A Big Fat Reunion: PGP 1979 – 40th Reunion at Lucknow on November 27 – 30, 2019
The location of the 40th Reunion of our batch in Lucknow was an excellent choice. Arvind Kaul and his wife Lakshmi’s selfless and passionate work in the social sector in Lucknow inspired our batch to experience it first hand. As most of us have the best years of our careers behind us, I suspect we were seeking inspiration and ways of giving something back to society.
27th of November 2019 saw 35 of us trickling into Lucknow through the day. Arvind monitored our movements till the time we started to gather and meet each other in the lobby of Hotel Clarks Avadh. Some of us were meeting after 40 years and some were difficult to recognize. But the hugs and the outpouring of emotion of just meeting each other melted away the years and it felt like the time gap disappeared. Parallelly the spouses who were already connected through a WhatsApp group met and bonded.
The first evening was a quiet affair of reconnecting and getting a synopsis of each other’s life’s journey and understanding their current life stage.
On the 28th morning, we visited Lakshmi’s school ( KK Academy ) which is a work of selfless service coupled with an unparalleled intensity and passion. Lakshmi, supported by Arvind started the school after a short professional career, and both invested a major part of themselves and their financial resources to build it to its current scale of 235 children. Most of the children don’t have the financial resources to afford the school fees and all of them get admission into very good schools after they leave K.K. Academy after class 8th. The children put up a grand show for us and won our hearts. What was evident in our interactions with the children was that they were not following the rote learning model but were learning to think for themselves and explore their passion. To see them explain their ideas in fluent English with such confidence was in itself a treat at the same time a moving experience. The batch was awestruck at the sheer magnitude of the effort and the output of mainstreaming children from humble backgrounds who would have otherwise would not have been educated.
Arvind and Lakshmi treated us to authentic Lucknowi chaat at the school premises itself. The Golgappas, Aloo TIkkis, matar tikkis, and Dahi Bhallas were a hit with everyone. The afternoon was spent sightseeing followed by a gala dinner at the hotel. All of us dressed in authentic Lucknow Kurtas, bonded over old memories and anecdotes to make it a fun evening to remember.
On the 29th after a short sightseeing walking tour, we all set out for Imamgunj, a remote village, a good 3 hours drive. Our bus driver had a challenging time negotiating the narrow but well-paved Village Roads and eventually managed to reach the school. It was here when we interacted with children from 4 villages that the full impact of Arvind’s work sunk in. A journey spanning 3 decades of committed work to change the mindset of the community at different levels, using his professional experience to empower the villagers to improve their own lot, using his own financial resources and finally making the villagers contribute their own land and building to further the cause of education and drive social change.
A truly awe-inspiring and humbling experience.
A truly memorable day!
Two days of experiencing Lucknow, the shopping, the outfits, and sightseeing was capped by an outstanding dinner that night at Niamat Khanna featuring the very best of Lucknowi delicacies cooked at homes but served in an alfresco setting under the stars.
The best meal I have had for some time!
A very memorable get together of batch mates who first met over 40 years back as young adults, had a varying and interesting life journey’s but are bonded together by this invisible thread which melts away the years as and when they meet.
Looking forward to many more such bonding sessions.
Behind the scenes: The preparation for the reunion
It felt much like the prep for a Big Fat Indian Wedding ~ updating excel sheets with details of arrivals and departures, discussing the buffet menu with the hotel staff, ordering Lucknow chikan kurta sets to match, colour and size specifications of the guests , making customised mementos and then waiting with bated breath for the Big Day!
Such was the excitement that built up before the arrival of the Batch of ’79 for their 40th Reunion at Lucknow from 27th to 29th November.
The mementos were stones painted with each batch mates’ portrait, taken from the Yearbook. It was a flashback to 1979 for everyone; some found it difficult to believe that they had looked so different (and often, with so much more hair!). Artwork credit goes to Neha Kaul, Arvind’s talented daughter-in-law, who is an artist.
The logo was the reunion was designed by Sneha (Rangarajan). And the T-shirts were ordered from Tiruppur. The Reunion was planned from Chennai with inputs from the Kauls.