25 years since that fateful day…….
25 years of togetherness, 25 years of distance. 25 years of laughter, 25 years of tears. 25 years of love, 25 years of pain.
25 years of friendship……
25 years ago, the batch of 1991 entered the famed hallowed corridors of Seth Gordhandas Sunderdas Medical College. All of 17, some 180 bright young minds stood, looking forward to a glittering, sparkling life as doctors. 5.5 years later, they all stood in MLT, solemnly but very proudly taking the Hippocratic oath, to then follow their own individual paths separately, some never to meet again.
Fast forward to 2016 in Goa. 25 years since that fateful day of entering the not so glamorous career, 83 friends met to remember those 5.5 years and fill one another in on the last 20 years. And what a glorious 2 days. No family, no commitments, no patients. 2 full days only for those friends who had been with each other through thick and thin, through rain and shine, through happiness and heartbreak. 2 full days of laughter, tears, dressing up, dancing, running about, but most of all, talking and talking. Non stop.
I never wanted to go. When I first heard of it. I thought it was crazy to leave family and work and spend time with people I wasn’t really close to. I thought that anyways, I regularly met those who mattered. I’m so glad I changed my mind. It was such a great thing that the UK gang came down, which was truly my biggest reason for going. And yes, they were a very important reason indeed. But the enjoyment was the collateral damage. Meeting those who I hadn’t even spoken to in the last 20 years or known what they had specialized in. Spending loads of time with those who I could easily meet but never took a day off from work or family commitments to be with. Most of all, discovering my own self as I spilled out my feelings, my hopes, my dreams to “those who mattered”, sometimes not needing to even speak to be understood.
How much was the excitement in the air! Splashing over us in waves! The first wave at the airport, the next in the coach and then at the hotel. Maybe it was good that we had the hugs and squeals to divide into batches. ……otherwise it might have been too much pressure on the heart! The crazy heavy rains, the dull overcast skies and traffic jams of Mumbai and the almost missed (even missed flights for some) simply added to the mysticism. No downpour was going to stop this meeting!
Almost as though God himself understood the mood of the moment, He blessed Goa with clear blue skies and smiled through the clouds with the pattering of occasional rain. Did He understand the happiness in our hearts? Did He feel our unshed tears and spray them down instead so that we could keep smiling? I don’t know. I only know that He was there, willing this to happen, and taking good care of our loved ones back home.
The fun continued through the evening. Struggling to get adjacent rooms so we could be together all the time, we rushed through freshening up to get to the action packed programme lined up. Back to back events with hourly detailing convinced me that this was the meticulously perfect GS Medical batch that had designed it. Not a minute to waste. Not even in chilled out Goa.
What do I remember about that first day? Every little thing. Etched upon my brain, woven into my gyri, to never be deleted. I remember not knowing which room to get ready in, which set of eyes to turn where, which ear to hear with, whose hand to hold. I remember meeting friend after friend and squealing louder and louder. I remember sitting quietly letting it all sink in. I remember the flash of the red belt that made my best friend rush back to the room to change her clothes, because I wanted her to. I remember dressing up like no tomorrow, just to impress those friends who were already impressed by each other all these years.
The memory of those who we could never met again sobered our initial madness. Be they our colleagues, be they our teachers, be they loved ones. As we stood for a moment to pay our respects, we also knew the increasing challenges of the coming years. A painful reminder of the losses yet to come. But fortunately, the action packed itinerary didn’t give us longer to think. A beautiful video to show us our alma mater in all her glory firmly put us down in the 90s. And there we stayed. Straying now and then along the years gone by, but essentially there.
The dances by our colleagues made me see a new side to these brilliant beauties. The flash mob made me wish I was participating too. Dressing up for the cocktail party with my girlfriends was something I’ve never done before……..a reunion for me with my feminine side (don’t laugh, my little sister). Staying up at night, packed like sardines in one room, gossiping away, was just an addition to all the fun. Especially when my best friend was telling me what she’d do if she were my mil and me thanking her that she wasn’t…..and thanking God too!!!!
