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A magical way of turning back time

Last updated on: March 22, 2013 14:30 IST

A magical way of turning back time

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Abhijit Masih

No matter how old or successful you become, meeting your school friends has a magical way of turning back time, says Abhijit Masih, who spent 10 years as a boarding school student at La Martiniere College, Lucknow.

The greatest achievement for any student would be to be remembered and recognised by his school teachers, even after 20 years.

For this to happen, you either have to be academically strong or academically challenged. I can't lay claim to the former. But the fact that I was a boarding school student may have helped – after all, they had all my varied escapades to keep their memories refreshed.

Twenty years has done nothing to wipe out the memories of school, of the teachers, of the little or major incidents that have been part of our growing years.

When the class of 1993 met on March 1, 2013, many of the boys were meeting each other for the first time after leaving school. Apart from the initial few seconds taken to place the fattened or balding face to the name, everything was exactly the same as it had been 20 years ago.

We picked up from where we had left off on the last day of school, when we had painted graffiti on our school uniforms.

The only difference -- there was no longer a divide between the bullies and the docile.

The beauty of meeting school mates -- I say mates because they might not even be your close friends -- is that they meet you as the guy who was in class with them and not because of your current social standing.

During the course of the three-day reunion, seldom was I asked about my work. They even gave me an award for having the most exciting job, without knowing exactly what I do. That's the kind of bond you build when you study in an institution that imparts not just bookish knowledge, but knowledge about life as a whole.


Photographs: Courtesy Abhijit Masih
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The maximum number of years that I have stayed in any one place is Lucknow, at my boarding school.

So when the current principal, Mr Carlyle McFarland, began his speech at the reunion dinner with the words, "I welcome you back to your home," it tugged many emotional chords.

I was in Lucknow for a little over two days for the reunion and most of my time was spent at the school. In fact, my mate David, who is now an educationist himself, and I went straight to school from the airport, even before I checked into my hotel.

For 10 years, this was our home for almost 10 months of the year. We could run the corridors, the steps, the roads, with blindfolds on. In fact, we can still do it. For those of us who were there for the reunion, each and every nook and corner of the school was tinged with nostalgia.

There are a lot of changes, but they are all for the better.

You can't compare the Mart of today to that of 20 years ago. We did not have access to the Internet, television, cell phones and recreation rooms then. We kept ourselves busy with innovative versions of hand cricket, kick the can, seven tiles, French cricket, etc.


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A lot has changed, but the traditions and legacy that is evident in a Martinian remains.

You can feel it when you see the current crop of students following the same routine that has been followed here for decades. You feel a sense of pride when you speak to them and witness the confidence in their voice.

And the flame still burns, with the children of some of the batchmates also getting admission into the alma mater.

Amit Ghai owes everyone a treat as his son made it to the list this year.

Over the years, a few memories were bound to fade. But they are instantly rekindled in a reunion such as this one.

Before I decided to attend the reunion, I knew I wanted to go back to school; even more, I wanted to know the list of people who were likely to attend to see if it included my close friends.

Almost everyone I wanted to meet was there save Richard McNamara, who passed away a few years ago. We held a minute's silence in his memory; I know he was there with us.


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I was also mighty glad that most of the teachers, who taught us, took the time to attend the reunion.

We did miss a few like Mr Yooshing, Mr Elton D'Souza and Mr Trevor Savaille. The years we spent in the Mart, and the stories thereafter, are incomplete without them.

Amongst the ones that made it, I was happiest to meet Ma'am Siddiqui, my class teacher in Class 3, way back in 1983.

The itinerary communicated earlier was a stag night at a club in Gomti Nagar on the first night, followed by a formal dinner with family and teachers on the school lawns the next day. We tested our football skills on the morning of the third day, followed by brunch at the school canteen.

Speaking of the canteen, I still have to taste a better bun kabab than the ones made at Nadeembhai's canteen in La Martiniere.

The menu laid out for us after the football match was exactly the same as the one that was available to us when we were in school. And it tasted just the same!

Incidentally, Nadeembhai is an old boy too; he graduated from school a few years before we did.


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The football match was hilarious, with guys struggling to fit into T-shirts and shorts that were two sizes too small. Watching overweight guys trying to prove they still got game was absolute fun, though there were a few surprisingly fit guys as well. And there were some who actually managed a few fluke goals!

Everyone considers the school years as the best period of their lives, where you are constantly surrounded by friends... friends who will remain closest to you no matter how many more you make in the course of your life. These are the guys you grew up with, playing, bunking, scaling the school building, watching back-to-back movies in Hazratgunj, swimming in the Gomti river... the list is endless.

Once you graduate, you tend to lose touch with even your closest friends; no amount of Facebook time and digital connectivity can bridge the distance.

To all the people out there who get an opportunity to attend a reunion, I would advise you to drop everything no matter how important and return to your younger years.

'Cause no matter how old or successful you become, meeting your school friends has a magical way of turning you into that young school boy once again.

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