Last weekend I made a visit to Bombay for the first time in two years, to attend a high school friend’s tenth wedding anniversary. A fair number of alumni from Rishi Valley School (which is in Andhra Pradesh) live in Bombay, and a few of us were coming from out of town to use the occasion as a sort of mini-reunion.
The first thing I’d like to say is that Bombay taxi drivers are great fun to chat with. Not one of them seems to be from Bombay, and they have a lot to say about Raj Thackeray, but they’re really much more interested in why you aren’t married.
“But what will you do in thirty years’ time?” one of them wanted to know.
“And you like being married, do you?” I asked. He conceded that it was a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea and dropped me off at the party at Churchgate.
The best thing about class reunions is the certain knowledge that no matter how much everyone has evolved, we will all immediately regress to our high school personas and express love as we used to, viz., “Eh! Bastard.”
The next best thing about a class reunion is that you can now drink and eat non-vegetarian food together without getting expelled—Rishi Valley was strictly vegetarian and teetotalling. We have travelled a great distance from sneaking a dried-out chicken leg, flat beer and cigarette on the hostel roof in the dead of night, to chucking flavoured martinis down our gullets while stuffing our faces with meat and dancing badly to ‘The Final Countdown’. You cannot possibly appreciate this distance if you didn’t go to a Krishnamurti Foundation India (KFI) school, but take my word for it.
Sadly, some of us have travelled an equal but opposite distance from staying up all night to hitting the sack at 10pm, and we’re all a lot fatter, but we’re not going to talk about that anymore.
There’s something Faustian about going to boarding school. No matter how much the paths of your lives have diverged, no matter how little you now have in common, no matter how much you wish so-and-so hadn’t ended up with such-and-such partner, you are bound for life to boarding school classmates in a way you aren’t to day school classmates. You might be a professor of atomic science, or the prince of a sesame seed empire, or a renowned theatre personality, or the founder of a world conquering design firm, or a partner at your own law firm, but your soul belongs to School and its atavistic call, in a way that it doesn’t to college or work.
Unless you went to The Doon School, in which case you never had a soul anyway, or The Lawrence School, Sanawar, in which case you’ve never heard the word ‘atavistic’. All this is because you ate chicken and drank while in school.
Anyway, the atavistic call of boarding school his means that when a critical number of people decide it’s time to get together, You Go. When someone is In Town, you All Meet. This is not a complaint. You cannot imagine how wonderful it is to greet people by saying “Eh! Bastard.”
So the reunion was great fun, and it was followed by further revelry at a pleasant joint called The Dome, and after that some lame people—who shall remain nameless—crawled home at 10pm, while everyone else partied on until 3am.
Now, back in my nineteen-years-on adult life, I’m back to reality. And that’s definitely the very best thing about school reunions: that they remind you of a time when everything you looked at was rose-tinted.