We were supposed to wake up at 6 am to go to the beach, the gym and the pool. But the holidaying babes slept and slept till r called and woke me from my precious sleep. Sleep over exercise any day on holiday! We chattered on and on through bathing, from across bathroom and bedroom walls, on and on through breakfast and truckloads of pictures. So many pics of me were not taken on my wedding day! Nor have I smiled so much willingly for pictures till today. The smile was effortless. Though I must say that tired of the “batteesi”, I did want a few crazy pics but was vetoed by all the pretty ladies.
We rushed for the group photos and were really pleased to stand roll number wise like in the good old days. We were all living proof of the GS motto, merrily imprinted on our tee shirts. An exciting treasure hunt that broke up the friends and shuffled us up, saw us running in the rains throughout the resort, as fiercely competitive as in college days. People spying, people eavesdropping, people trying to divert each other, were all part of the fun, and forgiven for the day.
The crazy treasure hunt led us eventually to the gorgeous white sand beach where we witnessed the maddest fight ever for a bottle of wine. My team won, thanks to the orthopod who grabbed the bottle while others dug out the box. Our sides were hurting of laughter more than any gym workout could make them. Some hilarious team exercises and thousands of pictures added to the mayhem but I couldn’t resist rushing into the water and digging my feet in the sand. It sure didn’t help that I got all wet and had to rush back to change!
What can I say about the rest of the day? A peaceful afternoon with friends in the room, a hilarious fishpond session, my bestie unsuspectingly being crowned the catwalk queen while she was laughing at the title, a viva session as intense as the “good old days” and my understanding why I took up surgery. The least bright took surgery. I failed the viva so badly that I was thanking my stars that it was not marked. An amazing presentation classifying crushes and reminding us all of those unsteady days. And reminded us also of how we instinctively knew each other’s crushes and when it was the one……… Amidst all that laughter and madness, I sat back quietly, looking around at those who had been my all and tried to capture this moment forever in my mind and my heart.
A merry swim with a new friend, a girl I couldn’t even remember ever talking to in college days, taught me how we all had changed. It was so much easier to talk to people now, so much easier to make acquaintances. How much tougher it was back then. But how much easier it was back then, to make the closest of friends, those who knew when you were upset, those who rallied about you, those who loved you despite your faults, those who made up after each fight, who knew your weaknesses and your strengths. Those with whom you simply carry on talking as though the last few months or years have never gone by. Those who forgive you if you don’t turn up to meet them on a much planned luncheon date. How difficult it is now to make these friends…….
The dance party is what the whole batch dressed up for. Sorry, the 46 XX part of the batch dressed up for. With a black theme, variety was not a given but this evening proved us all worthy of the tag “hottie at 40.” And over some drinks, “naughty at 40.” We were given 15 min to get ready and unsurprisingly took an hour. And what fun. 7 girls dressing up together, blue eyeliner and mascara, stunning red lipstick and killer heels saw us all dressed to kill and ready to rock the dance floor. What a discovery to see my friends on the dance floor. My long distance bestie was always a great dancer but she really moved and inspired me to get moving too, despite the initial shyness. She also watched out for me all the while, sticking by my side, even though she’d have loved to dance with everyone else there. But the real surprises were the desi girls. They rocked the floor and how! I couldn’t believe that these were prim and proper serious doctors. Their moves could put Zumba instructors to shame.
We felt as though the night should never end. And talked as much too. Exhaustion from the day activities and the dancing couldn’t curb the excitement and we holed up again in a room and yapped till we all slurred again or fell asleep on each other. It was as though we were trying to make our limited time together unlimited. No one was bothered about the shortly upcoming separation but lived for the now…….
Still trying to squeeze out the most of 48 hours, we woke early and went to the beach. The soft wet sand, the rivulets of water, the gentle waves, the grey clouds rolling in threatening rain and the coconut trees lining the beach reminded us of how goa had the best beaches ever. Posing for crazy snaps, hats that almost flew off, dancing to the 2016 reunion anthem “London thumakda” will stay in my head forever, as will holding onto those last few hours together. Even as we breakfasted and got ready, or stood about waiting for the coach, or even on the way to Mumbai and then home, we were just trying to hang onto those few minutes, few seconds of the “us time”.
