19 May, 2015

The meeting that was three decades in the making!

Three decades is a longtime –pretty longtime! So, it was with a mix of elation, expectation & trepidation that I winged my way to Kochi, Kerala on 3rd April night for a reunion of my school friends. I was not even familiar with some of those people who were coming to the reunion, even though they were in my class!

Also refer to- Baroda Trip diary

Kochi Airport was a small airport - done up in quaint Kerala style, making it stand out. Since, I did not know the K of Kochi, my hostess & friend – Jessy, had arranged for a vehicle to pick me up. Poornima ( Poori to friends ) & her husband Ramesh had very kindly drove down all the way to meet me. They are a handsome couple, living a charmed life in the wilderness – with elephants for company, monkeys for their legerdemain and dogs as their loyal friends! Enroute, Ramesh was enlightening me on ecodiversity, indigenous species, the trial & error in selecting proper plants for afforestation etc.

On reaching the destination, I was surprised by the mansion that confronted me! The grand porch, the high ceilings inside, the reception area, the winding staircase, all in teak, all reminded me of the enchanted life in Blandings Castle, that you get to read about in P.G.Wodehouse’s novels. Jessy had overseen the construction of the house herself! We were chatting up till 2 PM that night, as if we were meeting again after annual holidays!

The Chennai Superkings arrived late, thanks to some snafus in the aircraft! Jessy had arranged for a nice duplex apartment for us, with balconies overlooking a river & had a commanding view of the Kochi countryside! We retired for the night (or what was left of it!).

The next day started with a fab spread at Jessy’s place. Now I was able to appreciate the beauty of her mansion, the orchids she had in her garden, the nice lawn in front… super setup!

We were chatting up more and some Royal Challengers trooped in and joined the fun. We were reliving the fun we had in school, the funny names boys & girls were given then. The christening chief – Rams – was there in flesh and blood… he dug up all the names from the forgotten depths of history!

Jessy excelled herself by serving up a lunch fit for royalty! Fed to the eyeballs, we were in a mellow mood… some of us started singing songs from that period when we were kids, which brought back some fond memories. Sarathy, an accomplished percussionist, working in Amchi Mumbai, brought in the beats – a Sivamani in our midst! Jessy’s son, Andrew , a budding musician and composer, displayed his virtuosity with the mridangam.

We moved on to the only serious topic of discussion in this entire trip – setting up a charitable trust! This discussion did not find the guys wanting – we all participated with gusto and it lasted for all of three hours!

Dinner was an elaborate affair again. Jessy had arranged for it from Paragon, a famed eaterie here, complete with live counters to boot! There was tender coconut payasam, in tequila shot glasses, which was awesome [ was it due to the tequila glasses?! ].

Dinner done, there was a jugalbandi with Sarathy at the drums and Andrew with his Mridangam. We then thought it fit to shake a leg to burn some calories. We had connected to others in the group – Bhuvana from US, Raghu from Dubai & Ashok from Bangalore. Bhu was the one who was prepared to shake a leg – in a Queenbee T-Shirt & fully madeup! She was dancing away to our tunes, halfway round the globe! She called each one of us in turn to dance. It was my turn to do a bangra! I did what I thought was Bangra and have survived to tell the tale!

The next day was hosted by Prema. She had sent across a van for us with her son Nitin. We travelled to her home in Todhupuzha. This was another jaw-dropping mansion! This was a property abutting the river, no less! The river was clean and had a good flow. George, Prema’s husband, let us know that the source was the dam at Idukki, where there was a hydro-electric project. George is a well-known orthopaedic surgeon in the area.

When we went into the house, we were struck by the simple elegance of the place. Prema’s home had a spiral staircase as well, but with brass embellishments! My friend Bhargav wondered & remarked whether all in Kerala were billionaires! I was telling my friends that the living & dining area alone would have been a 2BHK in Mumbai, costing Rs.2.5Crores!

Breakfast was an elaborate affair here too. There were puttu-curry, appam-stew, dosa and many, many more items – too numerous to count or remember. Just seeing so many items on the table, my stomach was full! After the delectable fare, we boarded the van and were off to Alapuzha ( Allepey).
It was a fun ride in the bus, with more singing and fun. George joined in the fun – he sang the occasional song as well! We reached Alapuzha and were going to spend the day in the houseboat, sailing in the backwaters for which Kerala is so famous. It was to be a four hour ride for us!

The houseboat was an elaborate one –with seating area for probably 15 people. It also had two bedrooms, incase someone wanted to relax. We continued to chat up sitting on the deck. The ride was nice. There were two pit-stops – one for buying prawns & another for toddy! Toddy found a ready & willing audience! And it relaxed Mano, loosened his tongue & fired his imagination to such an extent that he came up with his inimitable Kozhi ( Hen ) act.

He compared men to Kozhi, who come back to the coop, at the end of their perambulations! He kept improvising on this and held us in splits, for over an hour.

Lunch came and we did justice to it, now that the sylvan settings were adding to the allure. I was asked to speak on Financial Planning. I knew that after the Kozhi act & a sumptuous lunch, my talk would be like a wet blanket! I asked people to pick their poison- they picked Retirement Planning as the topic. I talked and did some Q&A on that. We were nearing the end of our ride.

The van dropped us back in Jessy’s home in Tripunithura, Eranamulam. Many had their flights and trains that night. After dinner, our friends were all moving out, one by one. Myself and Rams were to leave early morning on Monday. We got ready early, took leave of Jessy to the Airport. Jessy packed some protein bars & apple for me, true to her warm, caring persona !

The driver seemed to be an airforce pilot… he drove the car like it was a MIG 29 and weaved in & out of the traffic, like in a dog-fight! The car would have taken off, had it wings! Finally, I was at Kochi Airport and intime landed in Amchi Mumbai.

It was a memorable trip. We renewed our ties, strengthened our bonds & recharged our batteries. Now we are back to where we belong. Someday, we’ll meet again. And have fun all over again!

Experience set on paper by - Suresh Sadagopan | Ladder7 Financial Advisories

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