The venue is the grassy open lawn of the Teachers and Students Centre (TSC) of the University of Dhaka. Someone bald-headed from among the crowd comes forward to embrace you. Overcoming the disbelief of your eyes you instantly recognise the 18 or 19-year-old youth whom you knew 50 years back. There is no mistaking the face, the frame which remain more or less the same over a span of such long years with slight changes age brings to. The glossy shaven head is the only exception. What however has changed forever is the young student, introvert and shy, into someone who now does not tire of talking. This is perhaps the outburst of a reunion after so many years, you wonder. Or, perhaps this was bound to happen. It has happened for the better for here is a warmer soul which in his student life he protected from exposure lest his study was disturbed. This explains why he secured the top position in the final MA examination --a much improved performance on his BA (Honours) examination.
On the contrary, there is one who was in the same class in the session 1973-77 quite unrecognisable. A retired civil servant, he made it to the highest rank of bureaucracy but frantic rummaging through the mind did not give a clear picture of the student he was. A few who meet occasionally, if not regularly, surprisingly do not look old but others met after long years do. Of course, there are exceptions like, if I'm permitted to say, the baldy.
The bonhomie shared between friends gathered there was surely contagious. For comments and additional comments --some of those lost in the dins and commotion of joviality all around at the alumni--give extra kick to the festive mood there. Yet amid the warmth and electric mood, something haunts you like a silent assailant. It is impossible to notice that missing from the group is one whose presence every year was axiomatic. He will never grace the party anymore because he has taken a journey to the other world. Another must-present friend failed to appear because he was in Singapore for treatment. Then you cannot help noticing --quite unerringly-- that a few of your classmates have slowed almost to the point of senility. Their movement is restricted but happily a few of them are quite agile mentally as exhibited by their humour and irreverent comments. At least one of the classmates who has ventured into politics successfully seems to be enjoying life most. He married second time around only a few years back.
It is said 'age is just a number'. What matters most is to stay ever green. The best recipe for this is to think young and take things as they come. Retirement has its deleterious impacts on life. No one should retire from life. Better get engaged with something of one's liking. It is a privilege to pursue your profession when most of your class or year mates have gone on retirement. If there are not many opportunities, just do something for the needy --maybe through social works. The attempt should be to get connected as much as possible. Indeed, it works as fuel for your drive --one that sustains human spirit.
There is no denying that advanced age is a stage of human life when journeys down the memory lane continue to take place. Flashes of memories of an event, a face, a place, a tree, a village, a walkway, a first-in-life, a visit, a song --and what not --appear like vivid scenes on the celluloid. Nostalgia is what it is called and elderly people rejoice in such past reminisces. The reunion of the alumni is an occasion that provides an opportunity to get back to one of the most important phases of life. January 27 every year is marked for the alumni of the English Department of the DU to congregate at the TSC lawn. It is a time for the alumni of the department to reconnect with their alma mater. Long live the spirit fostered by the alumni of the department.
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