When 20 guys, put up their hands to meet in Rajasthan, along with their spouses, after 43 years, they are on a blind date.
A whatsapp network of the 73 batch from NIT Rourkela, created by Nimai, got into a virtual relationship. Raju puts up an emphatic and assertive suggestion, guys lets meet. Great idea, where ? What about Rajasthan ?. Make it Rajasthan, we are here, comes a high spirited response from Lalbahadur and Sabhani, we will arrange every thing. An 8 day schedule from 22 Feb to 2 nd March with site seeing in Jaipur, Rothambore, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Ajmer is drawn out, with a bus at our disposal to cover 2000 kilo meters and accommodations booked at various locations, a humungous task taken up by two men Ray and Sabhani, at the end of the trip, we saw them as ‘Super men”.
Rajasthan, the regal Indian state is famous for its pink(Jaipur), blue (Jodhpur) and gold (Jaisalmer) cities and for the splendour of its forts and palaces, emerald, ruby and sapphire Belgian glass windows, dazzling paintings of past opulence.
For me Rajasthan was a platform for the meeting.
On 22 Feb, all of us reached Jaipur from different parts of the world, USA, Europe, North east west south and centre of India and met in hotel Redfox, some recognising, others guessing, hugging each other and the spouses waiting to be drawn into the party.
Four decades can bring quite a lot of changes in looks and behaviour. Heighty, weighty, shorty, baldy, cheeky, there were a great mix, I was meeting the ladies for the first time, and thought some of the guys have brought their daughters, sorry guys.
After all these years, the internet got us reconnected. In college, we were acquaintances, class mates, batch mates and friends with few.
It was fascinating to hear their experiences, all of them covering different paths and the conversation were mostly in hindi. There were the shudh hindis, bhojpuri, guju, marathi, rajasthani, punjabi and the Madrasi. Those days, any body from the southern part of India was a madrasi, no mallu, telugu, tamil or kannadiga. Within seconds , we were talking to each other in our college ishtyle, with all sophistication built until now, thrown to the winds. Sala…
The date begins with a dinner at barbeque nation, when we should be eating in a local restaurant, famous for its local, Rajasthani cuisine!!. Well, I for one should not be complainig, after going in search of a south indian restaurant, Sarvana bhavan, in Paris.
Should I go deep into the psychology of what made these senior citizens take up this adventure ? It will be beyond any logic, forget it.
Generally all relationships works on certain vested interest. It is a give and take. Many bonds appear strong between two people who can help each other and meet their needs. Once the need is over, the relationship starts fading to a finish. Look back into your life and relationships. Are they all at the peak through out ? If yes, congratulations.
Here, the senior citizens on the stage, who spend their time, energy for the get together has nothing to gain from each other except love and friend ship. Is there anything greater than that…
All these engineers went in various directions in their career joining the Army, airforce, industries, IT, construction, covering almost all disciplines. We have very little as common experience.
One guy who was in the Army (aviation branch), had a painful and serious problem with his leg just before the trip and was on the verge of giving it up when he lifted his spirit by the pleasure of meeting his mates, over the pain and made it. What’s the driving force ?
Guys from abroad set aside big chunk of their time from their tight vacation schedule for the meet. Why ?
And so the guys with their spouses from different parts of the country.
We know each other, though we do know each other, the forty plus years gap has made it so. What about the spouses ? I am sure it is not the Hindustani naari following the husband..great idea, include us, they must have shouted and volunteered. May be not safe to leave their husbands alone ? Why should boys have all the fun ? No, it must have been a strong inner desire to bond with people with no strings attached.
One of them asked her husband, which she in turn threw the question to us in general, “ if the ladies asked their husbands to come for their reunion, will they go “. Two of us jumped up and said “of course, we would, tell us where do you want us to come”. Her husband had said he is Ok for a day, not for a week. Gender , gender…
Nothing would have changed for any of us if we had continued our life without meeting each other. We did not exist for each other all these years, though we were there in the depth of each others thoughts, rarely accessed, since there was no need.
And today we have created a want to meet and be with each other when we do not need. In such situations only love can hold us together.
First two days it was measuring the others, by the third day it was impressions, though as we went along some of them changed for the better.
During the photo sessions, I narrated my cousin’s, who has an American wife, challenge. He said that when the camera flash is on, his wife disappears from the photo and without it he gets missed out of the picture. And we were a mix of fair and not so fair group.
Next day, before moving out of the hotel, to visit the Jain mandir, we were kept waiting in the bus by our team member who got up late and was on his own. We had 4 husbands in the gang without their wives, making the trip. For some reason or the other their wives did not make it.. Since it was the first day, many in the bus hid their annoyance. The singles in the group had an unfair advantage. Few ladies were concerned about their well being and were making sure, these guys do not get left behind.
I heard a murmur, If this is the way it is, we will come alone, the next time.
.After the mandir, we went for lunch at LMB. I was wondering what can be LMB, some kings name or Lord mountBatten, none of them, it is Lakshmi Mishtan Bhandar, very Indian. After lunch we visited , Amer fort. Some ladies escaped to do some shopping and some others got pushed to see the fort. The fort is outstanding, however the guide took us in and showed the kings rooms and his wardrobe. The tragedy was for the ladies with their minds on shopping, to listen to the gown size and the art work on them.
