Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Notes from the reunion: Segregated we were, but united we became thirty years later

My cousins were also impressed with the fact that JHSS was a coeducational school.  Until they pointed it out, I didn't know anything else.  As a kid, I was under the impression that boys and schools attended the same schools.

But, coeducational did not mean that we boys and them girls freely interacted.  In the early days, we did, as all kids do.  But, as we progressed along, the societal gender divide was reflected in the school and classroom too.  Most boys kept to themselves and most girls stayed away from the boys.

The hormonal outbursts of teenage years probably made this divide even wider and deeper.  The feminine gender became even more mysterious to me.  Books and movies didn't help in any way.

After living in the US for nearly 25 years, I now find this past all the stranger.  I wonder if the culture in schools and society in Neyveli has changed, or whether the the gender-conscious interactions continue.

The same classmates thirty years were so different.  Gender no longer divided us.  Perhaps it was because of the three decades of life. Or because most of us have traveled long ways--mentally, culturally, and geographically--from that small town. Or, perhaps it is simply that the world has changed.  Or, maybe because we are all nearing fifty and we have reached a stage that we no longer care?

Gender mattered only when it came to sleeping and bathroom arrangements. It did feel a tad strange that all of a sudden the girls went their ways to their rooms, and the guys to ours.

For the first time in the reunion, we were strictly a bunch of guys sitting around and chatting about the old days, and about updates in our lives since we completed high school.

I have no idea if girls were girls and had pillow fights :)

We guys were far from being guys.

I listened to friends, and Krishnakumar, in particular, talk about the health issues of parents.  Gowri asked me about my atheism, though it might have because he wanted to divert attention from another topic.

When Sridhar lit up a cigarette, I was surprised. "I didn't know you smoked" I told him.  He had an immediate comeback: "I didn't know either."  Willy sat with us and slept.

Come to think of it, our parents would have been pretty happy that we were so decently human!

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that the gender divide was a huge loss.  I don't think I knew how to "normally" interact with girls until I went to the US.  Graduate schooling was a learning experience in more ways than one.

Now, after practically all my adult life in the US, I find that I am oblivious to the gender aspect.

Well, I am gender-conscious.  For instance, as a middle-aged guy, I find that almost always, automatically--without thinking--I hold the doors open for women of all ages to enter buildings or cars. 

A few days ago, my mother's cousin and his wife visited with us for a few minutes.  While they were leaving, I held the passenger door while the wife sat inside.  As I was beginning to slowly close the door, I felt her pulling the door in, which is when I understood that she didn't know I was standing there to close the door.

"It shows that you live in America" she said.

The husband had a wonderful joke.  He said that in India, if a man holds the car door open for a woman, either the car is new or the wife is new :)

We all laughed.

It is awesome that humor hasn't died in India.


Ramesh said...

Lovely post. I felt exactly the same way after our reunion and you have nicely articulated it. Why we were like that all those years ago beats me.

IT wa lovely reconecting with the "girls" reunion time. We probably talked moere than we had in the entire 12 years of schooling !!

Sudha.a said...

Can i also add a few things here?I wonder if the gender divide was felt in those days -but now i could reconnect with everyone of them as if it was only yesterday that i had completed my +2 exams- Guess i was so childish in my attitude and my behaviour- hey guys bear with me - am so sorry!

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