A school or college reunion is not anything new.5,10 or even 25 years after one leaves the school or college such a reunion is universal. But when 40 of the classmates in Engineering- not just college mates or alumni of an institution- meet after 45 years,mostly for the first time after separation, it could be very rare.And this is what we did recently.
When we left the campus in 1971 as fresh graduates in Engineering of civil,electrical and mechanical branches,it was at the 'sunrise' of our life.We got separated in all eagerness to find a job in the professional world.Eventually few of us, as I came to know now,became entrepreneurs and self made businessmen while most of us worked as technocrats and engineers in the different levels in the Govt service or private sector.Some chose to be scientists,consultants and educationalists.And some were molded as live wire management executives, into marketing,trading,sales,finance and hardly few in corporate management.And the fields of operation were also entirely different- university,space research,airlines and ship building,marine,construction, heavy and light industries,oil and gas,automobile and heavy equipment,development projects,banking.........We were also relocated to different parts of Kerala state and metros of India,Gulf states,Africa, US....but now many returned and settled back to their respective homelands.
Came 10 August 2016.All of us who are either retired, semi retired or about to be retired....mostly grand parents in personal life.. met together.
1967-1971.....days at MACE-our 'nursing mother'
In 1967 when I got admission for Engineering at my 17, it was difficult to have such an entry because of limited number of engineering colleges in the state and country. I might have got it more by virtue of fate than merit. Kothamangalam in Kerala,India, the place where I was allotted the seat in the college was a small town then, comparing to my home town of Kochi. I had to make extensive inquiries how to reach the place.I was not much impressed either when I saw my Alma mater for the first time , though the serene,greenish and scenic surroundings did where the campus is located. The next 4 years turned out to be opposite to what I expected- memorable,enjoyable,....... When I passed out in 1971 after a wonderful time at the campus of Mar Athanasius College Of Engineering(MACE),my heart always longed to visit back or perhaps more than that, to meet the old classmates.
Alma mater is a Latin phrase when translated to English means 'nursing mother'.It is.The relationship between alumni and Alma mater can be compared to that with own family. Whether one keeps the contact or not with your Alma mater, one remains to identify with it for the rest of the life. The alumni obviously is of different age. From an institution which has completed golden or diamond jubilee the difference in age factor can be big and as such interaction between the members of alumni can run into small difficulties at times in case of intimacy.While conducting this meeting we did not have that difficulty because it is from the same class.
Those who were unfortunate among us!
It was a shock as well as an eye opener for all of us who came to know that 15 of 100 among us have already left this world by now.We commenced the gathering by listing out the names of those and with a silent prayer dedicated for them.Most of the attendees who came to know this reality only then, had a shock as I could see on their faces.All of them are early to die by any standards.Untimely illness,heart ailments and accidents took toll of most of them.It was equally surprising and saddening to know that one among them left this world along with 80 co passengers in an ill fated aircraft which drowned in the ocean off the coast of Africa in 2005!
And the attendee who surprised us...
The most surprising attendee among us was one who came out on a walker from a car with the help of a bystander.He is half paralyzed following a stroke but on a recovery path."I am not very fit as you can see..but when I heard of this meeting I could not resist myself coming here"he told us quietly. Obviously he could not spend much time with others but his very presence was good enough to electrify the moods of the once intimate crowd.
Since many were meeting after 45 years-from an age of early twenties then-young and fashionable- to late sixties or early seventies now-no more young but still well dressed - we had thought of the problem of identification among the crowd. Badges with names were given plus a drill of self introduction was conducted. Each one was encouraged to talk about the career graph one had plus immediate family details. Pin drop silence in the hall during this process of one hour showed how much each one enjoyed it! I am sure none of us- who were so close then 24+7+365+4 -never thought that a day would come in life when we had to introduce our selves!But I would prefer to think the other way- we got a chance in life to do that now!!Nevertheless it is a truth that if we had met outside the hall elsewhere a majority of us would not have recognized each other.Age has taken a toll on most of us!!
'Most interesting event or incident which happened while in the college... '
This was the selected topic on which anyone could speak out after the customary official meeting and live fellowship during buffet lunch.And many did mostly hilariously while the speakers had one thing in common- absolute nostalgic and harmless humor.Many spoke in the down-to-earth എടാ പോടാ language on various incidents which are vividly clear in their minds to this day.That was the time everyone-speakers as well as listeners- went back to their early teens!!What the organizers kept the speakers in the dark was that they would pick up the best one for a prize.
Snippets of info...messages received
With the help of organizers all shared some valued printed info which may require at this stage of life such as availability of medicines at a fair price in own town in India,online car rentals and some aspects of internet.Messages received from those who could not attend were read out.There were 8 as some of them are settled overseas.
The organizers had thought of giving few prizes but definitely not by conducting any sort of technical quiz-sure,all had enough time to face technical and management issues all these 45 years!By the time it was announced two competitions had already taken place without the knowledge of the participants.They were for the best dressed person among the attendees and for the best narration of the most interesting incident which took place in the college.The third one was given to the person who carried with him or her maximum number of keys.The result was a whopping number of 16!He happened to be a semi retired businessman who meticulously answered to a query for what all these keys were used.
End of a meeting..beginning of a social movement
The best part of the whole event was that it was conducted exactly on time and schedule which was thoughtfully prepared as per the circulated agenda.The meeting ended up nicely as expected.Few were seen rushing out but most of them stayed back to have 'an extra chat'.But what important was that roots for a social movement for years to come with a motto 'enjoy the old company and help each other' has taken place with a committed promise of more meetings inclusive of spouses.Already the group has whats app ,FB,dedicated group mail id...Time will tell how much deep rooted the movement of MACE.1971 will be...
As I was driven back in a Uber, my mind was busy summing up the event.Why and what I have enjoyed the most in this social gathering more than others?Of course it was the revival of warm,selfless and at times stupid conversation between the once close friends and classmates. It was great to have a feeling that 'nothing has changed in life after all'."God gave us relatives. Thank God we can choose our friends!!"