Almost 30 years hence...
Ralph Waldo Emerson
That's exactly how I have spent this last weekend - being stupid with old friends... friends that I had left behind and got a chance to catch up again after 28 years. Some of us looked the same, behaved the same, while some of us had changed in shape and size, but what hadn't changed was the child inside each one of us. The child that had studied with all these other children at K.V. NDA between years 1984 to 1988. I had left the school after doing my class Tenth in 1988.
How do you suddenly reach back to people long lost in time? I have already described this earlier here and it was during this meeting that everyone who came and who could not, was eager to plan for a grand reunion party. We had picked up May-June 2016 and over the last few months worked towards finalizing the venue, the dates, the plan for the meeting and also what gift to give the school, that had been instrumental in shaping our futures (or rather our present).
28 May 2016, we all started (about 20 of us) from different places and reached Nirvana. The Native Place is an adventure resort and it is here that we had decided to all gather and spend the day. Day 1 was to be general introduction of all, chit chat, spend time at the lake near the resort, play some cricket, bonfire, gala evening dedicated to singing songs and finally crash post midnight. Day 2, have breakfast and leave for NDA to make a visit to our school and then disperse.
I must say that in my initial impression of the place wasn't very good. First the way to reach this resort is not at all drive friendly. From Kamshet, when going towards Mumbai, you get off the highway near Kamshet hospital, get on the service towards right, come back about 50 m and then take a left. You should be entering a road with the signage as seen in this image.
Take immediate right and then follow the road. The resort is about 10 km from here, but it may feel like you are driving for ages to reach there, due to narrow and pretty bad road. If you feel lost you can ask for Sanjay Rao's place as local people hardly know it by the resort's name. After driving for about 5 km or so, you will start seeing Nirvana, Native Resort boards. The boards are a bit confusing as they don't clearly indicate the direction. There is a snake like structure on the board. Try to follow its direction.
You would pass a dam and will also see a lake. The resort is more known for its paragliding training and facility. You would cross that ground and eventually reach the resort. It is off the main road, on the left. There is sufficient parking. As you enter the building, it looks a bit run down, but has lot of greenery. Even with lack of monsoon, this place was still very green, i guess due to the lake behind the resort.
The resort building is on a slope so is built across 3 floors. The main building has rooms like dormitories and there is a side building with has rooms for families. Since most crowd is for adventure sports, paragliding etc, this kind of setup is sufficient. As we looked at the dormitory allotted to us, we realized that it had 1 toilet - bathroom (combined) for 8 people and immediately we were worrying about how we will manage in the morning. Later we found out that it had additional facility as common facility, one floor below ours.
In time rest of our crowd arrived and after dumping the bags, settled in for catching up on our memories of school. One of our friends had a nice SLR camera and he got busy capturing every moment of this gathering.
Soon it was time for lunch and we pounced on it as if we had not had food in many days. The bumpy drive to this place and warm weather had made us feel very hungry. Food was good, though not a lavish buffet, but definitely sufficient for its purpose. We sat where we could find a place and had a hearty lunch. Did miss sweet dish after the food. They had put up two earthen pots for water, so we got fairly cool water, without need for a fridge. The place does gets electricity, but being remote, it does has to minimize its usage and relies a bit on solar.
Normally these days with no TV and no phone signal, one starts to feel handicapped. Existence without WhatsApp seems meaningless, but fortunately for us, we had too many things to catch up on, that we didn't really miss these. In fact, later in the day, we realized that it actually was nice to be here, away from being called every now and then, with no official worries for a complete day.
Lake was the next destination, and though it was about 2 in the afternoon, and sunny, but due to the lake and nice breeze, we didn't feel the heat at all. It was pleasant and water in the lake was at a very nice temperature. It felt good standing in the lake with legs dipped in the water. Discussions ranged from school memories, to current work, to social, to philosophical, simple to profound. But everything was said and listened to without anyone trying to evaluate or put extra meaning to what was being said. It was as if, we had all gone back 28 years, were kids in school and chatting and yapping, without any worries of things around us. No evaluating of each other on class, financial background, caste, religion, social status etc. It was just a bunch of school friends happy to be together again.
