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          Volume 11 |Issue 06| February 10, 2012 |


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Love to Love, Hate to Hate


Reunions can be pretty fiddly. Besides having to pay a hefty registration fee even for the wife and children who are surely to opt out at the last minute (who wants to meet dad's friends' friends?), there are the imminent dangers lurking at every occupied chair or behind every steaming cup of premixed coffee. You may bump into someone who knows your name, and ole, ole! You don't remember his. Or you could be meeting the same chap year after year ... 2010, 2011 and again 2012. Which besides being the best proof that both of you are alive brings up the occasional occasion when monotony may, just may, compel both of you to briefly wish that the other was dead (in an alive way, that is).

The excuses people dig out to stay out of a reunion can make you think they are experienced miners. Examples:

My son has got exams. Only he does not mention his son is in university.

My wife is going to have a baby. Only he does not mention she is in her fourth month.

My driver's wife is having labour. Only he does not mention that he does not have a driver.

The ones burst by family are even more dramatic. Examples:

My husband has a rash. But I am your husband and I don't know.

My dad will not like it. But I am your dad and I will love to have you there.

Reunion venues can be problematic. To do away with the boredom of the same scenery year after year, some organisers have decided to change their venue, far away from their alma mater. In fact, one alumni association in Dhaka is planning their next reunion in Bangkok, and the year after on their own land in Savar or Sreepur. 2015! Ottawa here we come.

Reunion horses can be rather awkward; a necessary evil that adds to the festivity. These Dhaka stallions have found their name etched in the Book of World Records as the slowest horses ever to graze the earth. Their other enviable attribute is that they know the art of encircling the reunion arena with their dung so that gatecrashers do not even think of taking undue advantage of a free lunch. In the first place why reunions have horses is not easy to answer. But one suggestion is that no other animal is willing to bear the brunt of former students who have nothing else to do on a fine Friday morning.

Reunions can bring out the child in an alumnus. Adults in their mid-50s will hold a balloon in one hand and a child in another for fear the child will lose the gas-inflated rubber ball. But it's my balloon, cries the child. It's my reunion, laughs heartily, the adult. Up comes an old friend reaching out to shake hand. The alumnus reaches out and the balloon heads for the sky. This was the first time the child had smiled at that reunion.

Meals at reunions are epic matters. Beginning with bhapa pitha at second breakfast for many, paratha and veggie, fruits and sweets may make the rookie attendee believe there was no lunch. Almost like a surprise quiz during studentship (but more pleasant) comes the announcement that a seven-course luncheon was being served making the rookie wonder if these guys missed breakfast. This is the time when the well-prepared, well-thought-out and even well designed coupons go out the window, and everyone is welcomed in with a pat on the back. Finally, the spirit of the reunion is in the air – friendship, fellowship, and fraternity. Only the food convenor is a little worried and he is already looking for a CNG back home, as his driver has also been patted in.

Raffle is a major attraction. Anyone who could not manage lunch on a paper plate has a chance to win a ceramic plate. Someone who avoided borhani because it was dripping all over now has the perfect opportunity to grab a brand new jug. And the Dhaka-Cox's Bazaar-Dhaka air ticket is sure to commence a feud because it is not for a couple, but the hotel accommodation is.

By the time it is teatime only twenty percent of the crowd remain, only because their homes are a long distance away even considering the holiday traffic, but persuaded by thoughts of the mayhem caused by hordes of picnic parties. Huddled as they are in groups sprinkled unevenly across the vast marquee, they enjoy their biscuits and tea in different ways – dry, soaked, and thrown at each other. That fun of exchange is somewhat lost if the menu includes singara and soggy bananas lying there since before the speech of the reunion speaker.

In the evening many new (but registered) faces come to join the reunion finale that almost always includes a grand cultural evening and a dinner, made to look lavish by an array of glittering colours hanging from buildings, balconies, and balustrades. Many other arrivals look new because they have changed their morning/afternoon attire or because they look glamorous in the intermingling of light and sound. The musical extravaganza can never quench the entertainment thirst of the alumni because if Salma has enthralled them they would rather have Runa, and if Laila has kept them spellbound the general opinion is they could try a fresh voice.

Dinner is safer than lunch because participants are now more eager to finish a meal and head for home after a long day or evening, depending on when they joined the party. The menu is not much different from that served in the afternoon except that the chicken looks brighter under fluorescence.

As the evening wears out, an exit poll will give the following results: Thoroughly enjoyable – 12% (mostly from among the organisers); Was so-so – 23%; Could have been better – 53%; Will not come back next year – 7%; the alumni association should be banned – 5%.

About nine months later, the opinion poll sees a wide shift: Must have a reunion – 53%; Must do better than last year – 12%; Will encourage friends to attend – 23%; Uncertain to participate – 5%; Shall not attend – 4%; the alumni association should be banned – 3%.

And, that is why, despite the effort in getting a venue, despite the sweat shed in collecting funds, despite the thankless job that fails to make everyone happy, despite the many stumbling blocks, reunions must go on. For they are the reminders that where they are now so once were we, and where we are now, so they must be.


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