The year was 1983.
Bandit Queen Phoolan Devi had surrendered, Ardh Satya had received the Filmfare Best Film award and India had won the Cricket World Cup at Lords under Kapil Dev.
It was also the year before the fall of the iconic Fergusson Banyan Tree in Pune; on this fallen tree was pictured a song in Ketan Mehta’s ‘Holi” during 1984.
Those were the years when the Pune colleges hosted an international student body made up of the Iranians, the Mauritians and reps of a few African nations. And of course, there was India’s first privately governed college, consistently ranked among the country’s first ten ever since, an institution that gave us two Prime Ministers, its founding fathers amongst the pioneers of the Indian National Congress: the Fergusson College, Fergusson College Road, Pune 4.
We were a bunch out there. Sitara, Annie, Ulka, Warsha, Sadhana, Sujata, Iran and Miriam…..and there were the gentlemen, Yudhvir, Nitin, Girish, Anand, Taposh, Shanky, Ronny…..
The Fergusson College of 1980-83 spilled over to ‘Vaishali’ across and extended to the Deccan Gymkhana area. I rode a chocolate brown Hero Majestic Moped back then, carrying Sitara as pillion many a times on our merry way to Pashaan. There were the long Physics chalk and talk sessions, the gorgeous Botany lecturer and the dreary labs; a quick dash to the LR (Ladies Room!) and the meandering pathway to our ‘Peru wallah’ providing the breaks! Winnie Paranjape, Ujjwala Samarth and the stunning Chitnis sisters come to mind. I liked walking into the college through the girls’ hostel wing for some reason. ‘Chashme Baddur’ had the college crowd in splits and theatre was pretty visible on one side of the building.
I experimented with the tube and harem pants and the dhoti salwar. Warsha’s unmistakable perfume still wafts in my olfactory memory bank. In comparison with the air today, it seemed a lot calmer back then. We were studying but I don’t recall any keeling over. Of course, there was the small matter of comparison with the self-perceived, ultra-cool Wadia College. They looked down upon us, calling us a ‘school’ disdainfully. Our parking lot would be packed with bicycles; there were no cell phones or ipods. The library was huge and cavernous; I remember the long winding staircase. And the only time I lost my way into the college canteen, I had Yudhvir ask me, “What’s a nice girl like you doing here?!”
I have since met a couple of Fergussonians in these twenty eight years past and have liked them all. But my fondest thoughts are reserved for the ones who journeyed through those halls with me, in the years 1980-83. Those are the Steel Magnolias I am on my way to meet this coming weekend at Pune. There is the excitement of homing in to an age and time that launched us all into our adult lives. My batch mates have since fashioned careers; they have worked at jobs and raised families. They have gone out and made their own differences in the world. They have made their pacts and their peace with lives. They are two score years and more, a little beyond half-way home. It is time to revisit and re-enter the door we walked out of, back in 1983.