A friend and I decided to watch the first movie show of the day only to find my 16-year-old daughter and her pals walking into the cinema hall after bunking school! My first reaction was to confront her and ask her why she was at the movies and not attending class? I was upset at the thought of my child bunking school to watch a film. Fortunately, I took a couple of deep breaths and calmed down. I decided not to confront her in front of her friends.
The incident took me back in time to my college days. Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was 16 too and was studying at Government College for Women? After a life of strict discipline in a convent school, college was a refreshing change. In those teenaged years, it seemed like college was where all of life’s adventures were just waiting to happen.
In school, we would hear about the “cool college kids” who would bunk classes and hang out in happening places like Yankee Doodles or the Milkfood ice-cream parlour. Our misguided young selves wanted to be just like them when we made it to college. So upon joining college, our first endeavour was to organise a “mass bunk”. The commerce course had just been introduced in our college so we were the first batch. Our class consisted of 40 girls. Three of us took charge; we gave our classmates a long talk on how we had to break the shackles of authority and join the “cool brigade”. It was decided that no one would attend class the next day. Come the following morning all except three girls did not attend the classes. We considered those three girls traitors in our effort to become “cool”. Needless to say we got into a lot of trouble with our teacher and parents. But in the eyes of the class we had become heroes. We were rebels without a cause.
Over the course of our college life, the novelty of bunking classes wore off. However, for the right reasons we would still bunk an occasional class. One big reason to miss classes was to attend day dance parties. Like the gehri routes (endless rounds of driving on chosen routes), day dance parties were exclusive to Chandigarh. Some three decades ago, City Beautiful was not quite the cosmopolitan it hoped to be. Most families were conservative and girls were not allowed to attend dance parties at night. So the young, innovative Chandigarhians came up with a solution: the day dance party.
Covering the windows with black paper or newspapers to give it an illusion of night, we would darken the dance hall. The girls of our generation were an odd mix. They had the shyness of a Jane Austen heroine but wanted to be modern like the actresses of a teen Hollywood movie. The boys were simply too shy to talk to the girls. Everyone stood around self-consciously not knowing what to do. We also bunked classes to go uphill whether it was to Morni Hills or to Kasauli or to Dharampur. For Chandigarhians going uphill is almost as sacred as going on a pilgrimage.
Looking back at those years brings a smile to my face and I realise that whether one is growing up in Chandigarh or in California, teenagers will be teenagers, and bunking classes is still a thrill.