Monday, October 22, 2007

Gifts For A Lifetime...Memories From National Science Seminar 1999

It was the 7th of October 1999…

Winter was wiping its feet at the doormat of the year, getting ready to knock and announce its arrival. Sunlight fell into Delhi through the dust raised by brooms sweeping the streets early in the morning (replaced by polluting smoke later in the day). A thin fog rolled onto the grass-covered playground in the premises of the National Bal Bhavan through which a bunch of school kids from across India walked towards a bus to reach the National Science Centre.

32 school children from across India (1 from each state and UT (Uttaranchal, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh were yet to be created then)) assembled at the National Science Centre in New Delhi to contribute their two cents on issues concerning Science. 32 children who thought their words would matter; there were thousands of others who came forward – winners in their own right – but these 32 were the ones picked to represent what school children from their state thought of the issue. 32 fragments of India’s diversity came together to make a collage of thoughts and ideas…and a beautiful one at that! 32 children participated in the National Science Seminar (NSS) 1999 that day.

I was one of the 32 pieces of the Jigsaw.

It was an apprehensive morning for some of us, exciting for others and some of us had been there and done that. We hadn’t spoken to each other too much so far and in the previous two days; every one was pre-occupied by preparations for the big day, sizing up competition and trying to ascertain where each of us stood. Typical introductions started with one of us stating our name, state and topic chosen to speak. Typical introductions ended with the other person responding with her name, state and topic chosen to speak. That was it – we had another number to add to the statistic – X + 1 for my topic, more competition.

All that changed at the end of that day. We had made our pitch. The tension had been released and we were so much more vocal and at ease. We spoke about our states, our cultures, the festivals we celebrate even as backstage, the judges decided on our fate. They were to pick 9 second place winners and one winner from among the 32 of us. But that didn’t seem to matter to us anymore. Our previous feelings had been replaced by the excitement of meeting peers from across the Indian sub-continent. If I were to morph the Worldspace tagline – There Was So Much To Know And Share!

We had mingled better by the end of the day and were taken on a tour of Delhi the next day by the organizers. The interaction that happened in this relaxed setting was starkly different from the previous day’s. We laughed, cracked jokes, gossiped (if I may), and at the end of the day, exchanged postal addresses and phone numbers (emails were a tad less common at that point especially for school children). We were parting and it was all coming to an end…

Or so I thought. What followed NSS 1999 was an exchange of letters between my friends and I for over 5 years before the e-mail hijacked our lives. We came to know each other through these pages of naive revelations and practically grew up together in a different sort of way. I discovered a treasure trove filled with the most precious thing life could offer – friends forever. And I am clinging to it like my life depends on it.

This 7th of October marks the completion of 8 years since I have known these angels. A long time, if you ask me, considering that these friendships were more or less kept alive through letters and e-mails. I want to tell each one of them how special he/she is and how they have changed my life in ways they can’t fathom. They are my personal inspirations. And they are – I hope, I wish, I pray – forever.

The gems from the treasure chest: Vineet, Rahul, Nganba, Vinitha, Ravin, Sandeep, Dipto and Sneha.

These guys completely rock and as anyone can see, I adore them. They mean the world to me. A personal post is due for each of them and I will put that up very soon.

The precious ones I lost touch with and I want to desperately find: Dinesh, Madhurima, Sneha Babu and Nisha.

I hope I find them very soon. And then I will string all these pearls in a necklace of memories to wear wherever I go.

We are in different geographies, different time zones, different states of mind…yet there is a common thread. Somewhere I hang on to them, it reminds me of a time when we were innocent, when we were naive and when means were limited yet the joys were not. I want to go back to that time. Not because I have any regrets, just because I loved that period in my life. Just to relive it on a foggy October morning and to receive these gifts of a lifetime all over again.

This one is for those gifts!

4 Thinkers Pondered:

Vinni said...

nostalgic, to say the least. thanks anu. We found you too! :-)
8 years is a long time.

Anupama said...

Vinni,

I have a thing for nostalgia...especially anything related to my friends...thanks for the comment :)

rahul thathoo said...

you write well and you know its after a long time that i actually went back to the delhi where i spent part of m middle and high school...and distinctly remember the "dust raised by brooms sweeping the streets early in the mornings"! and likewise, you are an inspiration :) keep up the good work and be good!

Anupama Kondayya said...

Hey Rahul,

Thank you so much for the comment :)...I would like to visit Delhi too someday...I am keeping the faith...tc!