Our "reunion" bus pulled up outside the school. Even though we were there during the week between Christmas and New Year, when schools and colleges are closed back in the US, there was a lot of activity here at Neyveli.
I would think that it is a crime to force students into classrooms and exam halls during what ought to be vacation time. I recall that thirty/forty years ago, we had holidays during this time.
There were clusters of students everywhere, like this group outside the building. Why were they sitting there on the road? I know not, and I didn't want to ask them either.
I did walk over to a bunch of inquisitive and giggling students who were outside the gates. They seemed to be waiting for a few more students before heading back to their homes in the van in which a few were already seated.. I heard one tell her group "they are old students." Yes, we are old!
I walked up to them and said "you are right. We finished school in 1981."
The group became shy. I knew it was up to me to draw them into a conversation. "We have come to see our old school and town."
That made at least one girl a tad confident. "Where are you from?" she asked me.
"I am from America. In our group, we have classmates from Dubai, Bahrain, and from all over India" I spoke slowly.
Their eyes got wider. All the eight or nine girls, who were probably 13 or 14 years old, were intently listening to me. I wondered whether my Americanized accent was making the words all mumbo-jumbo to them.
I wished them well and entered the school.
About five or six custodial workers were sweeping and washing the floors. When they were done, they sat down and were observing us alumni walking around.
"We finished school thirty years ago, and have come back to the school now" I told them in Tamil. I was sure they chuckled inside at my Americanized Tamil.
Of course, the first question from them was "where are you coming from?"
"America" I said. "The school has changed a lot. But, still, it means a lot for us."
They looked at one another. One woman stepped up with a question: "what is your salary?"
I laughed. "சம்பளம் பாதி கிம்பளம் பாதி" I replied in jest, recalling the old movie song.
I rejoined the rest of the group in the biology lab.