There is at least one practical reason for high school reunions: they remind us how much we have changed physically, aged, all perhaps for the wiser.
Over the last year or so, as I re-connected with many old classmates, and shared my latest photos with them, many had a tough time relating to the new me.
Willie was very happy to see me at the reunion, but it took him some time to adjust to my appearance that has very little in common with the face he last saw in 1981.
"I always remembered you as a pappu face, with slightly chubby cheeks" he said, and added "even when I talked to you when you were at Venu's office a couple of years ago, I only imagined your pappu face."
I laughed. I can easily recall that face. The face that also got affectionately pinched a lot. Facial hair was light, and I had just about started shaving.
The face now has a beard, which is mostly grey. The hair on top is grey and balding. Pappu no more!
Willy on the other hand is so easily recognizable because, well, he pretty much looks the same. So do a few others. Most of the rest of us have gone through various levels of metamorphosis.
Sudha and Uma too had problems relating to the way I speak too. I distinctly recall the first time I called them up from the US--they could not relate to the new me as the old Sriram of Neyveli, with my slightly Americanized accent and use of words.
One wonderful aspect of the reunion was this: despite all the changed appearances and voices, in no time we were all relating to each other of the old days. Physical changes do not necessarily mean all that much.
Not seeing the pappu face didn't affect Willie, who sat with a small group of us who were chatting into very late hours of the night. He was sleepy, but chose to sleep sitting up on an uncomfortable chair. When I asked him about it the following morning, he said he slept that way because he felt he might never again get such an opportunity to be amongst old classmates.
After a couple of friends freely admitted to using hair dyes to cover the grey hair, Uma asked me something along those lines about me.
"Literally and figuratively it is 'what you see is what you get'" I told her.
I was tempted to get into how I weave my own life into the newspaper columns and academic presentations. I wanted to talk about autoethnography. To quite an extent, there is a lot about me in the open. But then better sense prevailed, and I let it go. I can imagine how bizarre it will be for a transformed pappu face to talk about autoethnography to a friend whom I barely knew 30 years ago!
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