It was a classroom full of young girls. Girls of about 16 years of age. Some pony tailed, some pimpled and all smiling. As I close my eyes, I can easily be transported in that summer afternoon, the last day of our high school, just before our board exams. I don't remember who had sneaked in a camera that day. Because, some 19 years back, in a school where most students were from Bengali middle class families, cameras were a rarity! But thankfully, for that very simple non-digital camera, one of the most precious moments of my life got captured, forever!
Yes, this is the photograph taken on the last day of our high school. After that day, depending on our marks and interests, we would be drifting in different streams, may be different schools or colleges. In an age where mobiles were not heard of and telephones at home were only for the rich, this day almost meant end of many friendships, many associations. Well, ten years of association is a hard thing to let go. Familiar faces, the feeling of security once we were inside the big walls that used to look ominous then, the teachers who scolded us and loved us, the nooks and corners where secrets were shared, confessions were made about first crushes; it was uncertain if it was a time to let go of all of it!
All of us had sang a Tagore song after the picture was taken: 'Purano shei diner katha, bhulbi ki re...", which in English means something like how can we forget the dear memories of past. And after that we had all broken down in silent,(and some not so silent) tears. We were still too young to understand that life was all about continuous change. We were still not prepared to face the hard fact that life is also a process of letting go, sometimes of most dearest things. I remember that we were all sitting at our desks even after the last bell rang! We were all in tears, hugging each other; touched by the gravity of the moment. Something was about to change. Wind of change was about to touch us. And there we were, poised with excitement and apprehension to turn the leaf of our first major chapter of life.
Today when I look at that snap, I only see the age of innocence. Oh, how happy we all looked. How carefree. Ready to take on the world, most of us still in utopia about what life is going to be. The adventure of adulthood was ahead of us. We were about to step out of the shelters of school and in to the big bad world. So many things unexplored yet. Life's kaleidoscope was about to turn. And here was a group of girls, waiting with bated breath for "Life" to unfold.
Almost 19 years have passed since then. I don't know why, even today when I look at this snap, it fills me with a strange sense of happiness and even strength! Is it because I still can palpably feel the strength of innocence, of unconditional faith in goodness, which sometimes is so difficult to touch-base with in my life today! May be!