4 hours down the memory lane.

Yesterday (5/10/11) , I had to go to my school to get my 12th transcripts. I had called up the receptionist and she had told me to reach there after 9 AM. I had to do a bit of pooja stuff since yesterday was Saraswati pooja for us. After finishing off with the pooja stuff, I left home at about 10 AM. I had a slight nose irritation from the previous day’s ‘jaljira’ I had outside Govandi Railway station! As usual, the coupon punching machines didn’t work at Govandi and I had to manually stamp the date and alight d Panvel train. After reaching Vashi, I went to the bus stop and waited for the bus to take me to Airoli. Within a few minutes, I caught the NMMT bus to Airoli and had a seat to relax. After about 30 minutes or so, the bus passed through the MIDC area. I had been to Airoli about 2 years back to meet some of my friends and so, I knew that this place would remain the same. And it remained the same with not much changes. When the bus made its way towards the Rabale area, this is where it seemed ‘some’ places had changed from my last visit of 2 years. I heard from my mom that the SBI branch that was stationed just outside the Airoli outskirts had been shifted ‘inside’ Airoli. True to her words, it was nice to see that the old rummage had been left for a better new place that branch actually deserved. 

As the bus made its way ‘beneath’ the railway lines overhead, I felt slightly Nostalgic. The girder like things that supported the railway tracks were the same rusted pile as they were 8 years back!!! No change at all. Slowly memories began to take their course. I remembered how I used to visit my friend’s (Devang’s) place in Sector 6 and then to my best friend’s place in Sector 8. Ahhh~ those were the days… we used to play there for a while and then when it used to get dark, we used to go to my best friend – Shankar’s place to wash our hands and legs and I used to leave to my place in Sector 9! While I was lost in the memories, the bus took a turn to the right! I thought it was going to go straight; that is when I remembered that it had to go through sectors 5,4,3, and the Airoli Bus depot and then towards Sector 13 and so on till it reached Sector 9! At first I thought I would get down at Sector 6 and then go by way to sector 9 but then something gripped me… I felt that I HAD to see the other sectors as the bus made its way towards sector 5. The same old petrol pump and the same old useless Techno Shop!!! Even the Max Mall was still there. I remembered the place where I got my FIRST white lab coat for my chemistry lab in my 11th grade from a store just opposite to Techno shop. The people who run that shop used to show off as if they knew everything about computers but, when they were asked to come repair one simple software problem, they used to back out! As the bus crawled its way towards sector 4, I came across ‘Vinay Electronics‘ the place where I used to get my spare parts in school for my ‘electronics hobby’ – soldering iron, capacitors n stuff… (Not much came out of it though! ) It was still the same small shop stocking up ‘some’ of the things an electronics enthusiast needed. Then, came the Airoli Iron and Steel Pvt. Ltd. Still looked the same as it used to 8 years back! 

Finally came the Airoli bus depot. As I looked around if I could see someone I recognised, my eyes wandered onto some new ‘beauties’!! *Ahem* Can’t help it. I am a guy too, you know! Okay, getting back to the point, while the bus was making its way out, I just happened to glance at a schoolmate of mine Neelam Choudhari. (Yup! If you are reading this, I saw you entering the bus depot as my bus made its way out! But, I had a bad throat and my nose was about to run loose! So, I thought it would be better not to yell and make a fool of myself!) As the bus left the bus depot and made  towards the other sectors, everything seemed to be the same way as it used to be. The crowd inside the bus was blocking my sight and so I couldn’t see much of the rest of Airoli. Finally I got up as sector 9 approached and I got off the bus. It was not a big surprise to see the Malwani restaurant (if my memory serves right!) there put up a huge light banner and a new restaurant just besides it near the bus stop. The buildings looked the same with a few newly whitewashed and crevices filled up. There was a new Video game parlour below the last society I stayed at! Now that was surprising to me! Four years back, there was NO video game parlours in Airoli and that too just beneath our flat! 

As I made my way towards the road that led to my school, I noticed the sides of the road were engulfed by huge banana trees and grasses from the sides. Four years back, there used to be roses and flowers on the right and the left side was just bought by someone and the levelling up was done. As I made my way down the road, a smile came up on my face. I remembered the days when I used to go down that lane at night when there never used to be one decent streetlight and  felt as if someone was following me behind. Sometimes, I used to be a scaredy cat and take a shortcut through the society on the left and reach the other side of our school’s ground! I laughed to myself as I noticed the huge water tank and the lorry that hauled the water still was the same with the iron gate! But what I did notice was that, the big Reliance mobile tower which was set up on the free area behind the water tank was gone!

