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We Danced Slowly; We Didn't Want A Heart Attack

January 01, 2024 13:51 IST

Half a century after he left school, A Ganesh Nadar attends a school reunion.

Illustration: Dominic Xavier/

In August they announced the school reunion. I had passed out of the Barnes School, Deolali, in 1974, but gosh was I excited about meeting my schoolmates at the reunion, which was scheduled from November 23 to 26.

I felt a glow in my heart once I had booked my tickets. I had to fly in from Chennai and decided that I would not stay in Mumbai before leaving for school.

Time flew except the week before the reunion, which seemed to drag on for longer than usual. It was raining heavily in Chennai and I prayed that my flight would not be postponed because of the weather.

I had a 7 am flight to catch and so I rose at 3.30 am. Actually, I hadn't slept the whole night so I leapt out of bed and switched off the alarm before it rang.

At the airport sitting quietly by himself was the greatest cricketer India has produced, the one and only Kapil Dev. I requested him for a selfie and he obliged reluctantly. This led to a swarm of people asking for selfies and I could see why the great man had been hesitant.

I am a Facebook buff -- meaning I record every highlight in my life on Zuckerberg's invention -- Kapil Dev had made my day and I hadn't even reached Barnes school.

The black and yellow Mumbai cab took me swiftly from the airport to Dadar where there is a stand for the Mumbai Nashik cab service. Karim Merchant, my school buddy, was waiting for me at the stand. My regular cabbie Sajjid was also waiting for me as I had called ahead.

We set off at around 10.30 am. The traffic was dense till Bhiwandi naka, but after that we traveled swiftly. By 3 pm we were at the entrance of the Barnes School and Junior College.

As we drove in, memories flashed of years gone by. On the left was Haig Brown where the girls' dormitories used to be, on our right was Lloyd block where the boys stayed till the fifth standard. The black stone buildings were totems of our youth.

Then came Evans Hall where we had our assembly, socials, debates, drama and our meals. We also passed a Patton tank, a helicopter and a MIG-21 gifted by Barnicles who had retired from the armed forces.

We reached Spence block where we would be staying, a little ahead was Candy block where we stayed 50 years ago.

Akbar, Aziz had arrived before us. They were ten years our junior and greeted us with enthusiasm. We had become friends at reunions past. Barnicles continued to arrive. Shapoor Izadiyar had come all the way from the United States so also Fida Hussain Colabawala who runs an Indian store, Mayuri, in Seattle.

Shapoor attends every reunion, but it was Fida's first visit since he left the school in 1966. He greeted me with familiarity as we had already chatted on Facebook. Turns out three of my nephews -- techies all -- are regular customers at his store in Seattle.

A Ganesh Nadar: Life Is Beautiful

We had to go to Evans Hall for dinner which was a change; usually on the first day we ate dinner in our dormitory. Dinner was rice, chicken, some vegetable curry and a sweet dish. A far cry from the dry bread, mutton curry without mutton we used to get in our time.

Deolali was colder than Chennai or Mumbai, but not as cold as we had come prepared for.

The first event the next day was a cricket match between current students and the ex- students. The ex-students couldn't quite match up to the young boys and were all out for 43 runs.

I was the commentator and laced the commentary with a humour and barbs at my friends around. The scorer was a student, beside him was a mischievous student who told me, "We can make this score in five overs, we want to bat ten overs, so let us inflate the figures." I happily agreed.

The ex-students' score was announced as 85. Both the ex-students and the current students were surprised, but no one objected.

The students surpassed the actual total in five overs and the inflated total in ten overs. Tabish Mansuri, who captained the ex-students team, bowled very well to take five wickets.

The students got a certificate for winning the match and Tabish got a certificate for best bowler of the day.

Then there was a race for the ex-student girls where they had to race with a lemon on a spoon held in their mouths. Then there was a three legged race for both boys and girl ex-students. Finally, there was a race where you ran as a couple with a football held between your stomachs. These were rightly called silly games.

In the night was a social for students and ex-students. The DJ was Gaurav Siyal, an ex- student. In the good old days we had songs, but now he was playing videos. The first one had Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone dancing vigorously. The students followed, but the ex- students danced slowly. None of us wanted a heart attack.

Illustration: Dominic Xavier/

Saturday we had a 'back to school' dress code so all the ex students wore navy blue pants, white shirts, the school tie and black shoes. The brave among them wore half pants. Similarly, the girls were dressed in navy blue skirts, white shirts, white socks, black shoes and their hair was tied in twin pig tales.

We had a football match which the students won, then a basketball match which the students won again. Then there was a session where the ex-students advised students on career options.

We had three sessions -- one by a businessman, one by a DJ on a career in music. I took a class on journalism and how to write a book (as Rediff Readers know, I have written two books, Village Voices, and another one on the Barnes School, The School On The Hill).

We then had an award ceremony where the ex-students presented cheques and certificates to the teachers who had secured the best results in public exams. A couple of ex-students also got certificates for success in their lives.

Usha Kiran Waje was awarded for winning gold medals in the masters swimming competition in the 70 plus category. Shapoor Izadiyar was awarded for coaching Iran's national vricket team.

Then, it was time to leave and also to count the days till the next reunion.