School reunion after 36 years!!
Atkinson High School, batch of 79′ Reunion
This was our song….
Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.
Those were the days, oh yes those were the days
Once we left school (Atkinson High School, Vijayawada, and an all-girls convent school) we all went our ways and lost touch with each other. Childhood friendships are the most rock-solid and long lasting as, kids rarely know jealousies, resentments or peer pressures. Few of us were in the same College but once I got married before I finished College, I didn’t know where the others went. Then all of us got busy with our respective husbands, kids and families and had no time to reminiscence about the good old days. Time flew and now when the kids have flown the nest leaving an empty house and with time on our hands, the time was just right to glue old severed ties.
Memories are the threads that hold together the arms of friendship. One fine day I sat recollecting the names of my childhood pals and wanted to fill the void that was there. I set out search and thought that it would be a herculean task to locate even one as it has been 36 years since I heard from them, but to my utmost astonishment, within 3 days I was in touch with 20 of them. (Thanks to technology and social media) My joy knew no bounds when I got to talk to them. I was deliriously happy and I had a permanent smile on my face. It is said that the best antiques to collect are old pals and I did just that collected invaluable pals together.
This was on 29 thOctober, that I created a WhatsApp group with the title Atkinson Good Girls as the nuns browbeat us into becoming good! We decided to have a reunion on the 29th of November. The group was swamped with messages and cross chat, the excitement of getting in touch with each other and stuffing in all the news of 36 years made for some confusing but very happy chats. There were confirmations and cancelations but in the end the motley group of 13, who got together on 29th November, in Vijayawada at my house were…. Kalpana, Mallika, Sabiha, Padmaja, Padmavathi, Padma, Chaya,Sesha Durga, Manjula, Uma, Heena, Rama and yours truly!
It was elevating to watch the enthusiasm and the excitement building in all and the way each one made it is laudable. I thank and bow down to all my friends who took the trouble to travel, come down and make it an unforgettable occasion for all of us. No wonder they say that Friendship–the older it grows, the stronger it is. Then we got down to planning the D-Day as we wanted to pack as much as we could in the few hours we had together. Mallika took on the role of planner and coordinator and set the ball rolling for the agenda. Once all was set it was just a matter of time when we were going to meet.
Kalpana decided to come a day ahead and leave a bit later too and I was so very happy to me meeting her after all this year. Our countdown had begun and soon the days passed with a few hiccups from the rain God. Prayers went up in unison and He did hear our prayers.Kalpana’s flight was late by a few hours but it was okay, she was here. I cannot forget the bear hug I was enclosed in when she walked out of the airport! Bless you, my dear! We just couldn’t stop talking and kept yapping till late into the night.
The next morning, I couldn’t control my excitement and bungled many things in the lunch. One by one they trickled in after 9.30 and there were lots of shouts of glee when each one walked in. The grown circumferences, the harmonious lined faces, and the slower pace took a backseat and we were back to reliving those school days in pinafores and pigtails. We were sixteen in spirit though we looked old I guess. We rolled back the years and were young for the day. Once all were in attendance we had a photo session and posed for the cam. There were lots of munchies to be gobbled, shared, handmade chocolates, sweets, Vadas’ and what not.
Later we shared a few memories and went down nostalgia lane through a game of passing the parcel. What a point in time it was with side-splitting incidents being refreshed and retold by each one.
Sabiha was the first victim, she mimicked Mrs. Vincent, who would enter the class and say “Girls, take out your books: What has happened is that (a long pause) and she would complete the full chapter!
Mallika was next and she recalled the incident where Mrs. Vincent was angry that Sabiha and she were giggling. So she said angrily,” You girls giggle for everything. Even if I lift my little finger you giggle. For that they again began to giggle again” J
Chaya remembered the antics of Mallika and Kalpana at one of the Jam sessions at school. Except Anglo-Indian boys, no other were allowed in school and as they were few compared to the numbers of the girls we had to make do with female partners! Chaya recalled Mallika and Kalpana attempting to do the bump dance!
Padma went back to our fourth class trip to Madras. She clarified that she was wrongly implicated in what was an accident that Padmaja went through. Padma says her teacher blamed her for pushing Padmaja and hurting her at the railway station, but she had never pushed her. J
Kalpana recollected our sports teacher Annapurna’s method of discipline. Draw a line on the ground and learn to walk straight, especially during the hours of march past practice we used to have. Any deviations and get whacked on the legs with her scale. Ouch!!
Padmaja related the incident about Sister Imelda’s moral science class where she slept with the duster standing on the table and would awaken suddenly and ask where we were and the class would end like that!
Manjula narrated the scary incident that occurred in old Delhi during our trip to Kashmir. We ventured out to shop in the Old Delhi market and it was near the Ramlila Maidan and it was the last day of Dussehra. We had no chaperones, except the cook. While we were returning, we were surrounded by a gang of goons who tried to molest us but we lashed out with whatever we had in our hands. Thank God for our presence of mind!
