“Waqt nein kiya, Kya haseen sitam, Tum rahe na tum, Hum rahe na hum”
The plaintive voice of Geeta Dutt wafts through the mind like petals in the wind. At first blush, I don’t recognise some people. And vice versa! The receding hairline; the greying here, the whitening there; the formidable girth, the slouch…the assured poise, the unwavering eye, the confident tone exacerbate the situation.
But, many still look the same. The clock doesn’t run 60 seconds to a minute for them. How have they managed to stall time, one wonders enviously.
Who is this? Looks somewhat familiar? What’s his name? Why is he looking at me quizzically? Doesn’t he know who I am? And then the mist clears, the youthful visage seared in memory appears, the voice begins to sound familiar and then-Oh, my God, it’s you? Followed by an embrace which quickly dissipates 33 years of distance. Loud thumping of back, a companionable arm round the shoulder, and it’s back to the Nagpur of old.
We are at the 33rd anniversary reunion of the 1982 batch of the IRS at the National Academy of Direct Taxes, Nagpur. A two-day workshop has been organised in May so that it’s not all play. A big turnout stands testimony to the camaraderie and fraternal affection informing the batch. The Academy has been very generous in inviting retired officers, all expenses paid. Many have come with their spouses. Of course, the batch has lost some officers to untimely death and their presence is sorely missed.
The two days are spent catching up and reliving our days in the Academy.
“Raah pe rehte hain
Yaadon pe basar karte hain
Khush raho ehl-e-Watan
Hum to safar karte hain”
Yes, the journey began 33 years ago. Every aspirant to the Indian Revenue Service dreams of cutting his or her teeth as a probationary officer in the National Academy of Direct Taxes, as we all did from 1982 to 1984.
The course not only laid the groundwork for a career in the revenue service, but also instilled cosmopolitanism, free thinking, and an inclusive approach. It fostered lifelong friendships, some of them culminating in marriages. Along with the daily rigour of structured academics, emphasis was also paid to sports and extra-curricular activities. Yet there was plenty of time to savour the pleasures that the Academy and the town had on offer-the food outlets, the markets, the bars. The well-spent days and the mis-spent nights!
Then there was Bharat Darshan-the communal roughing it out, the collective discovery of India, the shared memories which we all tap into some time or the other. We were also airlifted to Assam as poll officers in the elections held during the height of insurgency in 1983. And then we all went out into the world, idealism riding high, fire in our bellies, determined to change it for the better.
“Chhoti si yeh duniya,
Pehchane raaste hain,
Tum kahin to miloge kabhi to miloge,
Toh puchhengay haal”
The batch has set up a WhatsApp group in which a majority are members. It has become a clearing house of ideas, experiences, news, and general networking. There are also frequent batch get-togethers at local levels. We also assemble for weddings and other social occasions.
This is probably the last grand reunion of the batch and although batchmates may not meet everyone else in the autumn of their lives, the affection and respect still remain as was evident in the glorious two days spent on the old campus, reviving sepia-tinted memories. We are there for each other in good times and bad. This is a priceless attribute of the old boys’ network and something we will cherish till our last days.
The writer is former Commissioner of Income Tax (1982 batch). He is currently President, Corporate Planning and Operations, NDTV.