…My bags all packed, I’m ready to go; leaving on a jet plane.

Yes, making sure we were up (had set at least 3 alarm clocks); no one really slept; clock-watching every 20mins….agonizing…..and then dead tired, red, burning eyes at the shrill sounding ‘wake up’ call….exhausted. Finally getting there; checking in….the boarding card with your designated seat number. Security. Waiting…in the Departure Lounge.

Departure lounges come in many facades, shapes, sizes; degrees from mundane to the opulent to the ultra-mod, ultra-tech or the stains on the fire-proof carpets of coffee, red wine and chewing gum, even holes after a well worn heel has ground the end of the ‘camels’ stub….ash. Grey, black, white.

When the young, the youth and the fountains of life are where they are, in their hurried journeys, the impatient gang waste but little time to sit and sip and shoot the breeze. They whizz through the departure lounge to head for their destinations pronto!

The sesquicentennial celebrations of Great Bishop Cotton School were the culmination of 150 years!! And what a celebration that was!!! To put it in clear terms; no other public school could have logistically made it happen; the reasons are myriad but there is no need to neither expand nor explain.

We moved through Departures and clambered on anything and everything from jaunty jalopies, to the latest flying machines and the ‘Old Cottonian Express’. As we waited in the Departures Lounge at Kalka so that the guys from Delhi and beyond would connect. The Red Carpet was laid and the banners hung, ‘four squares throughout our lives’ to the School Flag….and yes the Coolie….as when I asked him how long he had been working the platforms, his quick reply was ‘Sau Saal’. A hundred years and he looked sharp in his red garb, the metal badge strapped on to his arm and his Gandhi glasses. … Even the hydraulic buffers at the main platform looked the way they were a hundred years ago…and so did the Departure Lounge.

….and I am told, even today, right there, right now and in the late evening when you stand near the benches and look down at the second flat…you can still hear the laughter and screams and shouts of Ye Ole Cottonians who congregated at our sacred alma mater…..the 4th October 2009 was a Full Moon. The sesquicentennial was in full swing…..there is no stopping us now… even after we all have gone (through Departures) and left the sanctuary of School the pull is felt. For me at least.

Its Sunday the 8th of November 2009, Deje Sweden: We coaxed my Mother-in-law to pack her bags; then carefully removed her most prized and familiar possessions; two oil paintings, seven photographs of her grand children, a book shelf, her rodenstock sandals, her TV set and the ‘recent wedded photograph of her and her husband, 56 years ago. Yes, I placed all of these in her Departure Lounge before we walked her in, in her ‘A’ state. It felt extremely sad and heart breaking….yes this was her final gate, her final wait before the flight. A slow, slow wait.

I just pray to God. Please Sir; please do try not to give me the ‘A’ state. Because what I at least want when I am in the Departures Lounge is to REMEMBER and at the least, say: ‘Bishop Cotton School….You Gave Me Everything’

‘A’ state = Alzheimer’s

Vivek Bhasin
(Lefroy 1961-1970)