Sunday, December 1, 2013

Attending A Marriage in Chandigarh and Cherishing Some Good Friendships !

It was a few months ago that I got reconnected once again to one old friend. He is Prof.Ujjager Singh Kooner, now Head of Mechanical Engineering Department of Doaba Institute of Technology Mohali Chandigarh. 

Our friendship started way back in 1978, when we met first time in the Campus of Roorkee University, Roorkee, India, the first engineering college to start functioning in the British Commonwealth outside of Great Britain.

Ours was an unusual kind of friendship. It was the beginning of a friendship between a Madrassi  and a Punjabi Sikh. He belonged to the Jatt Sikh community hailing from Macchiwara, Punjab, while I belonged to the Syrian Christian community of central Travancore, now part of the Kerala State.  

It was my first ever travel beyond Delhi ( Before that I had just one exposure of the places outside my own home state, Kerala, while we had our All India study tour from during my engineering college days). But Ujjager had a better exposure of south India than my north Indian exposure at that time. He came to Roorkee for doing his Master of Engineering (ME) in Mechanical Engineering after completing his B Tech from Manipal Institute of Technology in Karnataka, while I came to Roorkee for doing my ME in Chemical Engineering after completing my B Sc Engg from Government Engineering College Trichur, Kerala.

Roorkee, is located in the heartland of Hindustani language, now modified and adapted as the official Hindi language of independent India. I had learned this language during my school days, but had very little proficiency in it in speaking. Moreover, the Hindustani of Roorkee was quite different from the standardized Hindi that we learnt in the southern state of Kerala. So, practically I could not communicate in Hindi or understand it, when I reached Roorkee, in 1978. I was also not good in verbal communication in English either, though I could manage it with some difficulty. Ujjager was much better than me both in verbal English and Hindi.

There was a confusion created by the University authorities in allocating appropriate hostel accommodation to us, the new entrants to the Post Graduate courses. Ujjager and me faced the same problem and that could perhaps the reason for we coming together in friendship for the first time. Later, for the better part of our 2-year stay in the campus, we stayed as neighbors in the PG hostel, named Jawahar Bhawan. While we had nothing common academically, we maintained our friendly interactions through other areas of common interests that we learnt from each other. I remember him being a person of great interest in music, adventure, exploration and the like with lots of vigor and enthusiasm to implement the passion that he had. Occasionally, we traveled together in and around Roorkee, exploring the country side on his Yezdi motorcycle.

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.  

Later, due to some unfortunate events, about which I had written in some other blogs, many of us had to leave the Roorkee campus, without submitting our independent research thesis works, a mandatory requirement for the award of the ME degree. Even after the twenty-four months, a good majority of we PG students could not become eligible for getting our degree certificates, even though we had all passed the written examinations in good grades! 

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.

The Marriage Getting Solemnized in the Gurdwara !

The Newly Wedded Couple with the Groom's Mom!

The Proud Father, Prof Ujjager Singh Kooner!

Mrs Tyagi, Lizy, the Sahis and the Author 
at the Taj Chandigarh after the reception.

Prof.Tyagi in front of the Sahi Residence.

Taking a Break after the marriage! On the way 

Enjoying a Horse Ride at Kufri !

Waving Goodbye to the Himalayas! 
Way Back to Ranchi!

My dear readers! Though the above description appears some what personal, I take the liberty to make it in the public domain just to convey the beauty of friendship and fellowship in this short lives of ours.These friendships going beyond the barriers of culture, language, religion and status can give wonderful human experiences when they are devoid of egos, pride and envy!

And if such experiences are opportunities to elevate us to super personal spiritual experiences, that would be much more beneficial.  

10 comments:

  1. Wow!! i am so very impressed and glad that you are in touch with your old friend. Reading your arcticle... i can feel your excitement and happiness in meeting your friend after so many years. My best wishes to both of u and wish you and Mr.Don also reunite soon.

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