If you’ve been to heaven on a boat, parachuted back to earth, dived into the ocean on the back of a dolphin and driven into space in a vintage car, you probably have a hang of what 39 of us experienced over 2 days in the third week of November. Frankly, 32 of us were in Wonderland with 7 Alices.
When the “Batch of ‘80” decides to party. It’s BIG, BOLD and BEAUTIFUL! It was Corbett in 2017 with the 22 of us and this time it had to be bigger. So for the 39th anniversary it was 39 of us from 16 cities across 6 countries, at The Tigress Resort, Ranthambhore.
On cars, planes and trains, we converged at the five star venue just outside the Ranthambhore forest reserve. 28 in a convoy of 7 cars on 15th morning, one advance car, one from Jaipur and the rest on trains or on their own. The arrivals started with Billa and two beauties (Soniyaa & Vaishali) in the morning and ended with the chicken hunt (Robbie and his car load) just after lunch.
The first couple of hours was for jappi, pappi, thappi and erasing the years that had elapsed, so that by the time we were done with lunch we were all back in class, circa 1980. A digestive pause and the beer and Vodka sangam started flowing in room 118. The cheer broke out with a hundred conversations at a time, as glasses in hand, almost 40 people packed comfortably into the large room and sit-out, leaning, lying, lounging and time travelling. Work went on as well, with millionaires, CEO’s and entrepreneurs, all batchmates labelling goodie bags for everyone and putting in stuff, to be handed out soon after.
We trooped into the large garden outside the rooms and stood in house lines for our goodie bags Shakti, Shanti, Jyoti, Jagriti and Kirti. Names were called and each person was handed a surprise bag with :
one hunting jacket and jungle hat with school logo,
a Borosil water flask with the eagle engraved on it,
a name tag,
a personalized luggage tag,
a school tie and belt
an elegant eagle lapel pin and…
a special gift from Nityanand Singh to everyone
Also handed out were the school uniforms people had ordered and paid for.
That was the afternoon and we went off to our rooms clutching the bags and uniforms.
Dinner was Ethnic Night on a Rajasthani Palace rooftop with a jungle view in balmy weather. 39 regally dressed schoolmate emerged like a royal procession and headed for the first part of the evening, tying of Safaa’s – the bright colored Rajasthani turbans, for which we had organised two local experts. Soon there was a crowd of thakurs strutting around with whisky glasses in hand. Of course, in true AFCS style, some were wearing running shoes with their churidars 😛 You should have seen the look on the faces of the other guests in the hotel. They were so desperate to be a part of the gang, that a few of them requested and got turbans tied on their heads as well!
Proceedings started with a three storey cake for what Deepa called her best ever birthday. This was her second cake, after the first one was turned into Kishore’s face-pack 😉. As soon as the whisky was in, the Rajasthani singer for the evening was bundled off and replaced with our own Aravali ka Rahman – Sudhanshu Purohit! He and his guitar took the evening to another level altogether with a string of medleys from our times, in Hindi and English. The first one started with “Yeh jo mohabbat hai….and ended some 20 songs later with “Chaltey…chaltey, mere yeh geet…”. Sure, dude hum sab yaad rakhengey! There were more and there was dinner and the party continued in Room 117, till we remembered that there was an early morning tiger safari starting at 6:30. So we hit the beds reluctantly, past midnight.
Absolutely everyone was up and ready on time in the morning – wearing their brand new jungle jackets and hunting hats. We filled two canters with 20 people each and headed for the nearby Zone 3 of the jungle having fun and hoping for a tiger sighting.
Frankly, what happened next was a miracle.
15 minutes into the jungle, there was a frisson of excitement as one of the guides spotted a tiger – which actually turned out to be three. Famous tigress Arrowhead had picked our morning to take her two cubs for a walk! They approached the vehicles on a casual stroll, checked out the human specimens (we kept Murgi hidden- just in case), crossed the track at a distance of about 10 meters and generally chilled for almost 15 minutes before the mother took a poop and they ambled off into the trees. The guides knowing that they were heading for the water hole, repositioned us again to see them quench their thirst and chill a little more before the cubs started playing and even climbed up and down a tree, all in full view.
It was a total miracle for us and even the experts thought this was a remarkable show. We viewed, clicked and recorded like mad and were left breathless by the beauty and grace of the lovely animals at such close proximity.
Back to the resort, breakfast, beer and brunch happened in that order between the restaurant and room 117, before we set out again – this time in Gypsies, to zones 6 and 10. Saw lots of deer, Sambhar, wild boars and birds of many feathers, but the tigers had decided they had seen enough of us for a day.
Everybody went to shower and change into – the school uniforms! Soon 39 smartly dressed students walked though the hotel and all the other guests practically stood up to view us 😊 It was time for the gala dinner and we had a full house at the Shahi Mahal next to the pool. This was pure nostalgia. We started with a one-minute silence to remember the friends who have departed – Neelu Kohli, Rakesh Bandhu, Bindiya Chaddha, Anupinder Jit Singh, Atul Adahuliya and Pran Khanna…RIP.
