmas plans, MM?

  12. I am glad your college friends are calling your bluff 🙂 At our previous workplace, you were one of the hottest women, and chased by many men! Hard to believe you were a timid mouse in college.

  13. This sure sounds like fun. Fancy having a reunion in Bombay – that would be so interesting!!!!! It’s coming up ten years, too! Gosh.
    I will always be the one who stood up in Sameera Khan’s first class and blurted out how I hated kids. For an introduction. Sigh…
    (PS. I don’t!)

    • LOL! oh I remember that now. yes of course, lets meet next year? You come down to Bombay and I’ll get the rest of teh batch together. deal? for now of course, will you kindly tell everyone here that I was a MOUSE dammit. A shy, timid little mouse.

  14. i hated college! *sigh* such a pity right? if it wasn’t for the friends i made, I’d have gone insane trying to get through 4 years of damned engg! i keep in touch with the people i want to and meet them whenever we happen to be in each other’s territory. the rest can go hang for all i care! no reunion for me!

      • you didn’t have to go to college in godforsaken TN, where they only just mugged up textbooks without any independent thinking whatsoever. And the girls were allowed to only wear salwar khameez (pinned properly on both sides!). My friends and I were tormented by the others (staff and students alike) for walking with our heads up instead of looking downnnnn like PROPER girls should. Oh, we weren’t allowed to talk to guys (not that i wanted to talk to the majority of the leches there), the lecturers were terrible and uninspiring, the life was just… awwful!

        • oh, and sorry about the TN thing, to all people from there. But from my experience of the place, they seem to have taken MCPish behaviour to new levels.

        • ha ha! I went to visit my brother when he was in college in TN and he got most upset that I had come in jeans – but hey, it wasnt my darn uniform or college so why should i wear salwar suits when i dont want to?! for the rest of the visit I had to stay away from the college campus and wait for him to come to pick me up!

        • You just summed up my UG experience… And yes its only the few friends I made there made life better..

          @MM: Yay to u 🙂 Its always nice to live back good memories…

  15. I really really enjoyed reading that 🙂

    And I love Pochampalli sarees … I have one in bottle green with a cream border and pallu.

    I’d probably feel the same as you did were I to attend a college reunion. I wasn’t really a ‘mouse’ but neither was I popular … I got rather bored of everything around second year and kind of dropped off the radar and have stayed there.

    why’re you so insistent on being a timid mouse in your head anyway?

  16. MM, your college campus is GORGEOUS! I had visited the college campus when I was in Delhi recently.

    Also, I am toh dying for a reunion. School, not college! Hopefully it happens!

  17. I love pochampalli sarees too….with so many varieties of sarees available all over India, I wonder why I keep seeing only chiffons with chamki work on them. That one is starting to get a little monotonous if you ask me….

    • Actually the problem is that three of the four metros are hot and muggy all year round. And even Delhi only gets winter for 3 months out of 12. wearing silks all the time for events that dont have air conditioning is asking for trouble. I have trouble finding cottons that are dressy enough for weddings that are not held in the winters. and even the chiffons these days have embroidery that is traditional like chikan, phulkari, zardozi, muqaish, kasida, gara… i could go on 🙂
      but i know what you mean. cant stand machine embroidery myself!

      • Oh god I cannot stand those standard issue garishly coloured over sequinned monstrosities!

        Silk doesn’t necessarily have to be heavy though. Mysore silk is fairly light to wear, even in summer. Or so I think anyway. And as for cotton sarees that are dressy, I picked up something that had thread work all over for a wedding a few years ago and it’s so elegant yet not OTT that the mother has taken kabza of it now.

        • Well I wear lots of bengal cotton for parties, chikan on cotton, and kotas. Very cool. For the remaining few, I wear chiffons with chikan or a bandhani print. and i dont believe this – you went against nature and let your mother whack a saree off you ? 😉 my mother is used to it being the other way

          • Hahaha … I don’t have a say in the matter since I live so far away 😀 Still, I buy sarees every single time I go home so I have a nice little collection going. A colleague said to me yesterday I ought to wear one to work … I might attempt that when it’s less cold, my pochampalli is calling out to me.

      • Oh I understand the silk thing completely…I have a whole bunch of Kanchivarams that have not seen the light of day for some time now 🙂

        But still, that’s no excuse for everyone dressing like clones of each other…I was looking for some Gadwal cottons and the traditional marathi blouse and everywhere they just show me what the latest heroine wore and I had to get my marathi blouse piece in some rickety old shop that still carries it. Such a waste of diversity!

  18. Lovely one, i was alomost on the main lawns 🙂
    And finally I have people who agree that “silk” is not “out of fashion.” In the last 4 mnths I have had atleast 100 people tell me I need to scrap my silks because no wears them anymore and its only the sequins which rule…and i hate the shiney sequins completely!
    Thank gawd sanity still exists 🙂

  19. I know just how you felt. A batchmate of mine told me this year, much to my surprise, that I was considered the ‘babe of the batch’ back then. Now that we’re planning an impromptu reunion this year, I’m in a total dither to try and get back to at least a fraction of my former glory!!!

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