Chandigarh, the City Beautiful is close to my heart. For in the city is situated my Alma Mater. I spent 5 eventful years of my youth there, getting my PG in Chemistry. The first year in GCW was a different ball game, even though it is a hallowed institution, for actor Poonam Dhillion had studied from there and yester years actor Sonu Walia was in our batch.
Every night there was a roll call in the hostel ground, where all the girls assembled and our Warden would make sure no girl was missing. Every now and then we would hear news about some girl scaling the boundary wall and bunking both the college and hostel, but i was not in that league. So we sulked and brooded and waited for our precious day out .We were "jailed" inside the hostel and could go out only on specific days. Never having experienced anything like this in my 16 years of life i found that suffocating to say the least. So after Pre Medical while many of my batch mates stayed back in the college to complete Bsc, i opted for Chemistry Department in Punjab University
The women's hostel in PU was a great one as there were absolutely no restrictions what so ever. You could go in and out as per your liking but had to be back by a specified time. If you needed to go for a late night you had to mention the details in a register.
Post education i made a few trips to Chandigarh but this one was special as we were celebrating the Silver Reunion. Towards the end of 2008, one of my batch mates formed a group on Google and since then more than 20 of the batch mates had been located and were in touch through common e mails. In the past two years, more were traced. The date of the Reunion had been decided two years ago and it was on schedule with no changes.
Hubby and my younger daughter cold not accompany us but my Dad had to visit a relative in Chandigarh , so Dad, me and my elder daughter started our journey in the taxi at 6 am from Faridabad. We crossed Sonipat and Panipat and when we were a few kms away from Karnal the car gave out a strange sound. The driver stopped the car on the side of the high way and opened the bonnet to examine what had gone wrong. There was bad news. The fan belt had broken. The driver fidgeted with his tools trying to fix things but when he realized he was stuck on the highway with a car that refused to start, he talked to his malik on the mobile. He then told us he would go and get a mechanic. Beginning to feel restless at this unexpected turn of events we got out of the car and stood on the highway watching the traffic whizz by. Half and hour later the mechanic and the driver arrived at the spot on a bike. The mechanic too fidgeted with his tools and came out with a solid bolt which had broken. And then the mechanic and the driver started haggling over money. Once again the driver made to call to his malik. Finally an amount was settled. money handed over to the mechanic, and the mechanic went back to get the broken part. We waited and waited but the mechanic never came back The driver who was in contact with the mechanic informed us that the spare part was not available so his malik was sending another taxi, an Indica. He further told us that the taxi would reach within 15 minutes minutes as the driver was speeding at 120 km/h. But the minutes passed by and there was no trace of the taxi.
We had been stranded for more than 2 and half hours on the highway when the driver informed us that the Indica with the number plate 5932 was heading towards us. By now my daughter was decidedly fidgety and as she complained and i soothed her... "Dear we cant miss the Reunion. Its happening after 25 years. Be a sport. Well surely reach Chandigarh in a few hours". The next 45 minutes were spent standing on the edge of the road , looking for the fateful 5932 number plate among the the cars whizzing by on the highway. But still no luck.
By now i had lost all hope of the Indica ever locating us on the highway. I had visions of three of us standing on mid road with our luggage around us, waiting for a passing truck to have mercy on us and take us to the nearest town. Finally, when we had been there for 3 hours and half, our driver who was constantly in touch with the Indica driver, frantically started waving his hands, and in the next few seconds the much awaited Indica arrived. I heaved a sigh of relief . I would make it to Chandigarh after all. And to the much awaited Re union.
We had been travelling in Indigo which has a decent boot where all our luggage had been kept. Now with the smaller car we had to keep part of the luggage inside the car. It was uncomfortable but i shuddered at what was to come next. But that was on reaching Ambala. For now we were back on the highway on our way to Ambala.
Now the programme was that we had to pick up 2 relatives from Ambala and together all of us had to visit our relative in Chandigarh. For this purpose we had opted for Indigo so that we could sit in convenience. But now we had a tiny Indica with us. We reached Ambala, and picked up our relatives and explained our misadventure on the highway and apologized to them for the smaller car. So there we were, four adults squeezed in the back seat, straddling our luggage in our laps, shuffling our butts every now and then in our seats, in the vain attempt of trying to get a few more inches of seat space . As my daughter complained i whispered to her, " Its ok.... we cant miss the Reunion dear! My friends are coming from all over India and abroad".
We finally reached Chandigarh despite the discomfort in the car, and went over to our relatives place. That over, i was dropped at my guest House and Dad and the remaining relatives went back to Ambala. We settled in our room and relaxed for a while. It had indeed been a taxing day as we had been up since 4 in the morning. The excitement of seeing some of my friends after 25 years was building up now. I was only a few hours away from all the action in the Hotel where the Reunion had been arranged.
Finally the moment arrived and i walked into the Hotel Banquet Hall with my daughter. Sure there were a few familiar faces, my friends from NCR and then there were those which had changed over the years. One by one the intros were done and the magic of the Univ days came back. As the evening progressed more and more families kept coming in. Handshakes, hugs, photographs and more happened all over. Once everyone who was expected had come in, there were three rounds of introductions.... first the batch mates, secondly the spouses and last of all the kids. Then there was a round of songs by the singers and an impromptu dance by one of my class mates as he couldn't stop his emotions from overflowing. It was clearly a case of role reversal as our kids watched the animated conversations and clicked photographs for us.
Dinner over we were all gifted a beautiful memento and we all left, with the plan to meet next morning at Student Centre in the University.
The next morning we assembled at the Student Centre which was the nerve centre of the Univ, right next to the Library. The Centre housed indoor games and a Cafeteria which was very popular with the students. We sipped espresso coffee in the open pavement and reminisced about the chole bhature birthday parties we had there. Once everyone had arrived we walked through the campus to our department and it was here that memories came flooding back. There was hullabaloo all around
as we forgot our age and sat on the corridors, inside our classroom, and regaled each other with incidents from 25 year ago.We sat inside the Auditorium which was the venue of our exams, and last of all went inside the Labs where we had more fun than study. And we merrily posed for pictures amid joy and laughter.
The next stop was Talwar Dairy in Sector 15 where we had the famous flavored paneer. As could be expected the Market has become high profile. It was now time of visit Capital Book Depot the classiest Book shop of Sector 17 market, which is incidentally owned by a batch mate's father. It is indeed a one stop shop for book lovers of Chandigarh . Everyone picked up a few books and we were given a gracious discount by Uncle along with a classy Calendar and a booklet of quotes.
It was lunch time and we moved to Hot Millions Restaurant. Since it was Christmas, the restaurant was crowded and wore a festive look. But we had our reservations and enjoyed the Buffet. Lunch over we assembled near the fountain in the Market Square and finally bid our good byes with promises to have regular meets in future instead of after quarter of a century. My daughter and i strolled in the market and did some shopping and finally went back to the Guest House.
The next morning we left for Ambala, picked up my Dad and headed back to Faridabad. It had been a wonderful Reunion, a dream come true. Friendships forged and memories shared in youth are the most precious and everlasting ones. Despite the misadventure on the highway it was a wonderful trip and i look forward to our next meet. Thanks a ton to my daughter for being such a sport!