Next was a very nice 5-minute AV show put together by the OC (Vivek, Sharat, Kishore, Shailendra and Dony) under the expert guidance of Vivek Gulati which had the priceless theme of “363 din parivaar ke, 2 din yaar ke…yehi zindagi hai, le le mazaa!” It had everything from poetry to pictures and a latecomer star. After the AV came the photo shoots where everyone went crazy with batch pictures, class picture, boy-girl pictures, random pictures… all in blue, grey and stripes with blazers being borrowed to cover bellies. You’ll surely see dozens of them being stuck up on the net and forwarded on your phones.
Then it was back to the standard Scotch & Sudhanshu. We started with a group sing-in of “Hum hongey kamyaab” and went on to a four-decade medley of songs in Hindi and English with others like Soniyaa, Namita and Bogie adding variety to the repertoire. On went the evening, for several hours of food, drink, song and spirit, finally ending in the wee hours with everyone high on melodies and memories.
That was it, the morning after and time to depart. No one wanted to leave, but leave we had to, so everyone did three sessions of goodbyes and hugs in batches from 7 am till noon. And we left, with heavy feet and light hearts. With loads of new memories added to the old ones including new nicknames – last time we had “Corbett ka Ghanta” and this time there were “Kachori Queen” and “Chimney Chameli” (to find out more, be there next time). And a bloody hangover that refuses to go away even days later!
Alice? Who the F**k is Alice?
We chased rabbits down the hole and “we were all mad there”. And it was a fine fun!
If you could re-live 5 years of your life, which ones would they be? I’m betting the school years would surely be a part of the answer for most people. Especially for us lot, who went to an amazing school at an amazing time and had – yes, the time of our lives!
Come to think of it, school is a pretty funny place. Your folks dress you up and bring you in to plant you as seedlings in shorts and skirts with bags and tiffins. Then a system goes to work on you kneading you through tests and trials for a whole bunch of years. And finally you are ejaculated into the big, bad world at an age when you are full of primal instincts and carnal intentions, to go forth and conquer!
At that point when find your ‘freedom’, that school building looks like the one place you couldn’t wait to get out of. Then life goes to work teaching you a thing or three and slowly you get to re-think ‘freedom’ as you pay the daily price. But at some point down the line when you’re older and wiser, you look up in the rear-view mirror and that school building starts to look like the Taj Mahal in sepia.
As a host of experiences pop up in the mind when you think back, one common thread is the carefree days of freedom and fun. You know that isn’t coming back any time ever and so you miss it more than ever as you travel further away in time.
But then we found a way.
We started like the others, with a 25th anniv bash in 2005 and repeated in 5 and then 10 years later – evenings of fun and nostalgia, but even that was just a party for a few hours. Then two years ago, we did Corbett! The one place Centralians of our time relate to, thanks to Dang and our ‘trips’ each school year.
22 of us from across 4 continents packed off into cars and drove down to Corbett for two unbelievable days. There was everything from safaris to assemblies to uniform shots and a beautiful little movie that captured us in our schooldays connecting to our times and our music, bringing our yesterdays alive. Every shitty thing we ever did, from chalk to chicks was recycled to much mirth late into the night and early into the morning. There were songs, dances, jokes, enactments and every kind of fun, like you were sitting out in a founder’s day after-party in the music room and just being alive in the moment. In sum, we managed to create two days of carefree fun in the middle of the crazy lives we are fortunate to lead.
The craziest thing is how we bond instantly, the moment we meet. For those who weren’t there, you have to see it to believe it. In 10 minutes, we are back in class 11 and it’s total déjà vu as everyone goes back to their teens unchanged. The weirdos are still weird, the jokers are still jokers, assholes are still assholes and the nice guys didn’t finish last. Unfortunately, only the guys landed up otherwise I coulda told you the girls are still as pretty 😉
This time it’s Ranthambhore and we have an even more scintillating ride planned. We’ve found a great place to stay, full of Rajputana regalia and set up two fine evenings. We’ve even taken two safaris and checked out the tigresses for you. One of them almost chased us, but we told her to wait till we came back with Bully.
So what are you waiting for? Sign up and land up. The more there are, the merrier it is.
Life is a blur and we are all on that spin. Let’s grab those two yesterdays and frame them afresh while we still can. Speaking for myself, I’d rather go when I don’t need to take my dentures and walkers…and when that sherni still reminds me of my biwi!
And we’ll be leaving one chair empty in that group pic this time – for Anupinder.
Those of you who relate to Dang, Daku and Bolega Bhai Bam-boley will relate to this.
