My real life heroes: 60 going on 17
For the past couple of months, I have been added to a growing Whatsapp group of school friends - all of whom I haven't seen since we finished school in 1973 (yes I am that old). It was quite strange at first and has become increasingly addictive. Its also unusual that we use this platform to reach out and that seems to unite geeks like me with a lot of my technophobe school friends - most of them shudder at the thought of Facebook though some are on it as well. It's one thing to hide behind texts but quite another to meet in person. 40+ years is a long time. Life has a way of changing people.
So I bit the bullet and met my friends. In Mumbai for a weekend. After 42+ years. Ah yes. I am that brave. We all are. But we were just as excited to catch up.
Being on the group chat, we swung between being our current age to being the teenagers we used to be. Some of them had met already in Delhi and we'd seen the updates on the group chat. As well as photographs. And videos. Lots of news to catch up on. And two days to do it in. I needn't have worried.
Our friend Kawaljit was the local host and would not hear of any of us spending any money. After a few attempts, it seemed a bit churlish to persist. So we all gave in. And he did a bang up job - from arranging pick up at the airport to transport to his friend's farm on the first day to dinner that evening to drop off at the airport the next day.
It was an emotional roller coaster. From greeting them at the domestic airport - I arrived at the crack of dawn and opted to meet the others coming in from Delhi and Bangalore so we could travel together to the hotel apartments (very impressive and reasonable - not sure about the free breakfast) about 10-15 mins away from the airport. There was much squealing and hugging at the airport - rather silly teenage behaviour from a bunch of middle aged folks - but we didn't care. There was time enough to catch up on stuff first we needed to meet all the others. We reached the apartment and there were some of the others that had driven in from neighbouring Pune, and some that had come in the previous evening including a surprise addition to the party - Swapan, who had been rather quiet about joining us in Mumbai. There was even more squealing and hugging and loud conversation at the apartment.
Over tea and coffee, we did some catching up, some reminiscing, some silly jokes. The first day was just about connecting and getting to grips with the fact that we had managed to get back in touch after such a long time and the fact that we were all different and yet the same. While we did silly things like pull each other's leg or play "antakshari" (literally meaning last letter) with songs from our childhood (bringing back even more nostalgia), I discovered what amazingly strong and resilient people I had gone to school with. We finished the first day quite exhausted with a lovely dinner at one of Kawaljit's favourite restaurants.
The next day we opted to just stay in at Kawaljit's apartment and really just talk. No distractions. And it was wonderful. Each one of us shared an experience that we thought was life changing. There were no inhibitions. Just plain sharing. Highs and lows. There was awe and respect at the diverse experiences, at the way that each one of us had faced adversity and come out stronger without losing our sense of fair play or humour. I discovered that we had as much in common in our values as we were different in our experiences and in who we had become over time.
I am so glad that I went. I have found some amazing heroes from my childhood. Age, for all of us, is just another number.
Can't wait for the next reunion. And so the countdown begins.