Guess it is the email invitation from my college announcing our graduation ceremony that triggered in my mind what I am unable to pin under a name. But for clarity of expression, I can make a comparison – it felt like last year’s farewell.
In the traditional WhatsApp group that still held us together, I typed a message requesting for a conference call. Affirmative responses popped one after another, playfully pushing the earlier response above. While fixing a time for the call was a conflict, having to keep in mind the different time zones and carefully adding or subtracting hours, we soon settled on a day and time of commonest convenience: the morning of the approaching Sunday.
One of us who is with me here in India, the one who had made it an adamant point to be in touch with everyone, opened the call, not unexpectedly. When I joined, there were multiple voices, sounding as if echoing from my memory.
Greetings are customary, meaningless trivialities reserved for men and women of profession. When they noticed I had joined the call there came expressionistic equivalents of a casual pat, one even bordering on low-key abuse. Levity at once settled, like the usual coat of dust on a polished table, and it felt like time hadn’t sailed long at all.
I clicked each profile and viewed the familiar faces. Some were in day, some were in dark, but every face sent out warmth and aroused the feeling of belonging. Each had an associated emotion, hardcoded in the mind through familiarity. Memories coming to the forefront of the mind were more than many.
The topics for the discussion were several; higher degrees, professional life, trysts with love, of who will be the first to get into knots and stories of brief encounters with what I can’t list here in fear of offending the prudish. The topics were jumped into without minding to discriminate by gender, for years of oneness had aligned our outlook.
Mutual mockery soon followed, encouraged by laughs and giggles in the background. This only left me feeling more despondent, bringing to mind nostalgic images from a blissful past, where happiness was habitual and responsibility was nothing more than a word.
‘Guys, I have to get going,’ came a sudden voice. He had his internship to leave for.
The rest of the conversation was a struggle to weave together the past, present and future, in an attempt to find a place for everyone in life. Surely, those who were across seas would have felt the weight heavier, as the awareness of the fact that they would not be returning for the next many years had already sunk. Until that distant time, only online jaunts like this were to mollify them all.
Every time someone left, the default tone of the app sounded like death knell. We tried to maintain normalcy in the absence of the few. Stories were exchanged, minds were spoken out, but hitting silence at a point seemed inevitable. Cliched conversations had to be restarted.
College and shared incidents made sure to feature in the conversation, punctuated by exclamations of reminiscence. Each point of view was no different, as if experiences were actually one, and only complemented each other to present a vicarious picture.
The last piece of conversation was a request from those away to share photos from our Graduation Day. And then I lowered the phone and went to have my lunch. Only after mother’s hand intruded before my plate I realised I was far, far away from the canteen in college.