When a class of teenagers from two decades ago revived a real connection through a virtual reunion
A few seconds into the virtual get-together, we found ourselves picking up where we left off 22 years ago
Last month, when someone in our Whatsapp group (of former classmates — grade 12, class of 1999) asked, “Why don’t we think of a virtual meet up, if we can’t do a real one this year?” it was met with indifference and downright skepticism. How was that even going to work, given our different time zones and busy schedules?
We had been planning a reunion ever since the regrouping in Whatsapp a year ago. It was decided to organize a get-together in July 2020; that time of the year when those of us residing abroad usually travelled home for our annual vacations. However, as the global pandemic ruled out any possibility of an in-person reunion this year, we were left with two options: postpone the reunion to the next year or the year after depending on how the post-COVID situation unfolds, or meet up virtually in July 2020.
The idea of a digital get-together was first suggested by someone who had just attended her college reunion on video call. However, the suggestion didn’t gather steam, mainly because a Zoom-conference seemed like the most boring way to catch up with old buddies.
Then, one day, someone took that most important first step. She simply asked the rest of us if July 11 was a convenient date for a group video call. The Whatsapp group was suddenly abuzz, and most of us seemed to agree on the date. The time was finalized after a few discussions, as people from various zones agreed to readjust their Saturday routines.
Reminders were shared early on during the day of the event, and the meeting started on time. Though we had all been conversing through the Whatsapp group and sharing photographs for over a year, it was a whole new experience to meet and interact on live video as a group. In fact, a few seconds into the meeting, we found ourselves picking up where we left off 22 years ago.
There were neither formal pleasantries nor rules to obey. The result was a thoroughly enjoyable chaos — banter, nicknames, teasing, joking, leg-pulling and absolute mayhem. Never for a moment did it feel like a reunion after 22 years. Instead, we felt like young classmates catching up after the summer break. Soon, everyone in the group — college professors, healthcare professionals, entrepreneurs and homemakers — started behaving like uncontrollable teenagers.
The participants had different personal situations to manage as the meeting progressed. One of them attended most part of the event from her car, en route to a family friend’s place for the weekend. Another joined in for two quick spells of “Hi! Great to see you guys” from the midst of a family function she was hosting at her home. Many were constantly being pestered by their little kids for attention. Some had just returned after a tough day at work, like the nurse who had joined after a quick nap following a hectic night shift, and the dentist who had hurried home to join us after a busy day of consultations and procedures.
There was no dearth of topics once the conversations began; funny memories, mischievous incidents, gossips and teachers. Some did most of the talking, while the others listened eagerly. Some had remarkable memories, recollecting incidents which the others had lost to their passive memories long ago.
Some spouses and kids were momentarily part of the fun too. Anyone who was seen on camera was greeted and spoken to. Some kids were seen staring wide-eyed as they watched their strict parents behaving like unruly teenagers! All this while, none of us noticed that the meeting had exceeded the stipulated one hour duration.
Gradually, people started leaving one by one. There were some who wanted to leave, but decided to hang around for a little longer. There was this one person from an ‘UTC+8 hours’ time zone who said half-a-dozen goodbyes because she was sleepy, but wouldn’t leave, savoring every bit of the fun while it lasted. Another one repeatedly rolled her eyes at her kids, wanting them to let her stay online longer.
Soon, there were just 10 of us left, though the meeting had started off with 15. It was hard to say the final goodbyes, but we knew this was definitely not going to be our last meeting of this kind. There were a few of our classmates who couldn’t make it to this one. Like one of them who is bedridden following a stroke, and a few who were traveling or were at work and hence unable to join in.
I’ve often heard people say that one of the reasons school/college reunions are dreaded by many is because they turn into show-off exercises, with individuals bragging about how better-off they are than others, the house they own, the car they drive and so on. Ours was without any such one-upmanship. Nobody cared what the others did for a living, unless of course it was to make a joke or pull a leg. All everyone cared about was whether the once close-knit class still felt that warmth together, and if we were all still able to amuse each other.
The post reunion comments in the group summed up what the virtual reunion meant to each one of us. Most of us hadn’t laughed so hard in a long time. “We must get together again,” was the most repeated message. In the 2 hours that it lasted, the get-together not only helped us revive old memories and rekindle the warmth of friendship, but it also reminded us that we continue to be young at heart, with our cheerful selves intact.