Aravali excursions into the jungles of Corbett and various Sainik Schools, Mount Abu, etc. were among the highlights of school life for most of us who were not too academically inclined (approximately 80% of the batch). The rest managed both marks and masti 😊
We decided to go with the excursion theme for this time’s reunion and headed out to Corbett. Evidently the girls still don’t trust us, so it was 25 very happy men in 5 cars, driving down 300 kms to yesterday, i.e. today minus 37 years. Frankly, I think we’ve finally hit on the secret of time travel. We started out as 55 year olds but reached as 18 year olds. For the next 3 days it was 4 hours of sleep a night, technicolour speech, Patiala pegs in double digit…and a hangover that refuses to go away! A short recap for the benefit of those who missed the opportunity.
Remember to scroll through the images – 39 of them!
Most people landed in Delhi including the internationals like Tarun Puri, George Abraham, Vasant Phatak, Ravi (Markat) Grover and faraway nationals like Lamzamuan, Manish Kawlra, Bogie Sharma etc., while some came in from Chandigarh. The drive got us in to the lovely Corbett River View Resort just in time for a sumptuous lunch to catch up. Most of the entertainment at this point came from Vasant Phatak who had ridden in with Bully. He spent more time with the Bully in that one drive than he had in all his years in school and he explained in technicolour exactly why!
Some rest and then high tea, followed by Assembly in house-wise lines, where goodie bags were handed out name-wise with school ties, lapel pins, caps and customized jackets in preparation for the evening. Dinner is when the party really took off. Everyone landed up in school uniform (Kapil Abrol will have to take 5 rounds of the nearest park for wearing wrong shoes). We had an amazing AV that took us all the way to 1980 and brought us back again. Super stuff that you can see on YouTube. Then came the whiskies and rums, the music, the dancing, the karaoke, the cake and the champagne and finally dinner, which was the start of the evening.
Post dinner everyone retired to Cottage No.15. Thank heavens an advance party had gone to the resort and picked the remotest cottage for this – the absolute ruckus that went on there till 2:00 and and past probably woke up ol’ Jim’s ghost! Crazy fun that went from poems to teacher imitations to renderings of the Bal Leela and Punjabi ballads from school times, not to mention the jokes and the same ol’ stories for the zillionth time. People like Markat, Dilraj, Bogie, Vasant and others rocked through the night. The extra time really let the guys relax and let loose.
Morning was a huge breakfast followed by a walk in the nearby hills and a highway chai with lots of photo ops. Lunch was good but quicker, since we had to head for the first safari into the jungle. Unfortunately, some guys had to leave after one night and set off very reluctantly after lunch. Then came the safari – 5 jeeps 20 guys and the tigers and elephants put on a real show for us! Fantastic tiger sightings including not just photos but superb videos and an elephant who did a cameo for us. We just made it out of the jungle about a minute before close.
Evening was an outdoor do with live music and everyone turned up in their brand new AFCS jackets to eat, drink, make merry and sing more than the singer! Cocktails, tall tales, kababs, Cuban cigars and happiness under the stars, before a lovely dinner-to-order and then more ‘entertainment’ in Cottage No.15.
We slept super late, but most were up at 5:00 am for a morning safari, while those who had an evening flight out of Delhi left early. Again, nice birds and a tigress with her cubs to complete the trip. Well, that was it, before we packed and set off to Delhi, with a ton of tales to tell next time. Look up the pix if you weren’t there. Next time should be GOA!
Hi folks, Last Sunday four of you walked into my house. Over the next few hours, you did the incredible – laid out a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to relive the best days of our life while we still can, in a place that is permanently stored in the minds of every Centralian from adolescence.
Shailendra, Sharat, Vivek and Kishore followed up on the idea of a go-away get-together for the Batch of 80, and came up with an amazing plan at that treasure-trove of memories – Corbett!
Two of them went down there over the weekend, checked out locations and facilities, created a format and negotiated rates, to come back with specific choices.
Then, over two bottles of whisky we froze on a plan and a place, to finally have the deal: a trip to Corbett with all the Mastiff and daaru and khaana peena.
One-night or two-night options, at 7500/- a night per head, for the stay, food and booze. Safari packages are being worked out and the to & fro travel will depend on needs and choices.
What’s the best news? We have 28 confirmations already and 12 of them have paid a 5k advance!!!
It was crazy, we called Markat in Australia and he went out to book a ticket. Tarun already has one leg here (don’t ask which one). Anjali was in New York and confirmed immediately. Of all the people, we called George Abraham and he’s confirmed and booked his tickets. Avinash is waiting for his wife to fall asleep so he can book tickets and Vasant is already here in spirit…so on, and these are just the international guys.
What about you? Take my word, this won’t happen again. There’s no end to the amount of fun we can have and I assure you, you’ll relive 1975-1980 in every detail except for the pimples and the pains.
Pingback, say yes, start dreaming. We’re filling up fast!!!
Dates are 21st October early morning departure and option for 22nd or 23rd return, ex-Delhi. Oh, btw blue shirt + white pants/ navy blue shorts mandatory