Orkut has had a profound impact on everyone’s life, and this is clear from the amount of writing I do about it. Orkut got me back in touch with many of my school mates. These are not the friends I had last met during the board exams. These are my friends from the nursery to the pre-puberty era before I had changed cities. Got hold of one, and got hold of most of the others through him.
The first thing that came as a shock to me is the way they look now. The boys are men, and the girls are women. Even their baby brothers and sisters who were in kindergarten are young men and women now. Browsing through the pics in their albums is a journey down the memory lane. 13 years of no contact, and I suddenly see that though their faces look still the same, they have grown mustaches and beards, and are taller and broader now. It feels strange to see so many girls married and with their babies the size of what I must have seen them first. And this brings back hilarious memories back from my kindergarten days. For I have seen these prim and proper men and women 23 years back, their noses running and hair oily while they cried the whole day. I even remember what their moms and dads looked like. There was this guy from my first standard who was so prone to skin disease that no one would want to sit near him. Yet I saw his recent pic, all brawny and on a bike, with his status “committed” (I wonder if he still has bad skin). There was this topper from my class who was all lanky a good 4” shorter than I was. Yet he is a 6’2” tall, muscular man now. When I talked to him over the telephone after so many years, I was so thrilled to hear his deep husky voice, a far cry from his girly voice in school.
The guy who was first caught writing a love letter to some heartthrob in the fifth grade is a married man now. The guy whose dad would drop him in a rusty Luna drives a car now. Most of them are either in Bangalore or in the US. Most women are married now (a further reminder of my misspent youth, ha ha) with kids, while men are no exception. I have seen these people crying, fighting, making a queue while going to the restroom, peeing in their pants, cheating in the exams, standing on the bench or kneeling down with hands crossed around their ears, digging their noses, wearing half trousers, pinching and boxing others, eating their food in an uncouth, messy way, flinging chalk pieces and paper rockets at others, getting their ears boxed by the teachers, writing horribly funny answers in the exams that the teacher would later read out, and failing and repeating classes. It is so surprising that even after so many years, I remember their handwritings vividly, and so many incidents otherwise eventually forgotten. I am amazed at the sheer number of details these guys remember of me. During conversations, horror stories of our teachers often come up. “Remember the dance teacher who used to target everyone’s butt with that long, thin cane of his?” “Remember the language teacher who used to scream?” “Remember the teacher from class 1 who used to box everyone’s ears?” I still remember the signatures of most of the teachers, and how delighted we would be to earn “good” and “excellent” remarks from them. Most of the teachers have retired or have shifted elsewhere now. Some local friends even say that the school building has been remodeled, repainted, and looks nothing like what it used to then. But for me, it is still the same school, the same teachers who are a decade and a half older than what I remember of them, and my friends in half trousers and frilly frocks. It is amazing how I remember different people for different reasons. A certain guy used to wear a red sweater that had two holes on the right side. A certain guy would always have a running nose. A certain guy would always sleep in class. A certain girl had lice-infested hair. A certain guy always wrote his name in reverse, reminding me of ohm and mho. Strangely, I have their images in my mind still wearing the school uniform and the house badges.
The guy who had failed in math runs his business now. I wonder if he would find it weird when I met him. For we know these little secrets of each other, like who had bitched about whom, who had called whom a donkey, and who had pinched whom. My friend was so surprised when I told him that I remembered him bringing samosa and sweets for tiffin everyday from Calcutta Sweets, which he would eventually feed the crows during the lunch breaks. Even he did not remember that.
Well, such is the journey down the memory lane, and the bouts of nostalgia. For a moment I close my eyes and I can see those same faces, the same classrooms, the same teachers, the same books and the same chapters, and the same commotion in school. And then I open my eyes and everyone is grown up, scattered, leading their own lives in different parts of the world. And I keep wondering that like me, do they ever think of the bygone days, the fun and frolic, the naughtiness and the fun of being a kid in school?