27th February ……. a very special day and an equally special date. There are some days that remain etched in our memory bank forever and go deep down to the memory lane. This was one such day, our School Farewell was hosted with great pomp and show. Endless jubilations and some tears too. Discipline is a word that one detests in school but suddenly it made so much sense because we were now thinking of making our place outside the four walls of our alma mater. It was now our tool and a weapon to conquer our dreams. So much was said yet, so much still to say.
Father Andrews came near the dais for the usual sermon. In his deep and penetrating voice, he said…
‘Dear ladies and young men around…. I have very little to say, I have already said enough.’ We could not believe our ears, he had addressed as ladies and men and he didn’t have much to say. So, did that mean that we had really grown in stature and we were now expected to take the banner of our school far and wide….
Then in a firm voice he said…
‘Ladies be women of substance. Have grace, have understanding, have humility. It all goes a long way……
All the men out here, be men enough to own up your mistakes. Don’t say what you don’t mean and when you say something stand by it. Don’t let down people and become trustworthy.’ His last speech was a gist of all that he wanted to imbibe in us. We too wanted to imbibe it and bring glory to the name of our institution. While the eyes were numb, the shoulders were laden with a deep sense of responsibility. ‘The STARS will now transcend over different land and spread their light around.’ said Sister Fulgentia. ‘transcend over different land..’ the line kept hammering in my sub-conscious.
My heart was humming… ‘Give me some sunshine, give me some rain. Give me another chance, I wanna grow up once again’
I was fighting back my tears and holding the high tide of sentimental waves that were hitting me from all directions. We belonged to St. Augustine High School, we had not known a different land. Yet the command was given.. the demand was made. We had no option but to follow. My mind was reminded of a verse from a famous poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson -“Forward, the Light Brigade! Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die.”
Written back in 1854 and actually for a different situation, it was somehow making sense. Sense or no sense but that is exactly how I felt. Stepping out of School was almost like entering a battlefield but I was not prepared. Suddenly, I wanted to hold on to everything around me and stay on forever within those protective four walls. But the more I wanted to hold on, the more it was slipping away. In those few moments we learned a lot. We learnt that times change, situations change and people around will change too. Saying goodbye was not easy. It meant leaving the farewell hall and walking out of the campus knowing that we won’t see the same people, in the same way again. It was hard, very hard.
The core opened out, for there was a hurry to say all and know all before we left all…..
As we stood near the podium, facing a gathering of over five hundred, our entire school life flashed back as if it was just yesterday. Sadly it was yesterday, but it didn’t mean that we had to forget the past. It simply meant that we had to move on and treasure the memories. Letting go didn’t mean giving up. It meant that we had to accept that some things are predestined to be a part of the past. We wondered what life was.. we guess it is truly strange.
- It sometimes gives you no podium and sometimes no speech.
- It sometimes gives you the best speech but no audience.
- It sometimes gives you opportunity and sometimes no courage.
- It sometimes gives you courage but no moments left to share.
- It sometimes gives you dreams but only while you are asleep.
- It sometimes gives you sleep when you ought to chase a dream.
- It sometimes gives you desires that you don’t deserve.
- It sometimes snatches what you most deserve.
- It sometimes gives you life when you want to live no more.
- It sometimes gives death when you are dying to live.
- It sometimes gives you dreams and sometimes hopelessness.
- It sometimes fills you with hope and sometimes empties you within.
The final Goodbye.. was empting us from within.
We were staring at each other and exchanging blank looks. Wondering if we were just puppets and the show-time was over. May be or may be not. Or were we mere players, much like the Shakespearean idea of the world being a stage where all actors enter and exit at a predetermined time. Campus life defined our life, each day was a journey and each day added a special meaning to our existence. We had given more meaning to that meaning. We had lived life to its fullest and most importantly to our fullest. The simple joys at school and the honest friendships had left an indelible mark on our mind. The memories of school days were engrained deep in our soul. They were simple yet beautiful. Memories lived once but would now be cherished forever, joy for ever, on and on.
For the last time we sat to play ‘SCHOOL TRUTHS AND SCHOOL DARES’ in the school lobby. All these years we weighed what we said but may be the final tears that rolled at the farewell party had put us slightly off balance. We were very nostalgic and totally vulnerable. As if we had already lost a battle and were to be dethroned soon. Our land to be forcibly snatched away….
Our world was now drifting away. It was hard to believe that school was over. No morning assemblies, no bells to be heard, no school bus to board. The place where we had spent almost fourteen years appeared cold like some foreign land. No attendance register would bear our names. The familiar corridors and the classrooms had an air of silence. Everything around us was strange and awkward. Something was hurting us deep within. Our hearts were sinking like the unsinkable titanic and we were desperately holding on to each other. The buildings, the lawns, statue of Mother Mary were all adding to our nostalgia. While passing through the church in the morning, I read the quote written on its display board, “We collect things because our hearts are empty.” I read it like I would ordinarily read the quote on church wall every day but before long, I knew there was much more to it than those simple words that I saw upon the first glance.
For a moment, I was motionless. We had been going through a reflective and stressful phase in our lives. We were preparing ourselves to say a good-bye to our alma-mater and the heart and mind were in constant conflict. There were examinations ahead of us but we had still spent a large chunk of our time in getting autographs, clicking photographs, remembering phone numbers and jotting down addresses. The albums were made and moments were being preserved. Maybe we were destined to meet again and maybe not. Would the farewell photographs be the last picture clicked together or were we going to be like a boomerang or a yo-yo – that strikes back to its original position again and again.
But strangely and truly, this phase was very captivating. I felt low, as if is there was nothing substantial in my life? Is it that despite spending fourteen long years in school my heart was unquenched? Was there some emptiness inside? Did I need to fill it.. more and more of such thoughts clouded my mind. I wanted to clear the clouds before they would make my eyes numb. Were my relationships short and shallow? Did I thirst for long lasting and strong bonds? I was gripped in a maddening realization that I had done too little and cared too less. Then, suddenly my thoughts wavered in different direction and I said to myself, ‘If there were no relationships and strong bonds, why did I have such sentiments?’ And I got the answers to all my nervousness and the confusion.
There was panic because there was fear of losing something. We collect things to refresh our memories, give us joy and solace. How can a human heart be empty? For there were memories, memories all the way. Some of them may fade away but there are some that shall cling to us whether we are sad or happy. And this non-futile affinity of associating and holding on to things, to memories will enable us to smile in a sad hour. Even in the best of our times, it will make us humane enough to shed a tear for our fellow-men in pain. Thus we shall be reminded that good and bad times are not forever, it is only the situation that makes it so. We collect things so that our hearts never get empty.
Ask and tell….. then part ways and move in different directions. Our relationship was precious, it was special. We wanted it to last till eternity but for sure the roads were now different and a golden era of our friendship was over. Time was gone.. tides were high.. the hearts were sigh. The future was unknown, the first inning was over.. about the second we had no clue.