As I walked into the Alumni and Development office after what had seemed like years, I did not know what to expect. I had not had a proper conversation with the Puri’s after the fall of my Sophomore year when I was class governor. But here I was sitting on a wooden sofa ready to document the past few years of their life, as they were about to leave Woodstock and start a new chapter.
“I am Mr. Vijay Shankar,” Mr. Arjun Puri, the former Director of Development and homeroom head for the Class of 2021, said, and I broke into a loud laugh at this silly introduction by a person I had known for two and a half years now.
But while he made goofy comments and jokes, Mrs. Puri balanced the mood with her straightforward answer, “I am Tara Menon Puri and I am [the] Alumni Relations Coordinator as well as GAIL and Exchange Coordinator and homeroom head for Class of 2021.”
I could not help but think, these titles are only a few days away from being transferred down to new representatives.
And before I could even ask them my first question, the strong smell from Mrs. Puri’s lunch seemed to have caught Mr. Puri’s attention.
“It’s just Dal and Sabji,” Mrs. Puri said, a little annoyed at him.
“Oh, it smells nice!” he said. She was not pleased.
When Mrs. Tara Menon Puri became the Class of 2021’s homeroom head roughly two years ago, she was someone they all secretly feared.
While she walked into homerooms and lectured them about behavior issues within the grade, they walked out with hanging faces, seriously concerned about what they had gotten themselves into. But little did they know that saying goodbye to this very person would be harder than they could have imagined at the time.
Mrs. Puri joined the school four years ago. When she accepted the job, she was on a break after resigning from her previous job in Dubai. She was also excited to be living with her mother, who worked here at the time.
Mr. Puri had a very different start.
He first visited the school as a guest at the Center for Imagination in 2018. While he was here, he interacted with many students and, more importantly, met his future wife. The two of them got to know each other through a series of mutual friends, and evidently, they hit it off. The school offered Mr. Puri a permanent job and he accepted it. Soon after this, Mr. and Mrs. Puri started dating and eventually got married right here in Mussoorie.
Working together in the same department was not always easy for them. There were times when they felt that working together was a little complicated, but they still enjoyed it.
“We respected each other and the time one needs to give at work,” Mr. Puri said.
But in order to give each other space, they have decided to take jobs in different departments as they join a school affiliated with the Aga Khan Foundation in Hyderabad.
“We are moving ahead with so much positivity, excitement, love, and a lot of sadness as well, and we continue to shed tears,” Mr. Puri said.
As they prepared to hand over their positions, they emphasized that office work was well documented so the person who takes over does not struggle to fit into the role. But they could hardly imagine someone else as the homeroom head.
However, as they decided to set aside their emotions, they realized that although there might not be a specific tag for the relationship they have built with the students, it is always going to be alive.
“I don’t think we ever [felt responsible for the class] because someone told us this is what [we] need to do. Every single thing we have done in the last three years is from the very bottom of our hearts,” Mrs. Puri said, as I began to sob.
I had hardly ever realized what a huge impact both of them had had, not only on the Class of 2021, (which I am part of) but on me as an individual.
It is true after all: you only realize how much someone means to you after they are gone.
Except, fortunately, because of this interview, I was a few days early.
As they recalled their most precious memories from a pile of photos that could not be arranged in a particular order, Mrs. Puri recalled her baby shower, which the Class of 2021 managed to pull together last year, the day after they organized JSB. She still did not understand where they got the energy from.
But before even starting her own family, she had already learned the rigor of parenting after adopting the Class of 2021.
“This hillside has given me everything I value the most in my life. Sam [their daughter] is always flooded with children every time she comes to school. It’s so nice to have her grow up with that,” Mrs. Puri said.
For Mr. Puri, “there would not [have been] a place more conducive and easier for [him] to have fallen in love and start a family, than in Mussoorie,” he said.
And “as strict as [Mrs. Puri was with the class, Mr. Puri] played a more lenient role and it [was] good because it provided a good sense of balance for everybody between discipline and having a good time at school,” Mrs.Puri added.
The community said their final goodbyes to the Puris this Monday, however, they hope to see them again in May as they plan on continuing to visit until the Class of 2021 graduates.
Archita Aggarwal is the Editor-in-Chief of the Woodstocker
Edited by Janvi Poddar
Photos courtesy of the Puris