The magnificent 22. Only 20 visible here though.
If you are in your 20s or 30s, chances are you don’t know what these words mean; and for this article, that is a GOOD thing. If you are in your 40s or 50s, you know that the words are from a different era and there is a familiarity that you can’t really put your finger on. The original words have nothing to do with this article, so don’t rack your brains and read on.
On 30th May at 8:30 pm, a Zoom Call was initiated by a person sitting on the West Coast of America. Later 21 others joined the call. They logged in from other parts of America, India and as far east as Australia. There were doctors, engineers, professors, CEOs, Senior Managers, health care workers. Some were bald, almost everyone wore glasses, one of them was confined to a wheelchair. There were people sipping coffee/tea, some others poured a ‘stiff one’, and yet others were sipping just water.
The meeting had no agenda.
It had no structure.
It had but one reason to exist. It was a bunch of people who studied together ‘getting together’ because they just wanted to.
The 22 in the room reminded me of Joseph Heller’s famous work Catch 22, but in a different way. We, the 22 in the room were a catch! The conversation began with customary greetings, the oohs, aahs, ‘haven’t seen you since 1981’, etc etc. It meandered around careers, cities where we lived, things we do, things we don’t do, things we did and things that we always wanted to do. There were those that were silent, those that wanted to never stop speaking and in general it was the moment when time stood still for all of us.
We went to the same school. We shared school benches, tiffin boxes, common neighborhoods and most of all, memories. There was never any discussion that brought egos into play, or money or success and failures. It was a moment for 22 boys who were still 15 or 16 years old even though they looked like they were 55.
As I watched the screen, I wondered what we thought of each other in 10th Grade. What did we think we would end up becoming? Some were clear about their career paths, but looking at their grades in school, one didn’t think they would be where they were today. The doctors were mostly back benchers, the CEOs were somewhere in the middle of the class. The consultants and others who ran their own business were a mixed bag. The professors were athletes in school! But not one of us, talked about what we thought then because it didn’t matter.
The mood was positive, the conversation reminiscent of a world that we once shared and had somehow frozen in time for ourselves. The 40 minutes ‘zoomed’ past and we had to get on to another call to continue. We spoke about our passion and what we wanted to contribute to the world now. We talked about learning and of failures, and in both we couldn’t forget the contribution our teachers made. We thought of the wonderful souls who have long departed from this world and how they changed the world for us.
The lockdown was forgotten, the pain and suffering were forgotten. All that matter in those moments was the need to relive a childhood we left behind but continue to carry inside us.
As the meeting came to a close, we promised to do this again; and to bring on board those who didn’t make it to this one. This wasn’t driven by a desperate need to relive an era that was long gone. I realized then that we were just trying to be one of a species that had shared some of the best years of our lives together. We were our own tribe that connected without boundaries, rules or protocol. We were the pure, the untarnished and the happy. We came together to share memories and only to go back to another world that remains our reality for the most part.
Two different worlds today, that were one, once upon a time.
And that is when the words began humming in my head, those were the days my friend…