We went back to the resort by around 4 pm, in expectation of evening tea. We parked in our dormitories, waiting for tea and kept on waiting. In time we realized that while the package included tea, we had to inform them of when we want to have it. Correcting this mistake, we eventually got the tea. Then had to check on what additional items were agreed up along with tea. Got some biscuits and after another long wait some veg sandwiches made their appearance.
While we waited, we all had a pleasant surprise. One of our friends had sponsored reunion T-shirts for everyone and soon we had then distributed, wore them and had another round of photo session.
With nothing else to do, it was back to lake for evening walk and soon a few more friends joined us for the evening. We had a short cricket session, where I got to put some of long lost muscles back in action. Light faded, and we had no flood lights, but who was to stop us? We continued a bit till it was impossible to see the ball and called it a day.
Night dinner was on the terrace with barbecue. Some of our friends got onto quenching their thirst while some of us found interest in singing. We sang a whole lot of songs and the Bollywood songs were mixed with songs we had learnt in school for various events. It was such a nice time. No worries of 'char log kyaa kahenge' and no worries of 'na sur ha na taal hai'. Other guests staying at the resort got a free entertainment that evening (at least I am assuming it was entertaining). In midst of all the singing and dinner, some people suddenly achieved the state of nirvana (maybe it was the environment or maybe it was old monk) and we had impromptu 'satsang' as well.
Some of our friends had their families and while we were skeptical initially of how they will like it and how will be react, but their kids mingled so very well with us and in a way, via them, we all relived our childhood. It was a blessing in disguise that we had such lovely kids with us and we did get to see some of their talent as well. It is amazing how kids of today do so many things at the same time.
While we wanted to 'party all night' but slowly people started to yawn and in time even the bottles that had kept the night alive, got over. Eventually we all slept and resort was silent by around 2 am.
Day 2 started early for some of us and we were up and ready with all morning chorus done by 6 am (remember the shortage of bathrooms, so had to stagger the usage timing). The tea at this time was already in the dispenser and a couple of us filled our mugs and went and sat on the terrace to enjoy the early morning view and weather. The night before we had got to see a sky full of stars, something we miss in cities these days and also another unique aspect of this resort - fireflies.
Morning routine, a bit of yoga, breakfast and we were ready to check out. We had to reach our school, Kendriya Vidyalaya, NDA by around 11.30 am. NDA is a beautiful campus, but with restricted entry. As we drove towards the school building the childhood images of us in the school started to flood our minds. There are changes, but not so many that we could not recognize our school, classrooms, and even benches. The entry gate stood same as ever. As we all reached the school, we had a grand welcome by some of our friends who had stayed back and were today part of the school faculty and admin.
We spent lot of time going in our classrooms, assembly ground, practical lab rooms, library etc. They say the child in your never goes dies and it was truly reflected when we all spontaneously burst into re-enactment of our typical morning routine in the school - getting to the assembly ground in a single line, standing height wise, with one arm distance, a teacher scrutinizing and scolding students who weren't standing properly or were talking with each other, then announcement for the payer and we all sang a few lines, then thought for the day from a student of Raman house, pledge from student of another house, and final dispersal. The experience was overwhelming. Some more of our friends who could not make it to the native place the previous day had joined as at the school.
It was then time to hand over a small gift to the school, a token of our love and appreciation to the school for having shaped each one of our futures. The current school Principal was kind enough to come over (on a Sunday) to accept the gift. With all formalities done, and all of us feeling hungry we went to NDA cafe for a nice meal (and this time we had dessert).
Time to bid goodbye tends to get emotional, but for a change we were all kind of excited. The excitement for the fact that we had met and spent time with all those friends to whom we had wished farewell 28 years ago and yet, here, we stood again, and with a strong desire that we will now continue this event of reunion every year or two years.
Needless to say, special thanks for the friends who were the source of getting us all together, those who helped plan the event, those who helped execute it, extra special thanks to those who came from out-station only for this reunion, and many many special thanks to families and their children to have dared to come to this event, little realizing what strange truths and forgotten incidents they will unearth about their family members.
Overall a fantastic and wonderful event, a not to have missed opportunity, a reconnect with long lost friends and a timeless bond of just happy memories and friendship. I haven't taken any names, for the risk of missing out on anyone's name. Names don't matter, what matters was we reunited, and it was a great team effort.
There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.