All of us stopped growing at 16, said Arvind. There was a chorus of nays all around. The occasion was the old schoolboys’ reunion and he was holding forth to our gang of 1975. I stared at him in disbelief. It was correct, of course, if the parameters were dimensional and vertical alone, but that was not what he implied.
We were a motley lot that evening, with representation from the batches of the 1950s to the 1990s. My own class, with almost everyone on the wrong side of 40, was a bunch of business executives, bureaucrats, defence officers, businessmen and educationists. Surely, years at universities, wizened in careers and with children to boot, we could not have stagnated intellectually for three decades. At school, our exposure to the classics had been limited to the curricula, which at best included Pride and Prejudice. In the all-male bastion of our alma mater, our claims to literary intellect were Commando comics, Biggles, the JS magazine, etc.
The joys of lapping up James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, the Bard and others came only after we departed from the fortified castle of our school in Nainital. It was supplemented by management and self-development tomes, requisites for employment retention and survival.
Juice in hand and wife Poonam in tow, I hopped over to the 1960 cluster enjoying their drinks in a corner. The whiffs of conversation that I caught were centred around Erica and Rashmi, divas in their own right then, from the girl’s school across ours. Here was a grizzly group of pot-bellied, white-haired, old boys (sic) talking about childhood heart-throbs.
The late 1960s lot was being regaled by their chum, a serving parliamentarian, about shooting partridges in the Governor’s grounds with muskets stolen from home. The thrill even after so many years was evident in their glittering eyes. The 1980 set were agog about a certain Grade V teacher who was the then equivalent of Sushmita Sen in Main Hoon Na. I had completed a circle and went back to my 1975 faction. The conversation had veered around to a soccer tournament in which a curving pass from Tariq had won the school the championship. The deliberations all round were intense and their gravity could rival a board meet.
Poonam, who had been a mute witness during the evening, had a gleam in her eyes when we returned. “I’ve been telling you for 17 years,” she said, “You are a mama’s boy.”