Posted on my Jacob's Blog and the Stephanian Kooler Talk Blog.
On Tuesday, I went Oulu Airport to receive a friend, a very dear friend. In fact, my very best friend when I was in College between 1960 and 1963. He was my inseparable friend of those years.
Ajay Verma did Mathematics Honours between 1960 and 1963. Like me, he lived in Mukerji Court. There was only one Mukerji Building block those days. He was in T Block while I was in S Block. We went together for breakfast and dinner. Spent the evening hours after college together going for some scrambled egg on toast for tea and later, after dinner again went to the Cafe to have coffee and a smoke.
We played table tennis together in the JCR or played chess, draughts (checkers) or bridge. He was my bridge partner and together we almost won the first JCR Bridge Championship, except to beaten on the very last hand by the twins, the Rai brothers, Suraj and Chander, who bid an unbelievable 7 spades against our bid of 7 clubs and made that hand. Only the intertwined thinking of identical twins snatched certain victory out of our hands!
Ajay came to College from Pondicherry, where his mother lived in the Arubindo Village. He completed his pre-university from Loyala College, Madras before joining College, although he would have preferred to do engineering at one of the IITs.
Ajay left college and joined the Indian Army by going to the Officer School at Dehra Dun. From there he went into the artillery at Deolali near Nasik and then to Cooch Behar in West Bengal. He was sent to the front line in the war against Pakistan and had the narrowest of escapes when the shelter he was in was blown up just a couple of minutes after he had stepped outside for a cigarette. (So I hardly blame him for continuing this habit!)
He left the army after the war and joined Bata's as a trainee and worked in Calcutta and Faridabad. Ajay did not see much future then and set off to Canada to make his fortune. He stopped at Copenhagen, met his life partner, Else, and settled down in Lund, Sweden. He started work in the Hotel industry and worked for SAS Hotels and then in Airline catering till he finished his career with a series of jobs in SAS Radisson, ending at the Beijing hotel till his retirement late last year. He now consults but is enjoying himself in retirement dabbling in the Swedish stock exchange, more for fun than profit.
He has bought an apartment in Pondicherry and is off in a few days to winter there, away fron the dark and cold winters in Scandinavia. Unfortunately, before he could enjoy his time there, he got news last Friday that his 91 year old mother had passed away.
In his "busy" travel schedule, he has done 15 long haul flights this year, he took a few days off to drop in on Annikki and me. I was wild with him when he told me that when we were meeting after 25 years, he was off in just 3 days. But things were happening in Lund, so I had to let him go.
During the time in Oulu we had a rip roaring time that only dear friends can enjoy together. We shared news about our past lives and careers, laughed incessantly at all our past pranks, I showed him my small town and with Annikki enjoyed the bitterly cold wind and amazing autumn sunset of the Oulu Nallikari beach.
Like me, he is an early riser, being up ay 5 am, so we enjoyed long days together. It was with great sadness that I bid farewell to him on Friday morning and it was as if a void had descended on Kampitie after his departure.
The real spirit of Stephania prevailed in our residence for the short time he was here, urging me to give serious thought to organising a reunion of 1960-1963 Stephanians in Delhi in 2009, when Annikki and I are scheduled to make our next visit to India.