Chaddie Buddies

Can you imagine the chaos 11 women from across the globe can create over Zoom? If that app had a soul, it would vanish from the face of this planet for the fear of being tortured by ghoulish laughter, crazy ‘WTF’ utterance, food discussion interrupting the conversation every 400 seconds and sometimes bringing the house down by talking all at once, so what if no one was listening.

This amazing feat was carried out by none other than the Brave and True (as read the school emblem) girls from St. John’s High School class of 94’. Before we get any further, you deserve to know the characters –

  • S – Back in school, she was undoubtedly the prettiest kid, naive and sweet. Born with a paint brush in hand, it is no rocket science, her passion is now her profession. Fast forward, she still looks pretty. But there is nothing naive about her. She can leave you in stitches with her comical faces should anyone serve disappointing food and kill you with her eyes when you make it to her hate list. She is officially the inventor of the term – ‘headless chicken’. And nobody can beat her at frequency of using the F-word. I am shocked she hasn’t made it to the Guinness Book of World Records for abusing the F-word itself. Her worst remorse in life – never been adventurous!
  • R – Back in school, I thought she was related to Einstein. No, it wasn’t just her hair – the same 2-minute noodle like curls, but black. She was rich in grey matter too. Add to it, hanging around with a bunch of buddies clearly out of my league. The kinds that would buy Thumbs Up, provoke the soda inside to erupt and spray it around for fun, just like Bollywood movies. All this cool stuff in an era when kids like me were deprived of any pocket money. Fast forward, she is wonder woman personified and lives in the land of the Queen. One that manages a day job, handles two kids, cooks continental meals to perfection despite a travelling-for-work spouse and getting dumped by her pregnant domestic help and a vacuum cleaner that decided to call it quits, last minute. Top it up with being on a zoom call with the rest of us. Is she for real?
  • T – Back in school, she was the new girl in middle school; pretty, hot and at the receiving end of unruly attention from the male species growing moustache and other puberty afflicted organs for the first time in life. Fast forward, a very humble T resides in Sydney with her husband, two perfectly gorgeous looking kids and a dog. She is the Cinderella of our story, joining this call on her way back home from a birthday party at the stroke of midnight. And no, she isn’t riding a pumpkin carriage about to fall apart. It is her knight in shining armor driving her back. At least, someone has a life in 2021. Note to self – jealousy is a real thing and while the rest of the world is grappling with a pandemic and going crazy over vaccine efficacy and availability, some people seem to be living it up. Do I get to blame Scott Morrison for this?  
  • M1 – Tall as the Eiffel, headstrong and an ace it all, be it work or home, M1 lives in Mangalore, away from the hustle and bustle of the big city we once schooled in. Back in school, she was part of R’s group of popular kids who lived it up every single day. I never remember talking to her back then, or even exchanging glances, leave alone smiling. I never inched close for the lack of a ladder to climb up and reach her face. Fast forward, she is fun, chilled out and an entrepreneur who doesn’t flinch when her family demands home cooked meals 3 times a day. When it comes to leaving a legacy of home grown foodies, you know who is responsible.
  • M2 – Pretty, petite, perfect, M2 is the celebrity baker of the group who bakes droolicious and sometimes naughty looking cakes too. Back in school, she was a sincere student who hardly smiled, mingled selectively and was a Karate Black belt. You read that right. Mess with her only if you have muscles made of steel. And if that wasn’t all, munching on green chilies was her favourite pass time. I bet I would be happier sticking to spinach and looking like Popeye the Sailorman. Fast forward, from working for a 5-star hotel to starting her own baking from home, she is your yoga and spirituality guide with a body that still looks 16; The part of my body that still looks that age are probably my feet – they haven’t grown an inch, since. She enters the call exhausted from the day’s baking, frosting, packing and delivering cakes to families that still have loved ones alive and a reason to celebrate during these grim times.
  • M3 – Back in school, M3 claimed to be afraid of me because apparently, I never shared my water. But she was always fun, independent, caring, a fitness freak and great with guitar. Fast forward, with a doting son and a loving family, her universe revolves around serving them while never leaving aside her feminine, dressy traits, staying positive and working fulltime. After graduation, we spent a lot of time working out together; I also began sharing my water. We were part of a morning routine that got us into great shape. M3 is still busy making paneer sandwiches for dinner while my tummy growls.
  • A1 – A former pilot selector, A1 is reinventing life with a new degree she is pursuing in London. The official Nancy Drew of the group, she can take to anything she desires. From painting to music to cooking, her hunger to get better baffles me. Did we really go to the same school? Back then, my only memory of her was a figure like Olive’s, Popeye’s girlfriend (you have to be a certain generation to relate to these characters). Fast forward, she is the master of multitasking. Entertaining friends while chatting with us while quietly disclosing, her guests get to relish freshly cooked Gajar Ka Halwa, leaving the rest of us satiated by saliva alone. And yes, like all spies, she does not believe in print screen. She uses her phone to click pictures of this meeting. Will I ever come up with such original ideas?
  • A2 – Even if I lost 50% of my weight, I am never going to look half as suave as A2. Age is never a factor for this gorgeous looking pharmacist residing in Florida, responsible for spiking people’s blood pressure when they land at her counter with a prescription. Her 16-yo faces stiff competition when it comes to looks, poise and her gentle disposition, be it work or home. Back in school, we were acquaintances. I knew A2 as a fun loving, private person, who made limited conversation with me. In 2018 BC (before COVID), I met her after nearly 2 decades, only to discover we shared something in common – we show up on time to meet old friends. Will we ever meet again?
  • K – Cat as we fondly call her, is the darling of the group. Giving adversities a tough fight, maintaining her calm and never hurting even a rock, K seems too saintly to exist in 2021. Back in school, I remember her as a quiet, withdrawn girl who would pass fleeting smiles. Fast forward, she is independent and makes sure, she is always there for us. But today she is missing in action. We missed you K.
  • P – Back in school, P was the keeper of my secrets; my bestie. A skinny, short girl, brimming with confidence, she would effortlessly ace exams. She also came with a built-in superpower of being a fashionista. I am shocked how I never learned anything sane from this girl. The only thing I remember doing daily is emptying her lunch box, and she, mine. Fast forward, she has managed to keep her no nonsense image intact 25 years later!  She represents wisdom and thinking about the greater good when she expresses concern over the loss of students whose national exams have been usurped by COVID. At that point, I see a halo around her head. Some school is in dire need of a principal who still lives values and virtues I never managed to recognise. Disclaimer – My kids are never attending that school.
  • Me – And last but not the least, the official hostess of the zoom call, I owe my highest loyalty to family, friends and fun. Timid, shy, solitary but never bored throughout school years, my claim to fame is giving cold looks to people. Don’t trust me, ask the 10 ladies mentioned above. But 12 years in the same school with the same 150 odd faces are good enough to warm up even a cold hearted specimen like yours truly. Fast forward, for the sheer lack of fashion quotient and extreme love for food, I have spent my youth craving to inch towards the sass some of my friends so easily exude, while never being able to resist that one extra Laddoo that tastes heavenly at every bite. I have spent the last couple of decades making up for my silence during those wonder years, by talking non-stop, whether or not people lend me their ear. Why did I never consider news reading for a profession?

