Reunion by Sunaina Narang

My school, the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education in Pondicherry celebrated its 75th anniversary yesterday recently. Founded in 1943, ‘it strives to evolve a system of integral education in an environment that inspires children to develop the five essential aspects of personality: the physical, the vital, the mental, the psychic, and the spiritual’. I am an alumni, having spent 18 years studying in this institution – right from Kindergarten up to university.

The alumni was invited to take part in a cultural program to celebrate the event. There was much activity. And I too got caught up in the excitement and decided to take part. Old students gathered in Pondicherry from different parts of the globe.

And practice began in the middle of the monsoons. As if knowingly, it began to pour just as practices began in the open air sports stadium. We were quite a sight – 200 odd people of various ages and sizes — all come together in our sodden clothes to commemorate this place which had given us so much.

My first impression upon walking into a stadium 20 years later as an adult was a mix of trepidation and happiness. It was as if I was viewing the same environment where I had spent countless number of hours as a child with a fresh set of eyes. The running track was still the same, the long jump pit unchanged, and the football field just like it used to be. The memories came flooding back as I stood before the shot put pit. I could hear ghosts from the past making fun of me…  being a lefty I used both hands to throw – javelin with the right, shot put with the left, discuss with the right….I confused everyone around me.

The Olympic-size pool, where I’d first learnt to swim, was just as I remembered it. The familiarity was nostalgic.  The clock tower stood erect measuring time and yet time seemed to have frozen. I was 18 again running on that track, jumping over hurdles.

The teachers’ I had known as a child were the same and yet not. They were older, plumper versions of the people I once knew — hair a shade greyer. One of the old teachers embraced me upon seeing me and said, ‘Welcome home.’ And the words brought tears to my eyes.

We took part a drill inspired by Qui Gong. Two hundred of us practiced in an open field every day for weeks prior the event – thunder, rain or shine. There was something magical about reconnecting with old faces, getting soaked in the rain in familiar surroundings.

Two weeks later as I stood in the open field singing Vande Mataram I had tears flowing down my cheeks. I hadn’t known it before but this was the most grounding experience I’d had in a long time. There was a strong sense of oneness and belonging, and I reconnected with a part of myself I’d had very little to do with over the years.  And I knew that I had indeed ‘Come home’.