“hello, this is col Tripathy”
“yes, sir “
“have you reached Mumbai”
“yes, I am at Mumbai central station”
“Ok, shall give you a call once I am there”
Well this was the gist of a conversation with a person whom I will be meeting after 40 years. We were class mates at REC Rourkela (today, its NIT). The call was at 11 o’clock in the morning and we were to travel to Vadodara by the 2.20 double decker train, for Rakesh’s daughter’s wedding. The wait began, mind traveling all the way back, trying hard to recall, any special moments. Only a smiling face of a thin and straight personality appeared on the memory screen. Another friend Subhash will be boarding at Borivili and we are all going to be in different compartments.
At 1.30, the call comes,
” where are you ” .
“I am in front of coach, C3”
“So am I, and I cant see you”
As usual, in such meetings, we had our backs facing each other while talking and searching. I knew he will not be able to recognise me and I have to do it. I turned, there he was, the 40 years in between has not changed his profile much except for a few grey hair. I have changed, more flesh, than those skinny skinny days. After about an hours update of each other’s 40 long years, we went to our respective seats and Subhash, another friend, boards at Borivili to meet at vadodara. The other ten names from our batch expected to be at the wedding, are all forty year gappers for me.
Unlike today, those were the days and communication was an effort. Snail mails and expensive trunk calls were solid deterrents and it was very easy to fade away from each others lives. The ones who may stick together are generally the ones who gets a job in the same company or town or thick friends during the college days. And again, all class mates are not friends, there are about 200 of them in a batch, more of acquaintances, we may know each other, interacted on different occasions.
Back to vadodara, earlier known as Baroda and three of us are in a guest house, rest of them expected to turn up the next day.
Next day, meeting each one of them brings in the same excitement and we start filling up the gaps with updates between the irresponsible college days and the responsible free day, thats today. All of them have retired from active services with their children out of their orbit and on their own.
It was fascinating to hear their experiences, all of them covering different paths and the conversataion were mostly in hindi. There were the shudh hindis, bhojpuri, guju, marathi, rajasthani, punjabi and I, the Madrasi. Those days, any body from the southern part of India was a madrasi, no mallu, telugu, tamil or kannadiga.
For me during all the recalls of the college days during our conversation, it is the colonel’s story that stood out. His words
” First time I am meeting menon is in front of the hostel notice board. Since I had studied in hindi medium school, my english was not good. I stood in front of the notice board and read it aloud as notyce board. Menon gave a big laugh and I got very angry and shouted at him and menon, like all gentle south indians, quietly walked away”.
Sorry Col Tripathy, I do not recall this at all. Knowing me, I must have laughed at the joke and your reaction is an outcome of your inner thought. Today, the colonel is a very good narrator, equally good in English and hindi, very disciplined, makes very good tea and I had the privilege of having them on all three days, we were together.
It was wonderful meeting, Rakesh Singh father of the bride, Subhash Mathurvaishya, Lal bahadur, Kamta singh, Bhagat, Nitish bhartiya Anil singh, Sood, and the fire brand Dinesh Patel.
Now we are friends for the rest of our lives