When I met George yesterday after his train, the 22634 Nizamuddin-Trivandrum Superfast Express, rolled into Margao station, Goa at 1045 hrs it was like old times once again. Back in the days when I worked as an editor for Oxford University Press (OUP), New Delhi,* George was one of the first friends I made in the Press. His easy-going nature and perpetual smile seemed to whisk away all one's headaches the moment he was confided to.
As we tracked his train at 8 a.m. on the national train enquiry system (NTES)^ we saw it was due to arrive Margao at 1130 (The scheduled ETA for this weekly train is 0855). So Queenie rustled up some pulao to take for the travellers. We were eager to meet George and his family after the lovely meal his wife had cooked for us when we visited them in Delhi before we came down to Goa. At that time baba was still in the making. Which is why, the moment the train clanked to a halt, George who had come to the door of the train bounded down to make his acquaintance with Dwayne -- now all of 3 years. As baba offered chocolates to his daughters Jasmine and Celine, I put George in high spirits with my offering of Goan wine.
My mind went back to the times I had shared with George. That time both of us were bachelors. He got married before me. After his marriage he seemed to spend more time with the newly-married men in office than with me! Now that both of us are married we seem to be on the same page. I remember the time I enlisted George's help when I set out to buy my first mobile phone. George was also with me when news reached me in Delhi of mum's passing on in Goa in 2004. He came home with me to help pick up my stuff and head for the airport. Killing time after work at the very-happening Jai Singh road in Delhi, or lounging around before feasting on the YMCA buffets for lunch or dinner, I used to often bump into George wrapping up after a game of badminton. I used to admire his stamina and love for sports. He was always passionate for cricket. Now he tells me he hardly watches IPL after news broke of match-fixing.
What seems marvellous is that we still share the same zest for each other after all these years --in fact it has grown stronger. When friends of mine drop in to Delhi now I refer them to George who will always find time to make them feel welcome. To a recent visitor to Delhi I described George as my Man Friday.
As he heads to Kerala on his annual sojourn to spend time with his parents and his wife's family. I wish him days of fulfilment and rejuvenation. From colleagues at office we have become friends for life.
Notes: *(1999-2009); ^http://enquiry.indianrail.gov.in/ntes/; Pix of George and me taken by Queenie; pix of us taken by vendor -- both at Margao station on 25 May 2014.