Last week (Monday to be precise), I got a call from Pratik Ghosh. It was late morning, I was in the middle of a meeting in an office, but I picked up on second ring the moment I saw who was calling. The call lasted less than 3 minutes, and by the end of it, I had decided to push everything off my plate, and go across town from Baner to Bund Garden to meet Pratik around 6 in the evening.
Pratik had called to tell me that he was reaching Pune at 4.50 pm by flight, and then had a train to Kolhapur at 10 pm. He didn’t have to ask the question, even though we hadn’t met in the past 16 years. The last time we met was in 2001 – he had just gotten married and he and his lovely bride were on their way to Goa, and had stopped by Pune – it was a very brief but meaningful meeting.
Now, it isn’t unusual for me to meet people, even though by nature I do not seek out company. By that I mean I am unlikely to be accused of calling people up for random catch-ups (I usually have a purpose for all communication).
But Pratik is a different matter. In 1996, when I arrived in Pune to study journalism, Pratik was already here – he was studying for his MBA and working a job in business development and engineering support. And so, I moved in and we shared the 1 BHK apartment he had been haunting alone till then. Just like that.
Pratik and I go back a bit – we sort of grew up together for a while. By that I refer to our school days between 1985 and 1987, when our families lived in the same neighbourhood in Delhi. Well, calling Sayyed Gaon ‘Delhi’ is probably stretching it a bit, since we were an hour’s bus ride away from central Delhi.
Now Pratik and I were in different schools, but we hung out after school almost every day and all weekends and most holidays. The Ghosh’s house was a five-minute walk from ours – a straight walk, a left turn and then a right into the second lane being the shortest way through. Pratik and I hung out, reading, listening to music, making stuff, playing soccer, badminton, table tennis (on dining tables), chess, getting into arguments and fights with neighbourhood bullies, discussing and debating books, music, movies, history, geography, science, theories … generally just spending a lot of time together.
Then, of course, in 1989 my family moved back to Bombay (Mumbai), and after that we met again in Pune in 1996, this time spending three years doing stuff, travelling, working, studying, and discussing anything under the same. I remember the day I landed in his apartment. It was a bare apartment with 12 chairs, 1 single bed with a mattress and a pillow. He thought for a minute, then he said “chal” (let’s go) and within the hour we were back with a new mattress, a pillow and 2 sheets. The single bed was shifted to the living room, the mattresses were laid out on the floor along two walls opposite each other, sheets aranged and we picked a wall each and that was our bed. He’s that kind of guy.
We hung out with the same friends (mostly my classmates from journalism college and their friend circles), cooked dinner 3-4 times a week, ate lavish meals occasionally (mostly in the first half of the month when we had most of our princely pay packets), and during the last week of most months, we enjoyed 20-buck meals at local messes (Pune is famous for the numerous, low-cost wholesome food joints that cater for ‘out-of-towners’). We never had any boredom issues with food because the company was always good and we rarely went to the same place more than 2 times a month.
We have been up the mountain, down the valley, covered riots and unrest and floods and marches in the city (he was very handy with an SLR and quite fearless when it came to clicking news photos – local newspapers published a few). Most of my college mates and wider social circle would miss Pratik the day I turned up without him. And if I had a reporting assignment where I couldn’t take him, I usually skipped dinner because it wasn’t the same eating without him. Late night, I would return home and he would be reading and soon enough he found out I hadn’t eaten, and I would find out he hadn’t either, and then we would be on the bike to the railway station or Deccan where food was usually available till about 3 am. Bread and omlette or bhurjee-pav or some rice concoction we wolfed down with a glass of chai. He was always game for anything, which worked for both of us. 😃
In short, he’s one of my best friends, though I guess I have never referred to him as such since he’s also family. By blood relation, he is actually my uncle (my mom’s much younger second cousin on her father’s side). In fact, most of my friends (girls and guys alike) ended up calling him ‘Mamu’ much to his chagrin, specially since he also happens to be three years younger.
And so when he called, all of this flashed in my mind in an instant and I cleared my plate of everything and took a rick to go meet him in Koregaon Park and what did we do? No nostalgia or looking back, just caught up in 10 minutes and then updated each other on what we do and generally exchanged information on what’s going on with friends, family, and the world at large. A very intelligent person, Pratik is the Founder of Plexus Group and a respected consultant in the field of Solar Energy projects. He has a PhD, an MBA, a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Computer Science… But that’s a different story.
There are some people in our lives in whose company we are always who we are and the world makes sense just the way it is. They get you, and you get them, no explanations required.
Pratik Ghosh is one such person in my life.