The class of '69

right in the middle

It was alumni meet with a difference. The participants were all past 60. On Feb 6, the students of BA (English) batch of 1969 from NSS College, Pandalam, a hallowed place associated with Lord Aiyappa, gathered for a reunion.

The venue was the conference hall of a hotel at Ernakulam. It was a motley group of retired academics, government officials, professionals and a couple of entrepreneurs. Some of us were coming face to face after 41 summers. Quite a few were unrecognisable as ravages of time had taken their toll. From a class of 37, five have departed. Nineteen of us along with the spouses were present on the occasion.

Mostly hailing from lower middle class rural households, as students we had modest dreams with certain level of idealism. Campus politics in Kerala was yet to take a violent form. The majority opted for post-graduation and got scattered all over India. Our classroom under the clock tower offered a panoramic view of the stadium and the main road. With cool breeze wafting in the afternoons we often found it difficult to ward off sleep. The vast open terrace was the backdrop of our shenanigans. At a time when contacts between the sexes were minimal on the campus two of our classmates embarked on an amorous adventure leading to wedlock. The couple remained the star attraction of the day.

Time is a great leveller. For five hours we forgot our age and weariness of life and tried our best to rewind the campus life though the hotel was no match for the serene ambience of the college. Overcoming the initial hesitation we relived many wonderful memories of those days. From the distance of time we now see our teachers and campus events in a different light. We all became adolescents again. There were flashes of youthful exuberance. The astonishing transformation of glamour girls as grannies gleefully talking of their mischievous grandchildren, lanky boys turning into portly grandpas, the most reticent becoming more eloquent than the most boisterous in the class were sights to relish.

We never had a clue that a loner and the epitome of quietness in our midst would blossom into a novelist in Malayalam. Married into an orthodox family when she was barely 17, she doggedly pursued her studies and career against all odds. Bitter lessons of life became fertile ground for her creative genius to take wings. There was another classmate still nursing her bruised brain years after venturing out on a day of bundh.

Frank exchanges peppered with youthful banter delighted us all and helped to revive the long-lost bond. By hindsight we feel the time was inadequate to catch up with the years of camaraderie. Everyone departed with a heavy heart. Hats off to my friends who had toiled hard to make the day memorable.

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