Friday, May 9, 2014

How I hunted old classmates

 After a small shopping stint in the market in 1996 at Bombay Anand Bhavan Stores, I and my wife were coming out to the road.  In the sparse moving crowd a familiar face drew my attention.  It looked like the face that was in the same class as me from Std. 1 to Std. 7 at Christ the King Convent [CKC].  So I mustered courage, approached and stopped her as my wife watched with awe!   With a racing heart, but not shivering, I asked "Are you Sujaya?"  To my delight the reply was "Yes." "Are you not Diwakar?" she recalled!  "Yes, almost that, but Dinakar, to be precise." I replied.  After an exchange of a few formal pleasantries and a couple of old school memories we went our ways.  It did not occur to me to take her address or ask about a phone [not owned by all then]. None in our class can forget her as she was the topper almost throughout.  One month later I was in Bangalore's N.R.Mohalla vegetable market near my relative's house that evening.  The same Sujaya was there again!   “You here?” she asked.  "Come let us go to our house." inviting me and my wife.  She had married and moved to Bangalore. She had finished her shopping and we had visited our relative.  Her house was close by. This time I had the presence of mind to take her address before we left.

The last I had dared to approach this topper, was for an autograph [I lost the book in 1973] when I said goodbye to CKC and many chums in 1970, ending a most memorable association with that fine school.

The Sujaya encounter was a real shot in the arm, unwitting at that time, for my endeavour to grow wings - to hunt and re-group as many of the scattered classmates.  It was an urge that emerged from within, unplanned.

Schooldays are in several ways the best because memories are sweetest, golden and stay evergreen.  Some of our best chums come from those kindergarten and primary school days.  CKC, at that time admitted both boys and girls but the boys had to move out after Std. 7 while girls could continue till 10th.  We totaled 80-85.  Chums got separated, lost touch and gradually their whereabouts became a mystery, with no hope of meeting again.  Those of us whose houses were close to each other or those who managed to stay in touch, were some exceptions, though very few.
||These are group pictures from 1963-64. Click on images to enlarge.||

Another 'booster shot in the arm' came in the form of Meera, at a Bonsai show a year later, in 1997. Meera's house and mine were only 200 metres apart but we never spoke, despite being in the same class for 7 years and even sitting on the same bench in some class. I also used to go to her house shyly to ask for notes when I missed a class at times.  Many years later even if we crossed on the street or when I saw her playing with her little son in the Manuvana Park, I would not talk. The school-time shyness was being carried forward, a trademark trait!

It was ridiculous of Meera asking me if I was me!! But I was now old enough to understand it was only to begin a conversation and I could see her excitement.  My meeting Sujaya earlier had given me enough boldness to speak to Meera now, something that I never did in my schooldays.  A few pleasantries were exchanged.  She was delighted when I told that I was also in touch with a few old chums.  Later in my hunting endeavours it was Meera who was to help me in giving important clues to locate a few more of our classmates.

But where were they?  How do I locate them?  Will they remember me?  Some had left midway to different schools, some were abroad or in other places after their degree / marriage, some were in Mysore and a few were dead too, among the 80-85.  It was a big challenge, but I was to be relentless, with no outside pressure!  The serious hunting endeavour began somewhere in 1999-2000 and actively lasted for about 8-10 years.

Meera too showed great interest in re-grouping, which was good and she too was keen in re-establishing the old connection even though boys and girls did not interact much in those years. CKC was a reason now to do that.  The advantage with Meera was her 'vantage point', which is her husband's Eye Clinic cum spectacle shop on Sayyaji Rao Road.  She had told me that a few from CKC were visiting her shop as patients or just because she was there, being in the heart of the city.  The importance of collecting addresses or telephone numbers [if any] were not realized until our endeavour began.

One day she called and wanted me to come to her shop immediately to meet a guest.  I rushed in curiosity. There was our one-time class monitor whom we dreaded, Rupa!  The expression of delight on seeing each other after so many years can never be expressed in words!  Now I was old and bold enough to make eye contact with them!  Rupa finding Meera there was also just by accident, adding to the thrill!  I collected Rupa's contact details before she left [for Bangalore].  We all remember each other because we were together for 7 years and then there was a gap of more than 20 years having lost hopes of tracing them back.

Another chum Zakir Hussain and I continued to write postcards and letters even after he joined a different school for 8th and persisted even after he left for his degree in Mangalore and later to earn abroad. He remains the only one with whom I did keep continuous contact and also kept meeting whenever he visited Mysore.

I was traveling in a night train to Chennai with our office cricket team and we were preparing to sleep on our berths. A young man in the side berth opposite to mine was looking at me in long stares.  He was impatient.  "Are you not Dinakar?" he asked.  I was delighted. Now I could recognize this fellow, the same who was very timid, cried at trivials and absented from school very often.  He was Madhukar [Kulkarni]. And he was happy when I recognized him.  We were together till 10th, having continued from CKC.  At that time, it had been 17-18 years since we had seen last and never imagined meeting again. He was working in Chennai.  After a few years I wanted to meet him in his office through his visiting card address.  When I went there, I was told he had left.  So I lost him again. 

In a separate post I will briefly touch up about how I hunted the others and some came to me after a long gap, because each one has a little story.  My list steadily grew to 45 in ten years and got slowly stagnated.  And the privilege of meeting all of them at least once in this hunting period is mine. Some of us have since been in regular contact. 

When other classmates meet, they remember me for this endeavour which makes this exercise a most satisfying one. This reunion must last forever!  

I could see hints of that wish during the School's First [and only so far] Alumni Meet in 2011. 

Being with old teachers who amazingly recalled the names after 40 years was an absolute thrill! Aren't they gifted?

Many were meeting after 35-40 years, but I had met them before in the course of my endeavour. 

This building is now gone, so is that one above in the full group image. 

 This was where It was here that I stepped in to CKC - I Std. 'A'.  The building itself is history now. On the right is a page from our Science Book of that class! 

This is the last fee receipt.

So much for this post.

1 comment:

Kumar Sharma said...

Dinker! I can imagine how it all went. I too am in parallel situation. Nirmala Convent 1962-'69 to me is what CKC was to you in those years described. Other things about shyness and coming across known class mates and passing by, without even so much as a smile, has been common too. Now, I too am old and bold - but I am unable to demonstrate, as I do not come across any such dames. We have not had such a re-union, ever. Just about 20 'boys' & 3 girls were able to meet in a separate non-school-premises Meet on 19th Jan at Nadabrahma Hall. Another is in the offing - we await our class mate M. R. Lakshman to organise after fixing a mutually conveninet date to most people. Otherwise, we are just geting in touch over phone and meeting in the marriages of the children of our class mates, nowadays. Good post and am able to fully relate to whatever you have written 100%. I could not identify you in the B & W group photo, having known you only of late!