Saturday, January 19, 2008


This is about a get-together we had on 18 Jan 2008. A bunch of us got together at the Students Centre in Panjab University. What we had in common was a shared 2-year period, 1972 to 1974, in the English Dept of PU. Altogether we were 14 who met over a cup of coffee. Pinka could not join us as he was tied up at the last minute. The rest are mentioned in the poem given below.

A shared time
In a shared space
Nudging and jostling
Side by side or face to face

We walked in step through two brief miles
Before we went our ways
To the North, to the South
Or East or west.

The sandstone buildings stood where they were
The sky was blue
The palm trees swished silently
The Gandhi Bhavan
The Students Centre stood firm
Nothing changed.
They all waited for those who had left.
For them to take
A backward look.

The Sukhna dried up
And filled and dried
Many a time – year after year.
The Madhya Marg aged too,
Grew wider, more crowded and noisy.
Sector 17 got focused around a Pedestrian Plaza
The triumvirate – Jagat, Kiran, Neelam – added to their tribe
And spread to the suburbs a Fun Republic.

Typewriters gave way
To computers
Photocopiers to internet
Love-letters and roses
To emails and s-m-s-es.
The palm trees stood mute
Witnessed it all – and waited.
For one day they would come back.
They all do, sooner or later.

A decade passed
And it was the Blue Star in Orwell's year.
Another decade, and another.
Time rolled by.
1974 became history,
Hazy and misty, a fading memory.

So the batch of 74 –
Some stayed put
And some went away
Only to return.

One of them trained in Pinkerton's Academy and came back as the Big Boss, flourishing a feathery cane.
Another gentle one went West but, bored with the Longhorns, came back like the tide, again and again, when the seasons changed.
One went down under, teaching literature to the Joeys, but got back again, for an annual pilgrimage home,
Mandy the Boy settled in the "Paris of India" where no one needlessly would remind him of his gender.
Sudhir, our Pataudi, gave up cricket and retired to his counting house dreaming of England all the while.
Dewey took on the role of Santa and resolved to spread the word of Love in the City Beautiful.
Some, like the two sisters, withdrew to the margins and began new lives.
Meera buried her nose deep in correspondence, Ranjana in books.
Sanjiv stayed put, bowing and smiling, honing his public relations.
Time rolled by.

Then, one day,
One cold, misty morning
One hazy, drizzly Spot of Time
They all awoke
Rubbed their eyes and looked up ---

The sky was a dull grey
The palm trees swished silently
The Stu C stood waiting
With the circular ramp snaking its midriff.

Nothing had changed.

The Coffee House was dingy
Its plastic chairs grimy
BUT the coffee smelt good
When raised in a toast
To the times that were

A sip, my friends, for the good times.
Another, and yet another.
For we have walked a while together
We will walk awhile together.

Let us walk another mile together.

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