At 17, I never imagined being 36. But at 36, I get to see whether people remain who they were at 17.
My high school celebrated its silver jubilee on 13.03.10. Driven by curiousity I decided to attend. I didn't know what to expect, but I was looking forward to see my old friends whom I haven't seen in years, some as long as 20 years. When I was there 20 years ago, the school was only 5 years old with all the typical teething problems. It wasn't an easy life for a teenager to be in a boarding school, isolated in an island, almost in the middle of nowhere, with neverending problems like water shortage, occasional thieving, and fatique due to the stringent daily routine. Yet, everyone survived. In a community of as small as 600 people, one learnt to be a family. Everyone knew everyone else. It's a wonder how one could remember so many faces and names.
Being in the school again brought back nostalgic memories. I saw the young me lying on the bed in my old dorm, queuing up for meals at the school dining hall, sitting in the classroom waiting impatiently for the bell to ring, running on the field on hot afternoons, and walking hand in hand with friends on the beach just across the school. (One of my best friends lost her life to nose cancer two years ago, and she was the one that I could visualise most when I was in the school for the celebration. It's a sad thing that I never got to see her at my age; she, one of the most cheerful people I've ever known.)
The teachers who came might have aged a little bit, but the presence they have is still very much the same. These teachers became our parents then, punishing you when you do something wrong, praising you for your excellent achievements, and comforting you when you were feeling down. I am still very much in awe of them.
Of my old classmates, three 'boys' (somehow, it feels weird to think of them as 'men') were the only ones who came. They might be older and wiser. They might now talk about kids and work and the myriad life problems. But they are still 17 at heart. I guess myself included. The heart remains constantly 17 when you meet people you were with at 17.
Seeing them again, getting to know the persons that they are now have been refreshing. Still respectful of others, still accepting our differences, and still appreciating our experiences. The years at the boarding school were not wasted at all. There, one learnt that everyone is different, yet no one is to be discriminated. One got toughen up by the hardships, and humbled by the experience. One was educated to respect one's elders and friends. Most of all, one remembers one's root. It's all in the heart and the heart is constant.