Padmavathi had another comical incident to share about the same trip. We were in Srinagar and had put up at a hotel. We had time to spare and set out to explore a bit. We walked out of the hotel and Sister Imelda who was looking out of her balcony was calling out to us. She was showing her fingers and asking us how many they were!! The brandy sipped to beat the cold was showing its true colors and we girls had a hearty laugh at her expense.
Uma, who was the nerd of the class with her nose always in books, recounted how she had taken an oath not to watch movies for a year and when the year was almost to a close, the class was going for a movie and she was very tempted to break her vow when Mallika advised her not to as she could watch the movie anytime and she should keep her promise to herself.
Heena was the tallest in class and disclosed that she hated being asked by the teachers to stand last all the time. And here I was the shortest and always in the front!
My story was; when we were in the ninth class, in the science lab, Mrs. Lourdes Mary our science teacher, asked us –Where can we find urea in the classroom? Strange question we thought and gave silly answers like in the lab. We asked ma’am to give us the right answer and she made our jaws drop when she said, “In your panties!” And when on to explain how!
Sesha and Padma shared their little secret that they would sit near the washrooms and chat and were even caught by the teachers.
We were taught many English songs by our music teacher. Kalpana, Malli and I used to sing the national anthem, not that we were any nightingales! Oddly, I was asked to write the lyrics of Yeh Dosti and Kabhi Kabhi and we were taught these two Hindi songs too, in a school where were not allowed to speak in the vernacular even during break time.
We enjoyed our Girl Scout stints as we were taken on short trips where we got to network with students of other schools and we experienced the late night singing around the bonfires.
Wish we could get into a time-machine and go back to those classrooms- Listen to Princy’s rebukes and get ticked off by our blessed teachers. The tiring assemblies and PT classes, the late punishment and kneeling down in class or even standing up on the bench, John’s mixture made in a half coconut shell and Mary’s black stringy toffee – Sigh!! How I would love to go back to those days.
All this backslapping and reminiscence led up to a massive appetite and we had a hearty lunch but didn’t stop talking although we were taught not to speak while eating!! The tempo came down a few notches with everyone settling down a bit with full bellies and then there was the exchange of gifts.
After that, we set out to visit our Alma mater. There were not many changes to the street but the school has expanded quite a bit. The memories came flooding back and we were swept away in them. The oohs and aahs on seeing a familiar wall or classroom was palpable and we were lamenting on the changes, the closed access to the church where we used to kneel down many a time and pay our obeisance. The nostalgia mode increased when we saw the entrance gate in blue, the office grill was the same and so were a couple of buildings. We clicked a few pictures and left with a heavy heart.
We went to visit our beloved science teacher, Lourdes Mary. We took her a quilt to keep her warm and some fruits. We have not forgotten any of the lessons she taught. Ma’am used to make us do experiments and sometimes she used to demonstrate and we were the eager beavers lapping it all up. I liked science only because of her! No wonder they say Education is the key to success in life and teachers make a lasting impact on students’ lives and she did just that. She gave me my most Good girl badges and a medal too. She looked almost the same as if age had given her a miss but once we sat with her she seemed sad. Hope she is never sad again. She could recall a few names but not all. She was very happy to see us and blessed us all. The best teachers teach from the heart, not from the book and I am glad our teachers taught from their hearts. You rock ma’am!
We moved on to meet our math teacher. Well, that was quite a tricky as we could not find her house and we kept going around in circles. Good that we didn’t give up but found her house at last. Miss Rammannamma, a spinster all her life and one of our strictest teachers but her way of teaching math was excellent. I hated math and I could sail through my exams due to her diligent teaching. Hats off to you ma’am, but I still hate numbers! She looked the same except for her really shiny gray hair and her trademark starched cotton sari was absent. She made us comfortable and spoke to us warmly, trying to recall our names. Age…..you are very mean; you can’t erase memories like that! The little time we spent with her will be etched in our memories for sure. There’s no one quite like a special teacher and no teacher quite as special as you Ma’am.
Next stop was our class teacher and history teacher, Mrs. Vincent. Locating her house was easy as Heena knew it. But looking at her rundown state was very sad. She is suffering fro memory loss and didn’t know our names. She could only recollect teaching and kept calling us oldies children!! The way she taught us history was like a true teacher is one who, keeping the past alive, is also able to understand the present and here she hardly remembered even her present. To the world, you may just be a teacher but for us your students, you are a star Ma’am. We took our leave and moved on to our dinner destination; Blue Fox, Minerva Grand!
Nobody seemed very tired and the spirits were still up, we were quite hearty and ready to party, but the appetites low. We ordered for just soup and snacks. One of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them J and we did just that. We picked up the napkins and put them on our heads like crowns and we didn’t even feel silly doing it. We also decided that we would be meeting next year in Hyderabad and make it a yearly affair and stay in touch through Whatsapp! Our anecdotes were not ending but the day was and it was time to say farewell. I was glad Kalpana was staying over or else I would have been in tears.
I have learnt that we should work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get the more you need the friends who knew you when you were young.Looking forward to our reunion next year!