I saw the small ‘shortcut’ gate on the right and some person came out of it too! I was tempted to use it. Back then, during our school days, whenever I used to get late to school, me and some of my friends used to go through this gate to get to the back of the school! But then, the watchman in that society used to catch us and yell at us telling us that ONLY society people were allowed to enter through there! and yet, we used to sneak through that place. And when the school got over, I used to go with my friend (Sonal)  who used to stay in that society and after a while of chatting, I used to leave through the ‘short-cut’ gate!

As I made my way towards the corner and reached the school gate, I felt very nostalgic! The paint of the school  walls had been changed! It was yellow this time! I hardly remembered the color of the walls as ‘light brown’. Even the gate color was maroon! I went inside, told the security person that I had to apply for my transcripts and that the receptionist told me to come after 9 in the morning! I checked my watch, it was 11:45! I entered into the main lobby. After I finished off giving my application for the transcripts, I asked if I could meet my 9th and 10th class teacher and one of my, (now) FB  best friend (!!!) Suneeti Arora ma’am, since I had told her that I would be reaching school that day and she wanted me to meet her. The receptionist told me to wait till 1! I saw the clock.. it was still 12:05! So, I decided to wait and see what all had happened to the school since I left. I saw the ‘Roll of Honors’ with some of my classmates’ names. I browsed through the photos and saw a few recognisable pics from during our time being the First batch of  DAV Airoli. It seemed the school had obtained some very talented art students – someone by the name ‘Manoj‘ had his art displayed all around the school premises and it was really good! The medals and cup count had increased a lot from the last time! 

After a while, I took out my phone and sat on the usual black metal seats which were kept in the reception, clicked something which looks like a photograph of the reception of the school

School entrance

Yup! That is our school main lobby on the ground floor. Ever since I went to college, I have a habit of taking pics clandestinely because cell phones were BANNED in college!!! So, I had to sneak up one on my mobile when no one was watching! (hmm… not bad.. the pic came out pretty well indeed!) 

After a while, a group of students came from the main gate and dumped their belongings on the floor near me! It was soon found out that they had returned from some sort of picnic or something. All of them were enthusiastic about their trip. It reminded me of our first picnic (sort of!) during our 12th standard to Imax Adlabs Dome in Wadala where we  saw ‘HP & the Goblet of fire’ inside the dome!!! That was an experience for me because I NEVER went to theatres here in Mumbai for a movie before that and that too to a place like Imax Dome!  

After a while, the bell rang and I had forgotten that there was the usual ‘Shanti paath’ left! When it was recited, I slowly closed my eyes and felt the same way I did 4 years back as the sound resonated in my ears. After I opened my eyes, I could feel the same feeling of freshness like it used to be back then. Within a few seconds, the children came down the stairs rushing towards the main gate. It reminded me of the time when volunteers used to stay on the sides to prevent anyone from running away from the line! Here again, a teacher reminded the students not to run and to walk down the corridor but there were no volunteers. The uniform of the students confused me! Some of them wore the same outfits like the same White shirt and gray pant but the color of the belt had changed from the gray and white stripes 4 years back to a blue striped one now. Some kids were wearing what seemed to be a gray shirt with red stripes on the sides and the school logo on the front and a gray pant which looked like the sports uniform!

Well, after a while, when everyone had left, the receptionist called me and asked whom I wanted to meet. I reminded her but she caught the wrong name – Suruchi instead of Suneeti! (madams of course!) N then I saw my Physics and class teacher from my 11th (Suruchi ma’am). She saw me and immediately recognized me! I was so surprised when she said my name! I asked her if she genuinely remembered me and she said ” Yes! I remember you with my heart!How can I forget you?” Now, getting a compliment like that from a teacher whom you hadn’t met for 4 long years is really something! I was taken aback when she said “You helped us teachers a lot by being one of the very few co-operative students of the first batch!” Well… I do agree I had been co-operative but in what way I ‘HELPED’ her, I have no clue! I was good at Physics, was always the one to get the output under any circumstance and also was ‘able’ to ‘clear some of the common doubts’ (you understand what I mean right? (^_~) )   *ahem*
Anyway, after that, she inquired about me and what I am currently doing and stuff. She asked me if I wanted to see anyone else and I mentioned Suneeti ma’am name again. And after a while, fortunately, she announced her name on the speaker.