The coach ride to the airport had us pouring out our love stories. Just sitting together and laughing like the 23 year old’s of that time, made us all revisit the romance. That heady rush of young love, the moments you couldn’t wait till you saw him, the wanting-to-be-together all the time. The initial unsteadiness, confusion, unsure type, all came rushing back. As we all recounted our days, I could see ward 5, mot, esr; taste the Milan chai and bun maska; smell the diabetic foots; hear my then-reg now-hubby order me to write neatly; feel the first brushing of the finger tips, the first holding hands, the first kiss………..who else can you share the memories of those wonderful days with, than your bestest friends?
The waiting at the airport made us secretly hope for delays. The thought of the next reunion, if after 25 years, had us tickled silly. Just as the discussion pre – reunion had been clothes, make up, hair color, am -I-looking-fat-in-this talks (and getting a truthful answer unlike those with the hubby), that reunion at 65 plus would have a different line up. How many joints were natural and which were the best dentures. The number of stents would be a marker of financial success. But most of all, there would be no more holing up in one room or even sharing one, coz no one could be sure of their pelvic floor muscles. We stood in the airport lines, doubled up with laughter, ready to collapse, unbothered about dirty looks from others. We almost fell to the floor when we analysed the conversion of our elegant, staid, stately (read serious and prim and propah ) friend to one who could let her hair down, and our closest friend attributed it to the fact that marriage and *** had been good for her! By now, even our bladders and abdominal muscles were just about holding up!
And how could I forget the Uno cards? After bull dozing a gentleman into sitting away from his group because we were on a reunion trip (so was he, poor nice guy), the much wanted Uno cards were retrieved and played. I had to teach my friend the rules and what a laugh riot it was! It certainly took us through the rough descent and landing, without my crushing the metacarpals of my friend (as during the flight to goa. That poor friend……while going to goa, her hand was crushed by terrified me, and while coming back, it was burnt. Not really the best hand time for her.) Meeting a Nishit Shah look-alike was merely the icing on the cake to a perfect trip. And how could I forget the drive back. Thanks to location, my long distance bestie and I were together from the start of the reunion to the end of it. It was the first time in married life that I wasn’t happy to be back home. ….
Saying goodbye has never been easy for me, but saying goodbye to this weekend has been amongst the hardest. Was it just my friends I was saying bye to, or a different time zone? Was I saying goodbye to a carefree life, to the lack of responsibility, to growing up? Was I suddenly realizing how much had changed over these years for me and all of us? Had I missed it as it happened gradually? Did this trip show me the difference between me then and me now, in stark contrast? Was this trip a reminder of how easy life used to be and now reality was back? Was I again going to be so bogged down by day-to- day affairs that I wouldn’t again have time for “those who mattered? “
When I look back to this holiday, I realize how little time I had given to my friends earlier. How residency and then adult life had pushed us all apart, not to mention actual physical distance. How little I had bothered about my own self and pushed ME to the side in pursuit of academic and homely excellence, none of which I’d achieved. How simply relaxing were these 56 hours spent away from work, family and home, just with those who weren’t judging you. How wonderful to get rid of the anger and irritation with old batch mates and just let the negative feelings of the past go. How beautiful to share with closest friends, the stupidest of jokes and silliest of dreams, the crazy fears and idiosyncracies, worries about the ageing parents and growing children, travel plans and trips. How hopeful to plan more mini reunions or night outs, or even long distance trips with family. How……..
Words are not enough to express my feelings now, yet words are all I have. Being alone with best friends left us all dreaming and wistfully freezing this time spent with each other. Storing forever the memories of half of our lifespan.
Walking down the same hallowed corridors now, I look around, and I see scores of students forming their own set of memories. But now, I close my eyes and see myself 25 years ago, sitting on the katta and laughing; crying over my reval papers; dreaming of the one that got away; scared of what specialty I will take…….and then I see my greatest friends, rallied about me, sharing every minute with me. And then, it’s all gone. G.S.Medical College is not the same. It’s nothing without the friends that made it special.
What is it about the reunion that has broken my heart forever; the laughing till voices turned hoarse or wiping away the lone shed tear………is it 25 years of togetherness, or a lifetime of separation?