After living through almost fifty years of your life, looking back at the journey comes almost naturally. There are times when you wonder, “If I had done the things that I did differently, would I be in an even better place today? If only I hadn't missed that darn physics or maths class, or maybe prepared for the entrance exams properly, could I have been living a life different from this?” Fortunately, such trivial pondering wasn't my business. Having made peace with most regrets in life, I believed everyone should walk towards the future with heads held high. Consequentially, the world would have fewer people stuck in their past.
On 4th November, I got a call which pumped up my ageing body; a call from a distant friend of mine, it was Micky. Nostalgia oozed through our telephones. We talked about the best of days of our lives, how we used to roll in the school along with our group; laughing, joking, kidding and what not. To my surprise, he said, “Thakur, it's been 10 long years since we last paid a visit to our school, how about a ride together to Lajpat, brother?” How could I ever say no to such an offer? I agreed to take the day off from work, finalizing the plan. I confessed, “It would be lovely if Sanjay joined us as well”.
“Well, I heard he's caught up with some industrial work back in New Jersey, probably too busy for this”, he replied. I sighed and went on with the day.
Sanjay wasn't your everyday person you’d meet round the corner. He had an uncontrollable fire in him. He’d simply do what he wanted to; be it a prank like telling everybody to evacuate due to an incoming flood in a mall, or to rightfully talk-back to a bullish teacher with no remorse, hilariously. All of these antics were nothing but a drop in the ocean as compared to his other great deeds.
Years ago, we drifted away and lived our lives without contacting each other. Eventually, Micky and I caught up at Glasgow, by surprise. Having no clue of each other's presence in the auditorium at an event, we were honoured with the title of, ‘Leaders of Industry’. Unfortunately, Sanjay and us could not have such a grand reunion. It was as if he was off the grid, no calls, and no messages, not even IMs or wall posts on Facebook. Well, it’s Sanjay we’re talking about. Once he holds a grudge against someone, he’s the type of man who’d take it to his grave.
Micky and I met at Lajpat, and as always, he asked me to drive; lazy as ever. As we drove past the Moolchand Hospital, it felt like the vintage memory in our minds began slowly colourizing itself. The bright red walls and the cars parked in an order right outside the hospital, we were living our past in present. Micky exclaimed, “Beware of that random divider on the road”. I averted it and stopped at the red light. We could see the metro station standing there as it was, years ago, with trees and a few buildings on the left, in the backdrop. The rickshawalas still took the shortcut on the opposite side of the road.
I parked my car in front of the main gate of our school, and the crimson buildings with small windows reminded me of the times when I used to gaze at my classroom; after ending up late to school. Later on, hoping to catch someone's glimpse to give them a cue to call up my benevolent class teacher, who'd help me get into the school premises. Micky went ahead and looked at the guard; remembering the times when he’d quarrel with the security personnel, explaining them how living near the school doesn’t mean that you’ll never be late. Those were the times when we were naive kids, wanting to fight the world. Yet, it seems that as we grow up, it becomes a societal norm to slowly but surely extinguish that very fire.
After talking to the Principal, getting inside the school wasn't a big deal, unlike the times when we tried to do the same in casual clothes, as young adults. We enthusiastically stepped inside the premises, and as we stood within, our hearts skipped a beat.
The flooring had changed and that creeper tree on the Olive Anthony block was now as magnanimous as ever. Most of the things had changed, but it all seemed the same to us. Micky and I walked under the Olive Anthony Block’s extension; our escape from the rain, and classes as well. I remember Jim Norris sitting there with Iqbal Khan, along with his gang, during break, cracking jokes and what not. Every student of a class bunking to play squash on the Senior Building’s wall, to eventually throw the ball into one of the windows and run away. We could almost see the ice-cream seller standing under the tree, with a mob of dumb kids trying to get the cheapest and the best ice-cream. At the end, the ringing bell, to get us all back in line and to class. Although, when I think about it, some moments were bitter, but they eventually merged into one big sweet picture.
Micky and I stood in the middle of the field and gazed all around our school. The shed, the random house, the goalposts which were usually used as coat hangers during winters, the big red slabs where we'd sit after being rejected from the marching squad, or rather, make up a fake excuse in order to get a free pass, lastly, the stage and all of it. For a brief period of time, we let ourselves get absorbed into the beauty of the landscape. All we could ever wish was to get back those moments of life. To be young and bold again, impress girls out of our league, bunk classes we didn’t like, go to the band practices, enter talent contests and experience the long-lived fame. Tricking teachers into telling us stories and wasting half of the teaching time, cheat during our exams, get friend zoned by a girl and end up being consoled by our friends. As grown up men, we'd staunchly oppose the idea of doing any of the above, but as students, that was all our lives were about.
Today when I look back at my life, I feel content. I've had my share of struggle and experiences, breakups with friends and patching them up, setting up an amazing career and so on. As a result, when I write this little story of mine, I realize I finally have no regrets. I’m an old man now, and they say I’ll have to be taken to the USA for a detailed diagnosis. Let me not make things serious, after keeping them on an optimistic tone. I’ve got Sanjay by my side as well. Well, seems like he didn’t take the grudge to the grave after all. If this is my last letter to somebody, I hope I wrote it like one.
All I can ask of you is, make friends, laugh a lot, make memories and live life to the fullest. At the near end of my life, I don’t recall my academic percentages or the CGPA. Fact is, I can only recall the best days of my life, especially, my school life.
This story is a special homage to The Frank Anthony Public School, and it's students/ex-students, staff and all those who went into the making and participation of this institution of education. Hopefully, this story reminded of your good times. I know some of those, who unfortunately did not have a loving time at school, and to them, I'd just like to express my regrets, and my wishes for their future. You can connect with me anytime!
Liked reading this short story? I hope you were able to, in some way, emulate the protagonists of this story as you and your friends. Explore me here on ScrollStack, to read even more! I do have more posts planned up, ranging from a wide variety of topics that you can enjoy deciphering from my profile. It'd be great to hear from you too. Stay safe and awesome. Thank you.