I met Suneeti ma’am and we began our ‘long’ chat just like out FB chat happens! It felt awkward at start about what to talk about, and suddenly we heard the Principal yelling at some students! We decided to go to a safer place before he found that a teacher was chatting right outside his cabin! After a while, she took me around the school campus to see how it was now. Well… to be frank, it was still the same. The rooms had been shuffled a bit and some very small changes made to the rooms. A new partition had been made to the computer room and new computers with touch enabled features in the secondary computer room! As we made our way to the library, the place where I used to spend most of my time in school, I was totally surprised to see all 3 of the library staff present there! I felt really nostalgic to see the same library and the same staff with the same arrangement of books and shelves. They looked at me for a few seconds when ma’am reminded them my name and they were like… “woooooaaaaahhhh! Is that really you!!!??? If you had come alone, we wouldn’t have recognised you at all!” While I was ‘basking’ in the glory of something, which resembled as if I made some great discovery or won a great fight, they were all over me in a second! But what was the MOST touching thing was that, they remembered me donating my ‘two sacks of books’ to the library. They still remembered me after all these years. And suddenly out of the blue, someone just remarked “Hey! You were there in 2004-2005 right? I still remember you!” My God! That was about 7 years back! And that person turned out to be an office staff! I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears!

After meeting another teacher of mine, and after all the questioning was done, they said “It’s really nice to see you again after such a long time.” Trust me guys, it was soooo nice to see my old school and my teachers and other staff after such a long time too. I just could not express that joy in words. We then made our way to the staff room (which was new to me!) There I met two more teachers. My 11th and 12th Chemistry teacher (Supriya ma’am who happened to be the one in charge of the transcripts and stuff! (^_^) ) and another ma’am (Mary ma’am who was really good at singing back then!)

Both of them recognised me too! My chemistry ma’am recollected how her first teaching experience was! Trust me, it was bad! really bad! People used to throw chalk on the board while me and Shankar used to sit on the first bench trying hard to listen to her! She recollected all those details and now, after us, a team from our school had won a prize at NASA under her guidance!!! Now that was really something! She said “Wish we could do the same like that to you guys.” After a sigh of relief, she gave her contact number and told about the procedure of the transcripts. After a while of casual chat, we finally met my PT teacher (Suniti Ingle ma’am) She looked at me, although she couldn’t remember my name, after being prodded a little, she remembered me and said, “I am sorry, I forgot your name. But I remember your face.” I told her my name and she soon recollected that there was another guy with the same name as me! Yup! There really was another person! His surname began with ‘S’ and mine with ‘C’. Well, that is a different subject about how we used to quarrel (Back then, my Hindi really sucked! Not that it’s too good now! And he used to be the one with the upper hand in fights and also used to get rebuked by teachers while I used to sit silently and sulk on the first bench!). After taking to her about my current position and stuff, we left her to be with the KG students (who were watching some cartoon on the projector with some tomatoes and carrots!) 

We finally made our way to the entrance back, that is when I met my old 10th std. Science teacher (Dalia ma’am). She remembered my face (not again!) but forgot my name! When she was reminded, she felt ashamed and sheepishly said “It’s so embarrassing when you forget someone’s name!” to which I said “Happens ma’am! After all its been 4 years and you are getting old as well! (now why did I say that!)”  After a bit of internal affairs ( my details of course!) I tried to meet the Princi! But since we already knew he was in a bad mood and that we might not be able to see him for a while, we left. 

We went to Suneeti ma’am place (and I went there empty-handed like an idiot! sheesh! ), where I was treated to some really nice chole puri and a potato curry (well, forgive me ma’am if it was something else…. that is what it seemed to me! 😛 )

After a few hours of chatting, I finally left her place at about 5:30! I caught a bus to Vashi ( by the time I was already having a running nose!) I got a seat in the crowded bus. While I closed my eyes for a while, I thought to myself – After such a long time….4 long years…. not only the teachers, not only the librarians, even the non-teaching staff remembered me…. for them to do so, I MUST have done something good. I NEVER expected anything from them when I was in school, and neither did I give them something special to remember me by. Then why? Is it because I was in the first batch? or is it because of some other reason?

That is when I realised that this trip to Airoli was not just for getting my transcripts…. it was far more than that…. far more that what I can write or express in words. This is by far the LONGEST note I’ve ever written! But I am glad I did so!  Not because it is long, but, because, so far, I sometimes used to believe that I might have taken a wrong turn somewhere in life to have had such a future.

But yesterday proved me wrong! These 4 hours down my memory lane from 1 till 5 have shown me something…… Whatever I did in my life so far has been for a reason. A reason perhaps, you may call as ‘FATE’ or ‘LUCK’ .

But for me,
whatever I did so far,
whomsoever I’ve met,
the number of  hearts I have touched,
whomsoever I have befriended,
the people I have broken up in friendship with,
the ones I NEVER could get along with,
the ones I never confessed my feelings to,
and the ones I care a lot about,

Somewhere I have come across this saying – Live life without any regrets. And I have no regrets in whatever I have done so far – good or bad! I just wish….. that,  I make ‘some‘ contribution in EVERYONE’s life for them to remember me;  just like my teachers remembered me and just like I remember my school, my friends and my dear, lovable Airoli.     


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