Back to the meeting, R decided to use her half day off to connect with us while T battled sleep to rant. S was busy bragging her Eureka moment, thanks to bad covid experiences – She officially has more tattoos on her body than my collection of earrings. She is also officially the newly drunk aunty on the block. Hide all your Vodka and single malt. She is coming for it!

M1, M2 and M3 refrained from adding any more profanity to the conversation because despite turning 42, they still think they can save the childhood of their kids by preventing them from getting an earful from the ‘WTF Aunties’ as we would like to be fondly remembered. We beat Netflix series hands down. A1 is all over the place making side conversations with her better half, embarrassing her son when we pay compliments and saying goodbyes when it is time to serve Gajar ka halwa to her guests. And what about us?

P puts our pauses to perfect use to convey her points across. Just like she always did on exam papers, scoring better grades. She is still so practical and defined. Gosh, what do humans like me do at all? Feel suicidal?

A2 adds fuel to fire just like me, each time we get a chance. An hour flies past while we are all in the present, in the moment, spanning across geographies from India to Singapore to Australia to UK and USA. We are joking, giggling, cursing, saying hello to each others’ kids who peep in to figure the reason for this sudden excitement in a COVID depressed world. We end up deciding on a new life goal – getting a WTF tattoo!

P.S. This year seems worse. Life has never looked so fragile before. Come to think of it, aren’t you and me like the pawns on someone else’s  chessboard? So while you last, why not meet friends, make merry and feel fulfilled you still have people from your generation who remember you, understand you and laugh at the same mistakes, because hey, they all made the same ones! I don’t know if the world will ever be normal again, or if I will ever make it back to my hometown, meet my family and catch up with this crazy lot. I am just glad tonight happened. Who’s your crazy, go-to, bunch of buddies?

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