We both, youngsters in our early twenties, were bearded at that time, his a religious compulsion and mine a simple result of my own concept of fashion. Ujjager being my first ever close acquaintance with a turbaned Sikh man, ( a rare sight in my home state, Kerala, in those days!) commonly referred to as a Sardarji in most parts of India where they are not uncommon, I got the opportunity to get some insights in to the Punjabi Sikh culture and religion. It could be just a coincidence that in the later years another two Sardarji s became my closest friends!
Ujjager, as far as I knew, was not inclined to spirituality in those youthful days just as I was. But he religiously followed the Sikh dress code. Apart him, there was just one another Sikh in our Roorkee hostel at that time, who used to be a chain smoker of tobacco, some thing considered as a religious taboo for Sikhs. The trouble in keeping up with the religious codes of attire for the Sikhs perhaps landed many of them in to problems in many countries. The men are required not to shave or cut their beards and hair and wear the head turban and a ceremonial sword, called the Kirpan, one of the five articles of faith of a Khalsa Sikh.
Not having other Sikhs to help him, Ujjager occasionally used to take my help in winding and making his head turban in the morning during dressing up. Hidden behind the long rolled turban, the Sardarji s have a very long saintly hair, called Kesh , having much weight! Sikhism being the youngest religion in the world has adopted many things from the Semitic Religions of the middle east and from Hinduism. The Khalsa mandate for Kesh has much resemblance to the Nazirite vows that Samson of the Bible had to follow.
At the Roorkee campus, I had another friend, a white American with some Scandinavian roots. He was Donn Trease, doing his PG in Architecture. Unlike Ujjager, Donn was a highly religious born-again Christian with a missionary zeal. On account of their unlike polarities, these two close friends of mine did not share any friendly interactions directly between them. Donn and me too used to travel together to explore many places in North India.
Campus life at Roorkee was indeed one of the golden times of my life and the full two years passed too quickly.
During this time, every one seemed to be of their own. All had their own problems of leaving their temporary shelter in the campus. Ujjager by this time had decided to get married and his marriage was getting finalized. I remember him inviting me to Macchiwara for the betrothal ceremony, which I was not in a position to oblige. After the betrothal, I remember him showing me the snaps of his would be wife. Immediately thereafter, he took the decision to visit his elder brother in the USA and left the campus for a globe trotting. It was some time in February-March 1980.
It was time to think about the future. The options for me were, either to go for a PhD and later try a career in teaching or enter in to some professional job, either with the government or in the industry. By this time I had many offers for jobs from the Indian industry and I took the decision to join the public sector steel major, the Steel Authority of India Limited. The options of completing the ME thesis work and pursuing PhD at Roorkee looked bleak for me then due to the sudden decision of my professor guide to leave Roorkee.
Reluctantly though, I decided finally to join Steel Authority of India Limited at Bhilai Steel Plant. There were just a few of our PG batch left in the campus at that time. It was Donn Trease who went all the way to Delhi to book my railway berth to Bhilai and came with me to Delhi to see me off.
Ujjager kept posting me letters and cards from his foreign locations. Later he returned to Roorkee to submit his ME thesis and get his degree and joined the public sector oil exploration company, the ONGC.
We never met thereafter for decades and lost contact of each other. I got married, became a father and a grandfather.
We had seen many epochal changes in history during these three decades. We had seen the revolutions of television, telephony and the internet happening before our eyes. We had seen a world without them and are experiencing a world with them.
We are watching with awe the advanced abilities of our younger generations.
Many of us in our generation, though well educated to the standards of our generation, are not so good with the computers and the modern electronic gadgets, though many of us are trying to keep pace.
For many years, I have been trying to locate my lost friends through the modern tools of communication. Slowly and slowly I got some success here and there. While the modern generation cannot think of a world without mobiles, Google, facebook or whatsApp, we had lived and known such a time and are trying to live with such things!
It was a great moment of happiness when I located Ujjager and Donn through the facilities of Google and LinkedIn . While I could re-establish my contact with Ujjager again, I could not do so with Donn yet. However, I know that Donn is now Prof (Dr) Donn Trease, the professor of Architecture in a Private Engineering College in Nepal, just as Ujjager is now Prof. Ujjager Singh Kooner in Chandigarh.
So, when Ujjager called me last month and insisted of my visiting him at Chandigarh to attend his elder son's marriage, I had no choice, but to oblige.
So, me and my wife, Lizy, made the trip to Mohali, Chandigarh and attended the marriage of Prabh Manek, Ujjager's eldest son working in the US. The auspicious day was on the 27th November 2013.
It was a indeed a re-union after thirty three years. Had we met else where we could not have recognized as we had become old to be recognized. But there are many things of our personalities that did not change and that are known only to us! And we reached Ujjager's home in Mohali on the 26th night. He had made arrangements for our stay in the palatial house of his neighbor and friend Mr Darshan Singh Sahi. Besides me and my wife, there were two other old couples, Mrs & Prof (Dr) SVN Tyagi from Meerut and Mrs.& Mr D.N Sharma from Dehradun who too took the pains to travel much distance to attend the marriage. All of us stayed with the Sahi's and wonderfully touched by the warm hospitality of Darshan Singh and his wife Mrs Ranjit Kaur Sahi. Prof Tyagi and Ujjager became friends in Roorkee later in 1981-82 period when Ujjager returned to complete his ME thesis. The former was doing his PhD in Physics at that time. Mr Sharma who worked with the Syndicate Bank was the neighbor of Ujjager when he was with ONGC at Dehradun.
The re-union was wonderful and the occasion was the beginning of a new generation family.
To keep the memories of this occasion, I am adding some select pictures that I had taken with my new mobile phone- the Spice M-515 Coolpad- about which I wrote earlier.