After two nights stay in Jaipur, we headed for Ranthambore national park.,a three hour drive, home for tigers, leopard , crocodiles, deer, samba, owls (we saw one). The driver of the bus was a confident, know all, especially the routes and geography, so we thought until we saw him making U-turns, reversing, on fishy routes. A few GPS’s were activated by the guys sitting in front and the driver would follow the one in his head. Well the driver may have a point, the gps were showing different routes. The clashes, arguments and ego were on display and was giving some hints of the future of what was coming. Some of us were sitting behind and enjoying the drama in front.
At Ranthambore, we get into an open Jeep and moved to the wild life sanctuary. The guide, stands up and looks around in an “I am the master of everything I survey” pose and starts preparing us to meet the tiger., with a shooo.. silence, in case you distract the animal. We saw some deers standing relaxed, when my friend said look at them, will they be sanding like this, if there is a tiger nearby ? Good point, my friend, looks like we aint seeing no tiger. From there onwards, I got fascinated by the guide, the actor. He was being dramatic and convincing enough to manifest a tiger, looking around with his roving eyes, a la pink panther,( tadang, tadang, tadang, tadang,) and all of a sudden fixes his gaze on to some point and we see an owl. The roads were bumpy, any one with any back problem, the ride must have set them right.
Next morning, when we were about to leave for Jodhpur, we saw more open jeeps full of people, wrapped in blankets(the early morning chill), heading for the same destination and I could not help thinking “poor suckers”.
The man of the day, the guide.
One lady was not comfortable with hindi language and when all others could fire at full speed, she had to smile and shake her head most of the time, without a clue of whats being said. When one friend asked her for her lovely hat to pose for a picture, she kept shaking her head with hanh, hanh, acha, acha and no hat. Another joke on her is she was always looking for her husband, when he would be sitting with his friends out of sight..The next day in the bus , the husband made an announcement, “ladies and gentlemen, husbands and wives cannot sit together, I cant take the firing everyday”.
From Rohthambore, to Jodhpur to Jaisalmer to Ajmer and back to Jaipur, all in the bus. The journey continued with all the confusions and was always late for lunch, imagine thirty people walking into the dabba with no reservation after 3, 3:30, 4.o’clock. Well by that time, people started to gell with others well , and came into their own.
The oneness among the members had set in, It was seen, the way some team members would walk into the kitchen and join the stewards to serve lunch for others.
The longer the bus journey, better the fun and bonding. The first day, I checked with every one whether anyone knows to play harmonica. No body. I felt safe to play a few tunes of old songs on my mouth organ. They all clapped, after 4 songs, the applauses became feeble and nobody heard the 5th one and I stopped. Next day, somebody said to me, bajao (I doubt whether he meant it). This time it just took 2 tunes, before somebody told the driver gana bajao, play the songs in his music system. After the third day, I had a feeling, people were tensed, whether I will start playing the mouth organ, I did not and every body were relaxed.
Then there was this guy in our team, who collected all our signatures and started analysing our characters. Palmistry, hand writing analysis, astrology, any of these is a great tool to get people attracted. Every body was hearing what they wanted to hear from him about themselves, he managed to knit them all together with this skill. We asked his wife, whether he took her signature and what were his comments. She said “yes, he did take my signature and said my husband is smart, loving etc etc “. A selfie.
I was carrying a flashback book which had picture s with comments of our batch mates. This helped our spouses to see our looks, then and now. There was only one girl student in our batch. One friend showed the ladies, her photo and told them, “see your competition”. Some of them remarked, “lucky girl, got away”.
Some parents were being monitored by their children, worrying over them. ‘”Please, be careful, don’t walk too much, take the lift, take your medicines, did you eat the brown tablet before lunch.”..
We started playing anthakshiri, one team sings two lines of a song and the other team has to pick a song beginning with the letter which was at the end of the last song. Confused ?
We had two teams, the left side and the right side of those in the bus. Half way, the competitive spirit was gone, every one became one, started singing together.
During the riot in the bus, our leader got a call in his cell phone, asking him where he is, he said “in a bus”. “what are you doing with kids”. He had to tell his friend, “they are not kids, they are my batch mates, senior citizens…”
We thought, all of us are senior citizen in the group. No. There is a lady who is not a senior and to boot, she has a teenage (16 years, I think) grand son. When I saw her husband, a straight faced joker and a good singer, an interesting incident came to my mind. In the first year, in a hydraulics class, the lecturer asked “ is it possible for this pump (he had drawn some figure on the board) to pump oil to that height. ?” This husband, that time he was not married, stands up and says, it is possible. “How” asks the master. With a straight face he replies “Because nothing is impossible”. You can take this story from here, wherever you want, I don’t remember anything further..
The visit to sand dunes at Jaisalmer, in jeeps driven on sandy, zig zag, terrain with surprise steep gradients, by skilled teenage looking youngsters, were breath taking. We are grateful for getting our breath back. The camel ride and an evening of beautiful dance by the lovely kid, papaya shruthi to the tune of Rajasthani songs and music was the best of the lot. And then our hearts with pleasure fills and danced with papaya and her team.(reminded you of William wordsworth ?). All of us danced including the Aviation guy with his painful leg.
Looking back, the bus was the best venue to be in, we were under the same roof for long hours, bonding us, people of different temperament, experiences into a single unit, from acquaintance to friends for life. The only common factor was our alma mater.
All is well that ends well, thanks to the minds, the bodies withstood all the jerks and bumps of an eight day journey.
Next year, the meeting is in Kerala, guess who is the coordinating.?