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My classmates and I meet every year around Christmas. Some of us are now moms-in-law & proud grandmas, but we're our 15-year-old versions with each other. It warms the heart to see the child in us come out and the years disappear.
Our school textbooks would say that Christmas is ‘a festival celebrated by Christians all over the world’. But I don’t agree with this.
It is for anyone who wants to celebrate the spirit of Christmas, which spreads a festive cheer all over the world, like a blanket.
About eight years ago, Facebook, and then WhatsApp connected us with our school-mates. We had not seen each other for almost 25 years. We are now in touch across continents and time zones, all converging into one little happening WhatsApp group.
The girls now meet often whenever they can, travel, visit each other in times of need, and in a nutshell, are a support for each other. Of course, not all are always present. And often, our homing pigeons from outside the country come visiting. These are times of bonus celebrations.
We now have our very own ritual of meeting every year around Christmas, and it is a well-awaited event. We gave it a miss last year, of course.
This year’s venue was the Cosmopolitan Club, Bangalore. Maroon hoodies replaced the green pinafores the uniform we wore as students at our girls’ convent, Mary Immaculate School, Bangalore. And to hear this crowd, well, not much has changed. The enthusiasm, the joy of meeting each other, the noise and cacophony have neither changed nor reduced over the years. The josh is high.
We decided to seal our solidarity with the maroon hoodies we had specially ordered for us, with the school initials and year emblazoned on the backs.
There was some anxiety initially, as the Covid situation is still ruling the headlines. We met, armed with masks, sanitizers, and all. Do we hug each other? Or just shake hands? Some were meeting each other for the first time since school. There is always this ‘do you remember me?’, ‘do you not recognize me?’ and exclamations of ‘Oh! You look just the same!!’ which is amusing to watch. It warms the heart to see the little child in us come out and the years disappear.
The confusion and awkwardness don’t last for long. And then we hear that a couple of girls couldn’t make it as they are not keeping well. There is a lull in the conversation, with unasked questions hanging heavily in the air. The new norm of today’s world.
After a while, the masks come off. We are eating and talking. Most wonderful is the fact that we don’t have other ‘masks’. The ones that hide our real faces. We are all at ease with each other, the fifteen-year-old versions of ourselves. Some of us are now mothers-in-law, some even proud grandmas. A few of us who have no daughters are waiting for our sons to marry so that we can have the daughter we longed for. We share stories from our lives, the joys, the sorrows, the highs, and the lows. A few just hold hands and provide silent support.
The other identities and boundaries disappear. They never made an appearance to begin with but were left outside the door the hotshot big bosses, the doctors and those with doctorates, the businesswomen, the teachers, the angels that gave up crowns in exchange for family, those who juggled both, a laptop and a baby on the lap, the globetrotters. What remarkable progress we made, and how blessed we have been!
There is light banter, calling someone a ‘kurinji flower’ because she has missed a few of the previous gatherings. Someone remarks as to how our teachers managed to keep us attentive and in control. Deep respects to them all! But also, I am sure, should they see us now, they would feel so proud of us. They taught us well.
The two main highlights of our yearly gatherings are missing this year – the Christmas tree and the Secret Santa gifts. But the Christmassy feeling is very much felt. Seeing each other safe and sound is a gift. We sing the songs we learnt at school, mostly carols, and then our school song. There was a thoughtful person who got the lyrics and photocopied them for all of us!
The main underlying message here is this: Get in touch with your tribe. Your own set of people who stand by you. Support each other, woman to woman, and build your own web. This is the safety net we provide ourselves in our old age. People who are there for each other, thorough thick and thin.
We all agree and thank the school that brought us all together as we all happily sing our school song, ‘Hail Alma Mater, the school that we love!’ We say our goodbyes until the next time we become fifteen-year-olds for a while.
PS: We have one hell of a leader for the pack who takes the initiative and does not like to be thanked. And she has another boss lady to support her. These two make things happen for us all.
Image source: Still from Four More Shots Please
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