JD Goswami is a ‘solid’ friend from my early days in the Railways. My initial interaction with him was when I was posted in Madurai as Senior Divisional Operating Superintendent on my return from South Eastern Railway. Goswami was in Trivandrum in the same capacity. He was a wonderful senior neighbor to have, very accommodative and always helpful. I had a habit of taking the operating position fairly early in the morning. I used to speak to Goswami if I felt that some matters needed his attention, and that was quite early in the day. One day he told me that he was being ‘screwed’ by the ‘Nephew’ on one side and the ‘Uncle’ on another. It so happened that his counterpart in Palghat was my Uncle, AP Tharakan. While I harassed him early in the morning, Tharakan exasperated him during the day with his ‘stately’ responses.
A story about Goswami was told to me by my father. One day when he had gone to the Trivandrum railway station to receive someone, he found the station building full of posters against the Sr. DOS. He was stopped by a short, goateed person who could barely reach the poster wanting to know the contents of the poster. My father explained to him that it is a diatribe against the ‘dictatorial’ Sr. DOS. My father also remarked to the person that he resembled the caricature in the poster. Goswami acknowledged that he could not read Malayalam, the language in the poster, and that he indeed was the ‘villain’ mentioned in the poster.
Our friendship grew as the years went by. His penchant for cooking and travel to way off places always amazed me. His keen sense of observation of human and societal behavior is sharp and at the same time he sees the humorous side of things with an open mind. So when I told him of my plans to visit Patna, he declared that I would be staying with him. I welcomed his ‘order’ and landed up as appointed. The way he took care of me almost embarrassed me, but at the same time, made me feel totally at home. He had thought through every detail for my stay and had even arranged to get my car parked in a secure neighboring residential complex. Every morning he made tea and cooked me breakfast – his order was that I stay out of his kitchen. He laid out elaborate dinners two of the three nights that I was in Patna. Most important were our discussions ranging from Kachins to Sachins over a few Mechins. I enjoyed every minute of my stay in Patna largely due to the hospitality of Goswami and it was tough to take leave of him. He wished me well and I hit the highway to Gorakhpur by 6.30 am.
The route to Gorakhpur was interspersed by bad stretches and very congested village pass throughs. The 300 km drive took me over 8 hours and by the time I reached the ORH in Gorakhpur I was dead beat. All that I wanted to do was to sleep. But BN Shukla, my batch mate who is now with KRIBHCO, would have none of it. I even told him that I do not have anyone locally to guide me, even though Alok (CFTM, NER) had deputed an inspector to look after my requirements, including that of local sightseeing. Shukla immediately called up Amritanshu, the CCM/FM, who was having his round of golf. After a while Amritanshu walked into the ORH with Pradeep Kumar, a very good friend from his days of probation in the Railway Staff College and early days in Southern Railway. I did not know that Pradeep is posted as CSTE/Construction in Gorakhpur, but when he heard my name from Amritanshu in the Golf course Pradeep accompanied him to meet me. The ‘invisible hand’ at it, all over again. We went to meet Alok and had a cup of coffee, while catching up on railway news. It was decided that I would sup with Pradeep and Amritanshu in the former’s house after I visit Gorakhnath temple.
I feel sorry that I could not visit the Gita Press, which has been responsible for bringing out religious texts and other books at low and affordable prices. They are sold all over the world. The visit to Gorakhnath Temple was quite interesting. The present Mahant of the Temple is a four term MP of the area. Pradeep lives in a huge independent villa. He has utilized every bit of the area around the house to grow vegetables and is now trying his hand at corn. The organically grown vegetables were prepared for dinner and the food was extremely tasty. Pradeep is an achiever in every sense of the term. He is excellent at his work with a ‘can do, will do’ approach. He has authored three books on the railways and has a wide network of friends because of his infectious positive attitude. Dhoni, the Indian cricket captain, is a personal family friend. Amritanshu and Pradeep spend their evenings together and indulge in their pet sport of Golf. Forced bachelors both, they were wonderful company for me in an evening when I had nothing but sleep on my mind.