What do we do with the annual magazine of our alma maters?
If we don’t figure in it, either for our extra-curricular or sports prowess or our academic achievements or because we have written articles for it, we generally dump it somewhere for a couple of decades and then, when we unearth it, flick through and find no mention of ourselves, we toss it out with our waste paper or shove it into the corner of a cupboard.
If, however, we have been prominent in college cultural activities or we have contributed stories and poems that could be our first work in print, then the magazine finds pride of place on our bookshelf, to be looked through often and hopefully noticed by friends and family, who may have thought that we were always as ordinary as we now are and need their misconceptions swept away.
Because I belong to that obscure and unknown first category, my college magazine was not just relegated to the back of a cupboard: it was buried deep within a trunk and its existence forgotten for decades as we moved from place to place.
At the time when we were there, our college was newly founded and the size of our classes was small. Most of us were familiar with each other; we bumped into each other in the corridors, the canteen or the library — so back I went to that old magazine to refresh my memory
When retirement brought us into our own apartment and we could empty every last trunk and crate and spread out our belongings and marvel at them, out came the old college magazine — and I was blown away when I saw the cover.
It showed several college-mates walking down the driveway of our college and among them I recognised a “new” friend I had made over the wall of her home as we discussed sons and pets and plants and other things we had in common.
“She studied with me!” I exclaimed. “No wonder I found it so easy to relate to her!”
Flood of memories
A flood of memories poured out and I recalled her maiden name, the subjects she had studied, our encounters during those undergraduate years, and so much else.
Excitedly, I called her up and “reintroduced” myself and both of us laughed ourselves silly over the fact that it had taken that forgotten college magazine to make us realise that we shared a common past!
Over the next few years, we often resolved to go through every line and every picture in that magazine together, but of course, it never happened; and once again I contemplated tossing out the magazine that had surely outlived its usefulness.
Then, suddenly out of the blue — or should I say, out of Facebook — I was back in touch with several other college mates. Our conversations were a bit stilted as we tried to bridge a four-decade gap, but as memories resurfaced, names of classmates were dropped, some familiar, some that we just couldn’t put a face to.
Our student days
At the time when we were there, our college was newly founded and the size of our classes was small. Most of us were familiar with each other; we bumped into each other in the corridors, the canteen or the library — so back I went to that old magazine to refresh my memory.
Since it was not a yearbook, there were only pictures of those who were office bearers of the various cultural and sports societies that were part of college life but glancing through the write-ups brought to life people of whom I had thought I had no recollection.
Immediately those articles and photographs were sent to my “newly discovered old friends” and the years fell away as our conversations became as animated as they had been in those long ago days. What colour and freshness that nostalgic reminiscing brought to our mundane lives!
So, if you have a copy of your college magazine, don’t throw it away — you never know what treasures it will tap out of your memory sometime!
Cheryl Rao is a journalist based in India.