There are some dear friends in my life. Friends who are great company, supportive and funny. They listen to my banter and laugh at the right moments, listen to the same stories with interest and not a tiny whiff of ” I have heard this one x times”. These dear friends complete my life and come somewhere on the top of my gratitude list.
However, talk about reunions to some of these dear friends and I can see their almost-physical recoil from the idea. Time has flown past, life has moved onto new chapters, class mates and people have changed. Reunions become a pathetic gathering of ageing people, trying hard to re-live their youth–talking about the same old teachers, guffawing over sic jokes, showing off their success to others, and giving their long-suffering spouses a tough evening to smile through. Such friends prefer to stay in touch with just their close friends of school/college and studiously avoid any gathering which can be termed a reunion.
I wish I could wave a wand at these dear friends, make them invisible, and take them along to the reunions I attend . I wish they could experience the companionship and camaraderie which remains inspite of passing years … I wish they could see the respect, acceptance and celebration of individual quirky behavior… I wish everyone could have the experience of connecting and enjoying old friendships,of seeing bonds diverge and converge, yet growing stronger and deeper. It doesn’t happen with every classmate or old friend, but the depth and strength between some of these friends cannot be acquired overnight or ordered online .
This month, in Pune, I got a chance to attend two lovely reunions of girlfriends from different decades.
School friends who came together after 4 decades.
Medical college gals who have been in touch over the past 3 decades and more. I come from that amazing college with a gender ratio which benefits women all the way…20 girls and 100 boys made up a batch in AFMC, and though some of those boys have become the much-appreciated male support system of my life, its the batch girls who share that magic bond. We just have to meet and the years just melt away. Our quirks, our quips, our questions…they remain insanely unchanged! We are mothers and grandmothers, but put us together in a room, pass some punch around, and its like being back in that girls hostel overlooking the Pune racecourse.
This year, I met my school mates for the first time, after 40 years. 25 amazing women gathered in this lovely home of the most remembered girl of our class, and affectionate interest just flowed around the room. Each one of us had embarked on different journeys, careers, ambitions…each one of us had gained success, lost dreams and aspirations, made peace with their life-situation. And each one of us was more keen to hear about what the others had been doing for 40 years. Animated conversations–in groups and in pairs, were sprinkled all over the house. Affectionate memories of each other were shared…and pooh-poohed too! Most of us had such low self-esteem when in school uniform..Life had polished us with knocks and kudos, but the childhood memories of gauche confidence had not been forgotten.
I am still thinking about that wonderful day of 13th December. I am still savoring the pleasure of remembering names and recounting school pranks, of singing choir songs, of finally sharing my admiration with the girls whom I idolized, and realizing that the admiration is reciprocated and there is a lot of affection thrown in too. Each one of us has walked different paths in life, career choices and love…but we had all started in those corridors of our school.
My college mates were my partners in the race to adulthood, career and maturity. We were already in the medical school pack, we had already proved a ( tiny) point about ourselves and the first jump into life had been a good one. We met when we had begun to pat ourselves about gaining admission in a premier college. 9 semesters of training, attending clinics and ward rounds, studying and studying the years away, making coffee and waking each other at odd hours of the day and night..it had bonded us for life. We shared success in our clinical careers, and everything else followed.
I meet my medical college mates, men and women, whenever I can. They are an integral part of my life. My daughters know their crazy pet names, and they also know that they can turn to anyone of them, when in trouble anywhere in the world. We meet in small groups and large gatherings and over Whatsap. In an emergency, they are the ones who will drop everything and come to help/support/give resources. In this big wide cold world, their presence is a warm oven in my hearth.
Reunions, I believe, are the fixer in the adhesive duo which makes unbreakable bonds. A simple meal together, a riotous evening of drinks and food, a long walk in hospital corridors, an online chat, a well detailed planned outing…they are all reunions. They are all opportunities to stay connected, to remain feeling part of a big family and to be grateful.