16 years later, as I sat in the Emirates Theatre for my neice Revna’s high school graduation, many emotions, memories, friendships came flooding back, as was expected.
I walked in to the Emirates International School (EIS), with a few very old members of staff recognising me. I wanted to be everywhere at once, talk to everyone, take in all the detail, and hold on to it as much as I could. I recognised the familiar scent of the school, every place has its own fragrance, and this was the place where I spent the best 4 years of my school life. I saw myself in the pages of the yearbook, through the eager twinkly eyes of the students who welcomed me.
I remember moving from Cambridge High School (CHS) in 1993, where some excellent teachers taught. Three of them had moved to EIS; my mentor and academic mother, Pratibha Rao, my History teacher Harpinder Kaur and the one who singularly worked with me on my writing, Anna Valencia.
Nothing can describe walking down those steps, almost like doing a deep sea dive into the ocean of memories it held for everyone who ever went to EIS. The numerous events, plays, shows, speeches, International Days, Friendship Days, Earth Days flashed before my eyes, knowing full well I had a few hours to relive those moments and that was certainly not enough.
Proud parents were talking about their children’s achievements, we were glancing at the program, which had now transformed to the one I saw with baited breath while I waited to enter the theatre back in 1997. My mother’s voice echoed in my head, where she celebrated my moment back then. While I relished the ‘picture in picture’ I was seeing of my own memories and the present, I drifted back in time when our life was so much simpler!
The Ski Trip in 1994, where I was the source of much entertainment for the group. The willingness to be part of every team; The Torch, The Yearbook, The Student Council. Getting prepared for exams, watching teachers struggle with us, us with them, many leaving us, but we still got through the years and exams that followed, and did well.
I remembered words like ‘kaleidoscope’ , ‘microcosm’, ‘valediction’. Our school uniform and how the teachers put on a play for us, pretending to be students in our clothes. Its as if there’s one door and a hundred people trying to get through it, all at once, so I brought myself back to the present, ready to hoot and cheer the achievements of the present.
It was truly an International school, where there were more than 21 nationalities in our graduating class of around 45. This time round, the Class of 2013 was more than 80, and since they had so much to get through, they finished it promptly in 2 hours. Someone asked me, “Which ceremony was better?”. “Ours, without a doubt”, I said.
We had a more personal ceremony, with a beautiful song which played at the end. My memory fails me but I am sure someone will remember and mention it once they read the story. There was a huge backdrop of our caricatures on the stage behind our seats. The talent of the school performed for us and it was time to say bye to our dear friends on 29th of May, 1997.
We went to all corners of the world, studying in the world’s best universities, some starting families, some taking care of businesses, we all had our path ahead of us. 16 years later, thanks to facebook, we still keep in touch, and its great to see how well everyone has progressed. Some people haven’t aged at all and still look like they ‘seize the day’! It’s great to read (don’t kill me) about the parenting woes of many, while for me these people haven’t aged beyond 18!
What was the one thing I took with me from my high school experience? It was confidence. It had prepared me for the real world and I knew if I survived the IB Diploma, whilst maintaining the many friendships and activities, I would be fine in college and the real world.
I would just like to take this moment and tell my friends how much I miss those times. While wandering the corridors of the school and the open court yard in the middle, the canteen and the library, I could see ghosts of our past. How I wish we could all go back and visit the school together and of course have a reunion. Some of the couples who have families met way back in high school, so if that isn’t a success story, what is?
I hope wherever you are, whichever corner of the world, that you are happy, and look back on this time as I do, with nostalgic fondness.