As I have been for so many years, I called my old friend Timothy Paul to wish him Merry Christmas. As usual he invited me over to his house for an evening of merriment. It is an occasion I always look forward to each year and definitely make it a point to visit Timothy's house and meet him and his family. And plenty of friends.
I have known Timothy for twenty eight years now. I first saw him at the Osmania University cricket ground where he was playing. He was a batsman with a growing reputation those days and a dasher as well with his Hollywood film star looks. Broad shouldered, slim hipped and light on his feet, Timothy was known as much for his batting prowess as for the sharpness of his tongue, his quick wit and his survival instinct. He was a bit of a lone ranger, someone no one knew how to handle because he was too smart for them. I was just a rookie then, out of my 12th and had already played all levels for Hyderabad except Ranji Trophy.
I don't know how we stuck up a friendship but we did, an unlikely pair. He was two or three years older but had seen much of the world and knew how to survive the games. We were in the squad for the Under 25 the next year and we spent much time chatting about things we liked - cricket, movies, music etc. He started coming to Ameerpet to practice and that was where I went as well so our friendship grew stronger. Along with Kumar, Daljit and the others, Timothy and I played several tournaments local and out station just because we enjoyed each others company more than anything else. Zaheerabad, Nanded, Machilipatnam, Guntur - we played several tournaments and won many. I only went for one reason - Paul.
Off season we watched movies once in a while. Or discussed music. Paul always told me the stuff he figured out on his own about the game. 'Watch batsmen for their feet movement, its important. If they are not moving their feet they are a good candidate to get out.' Once he told me - 'If you are the captain be sure to specify the role of each player, what you expect and how much. Don't ever think they know because they have played the game.' Or even in the matters of the heart - 'Be sure you marry someone who loves you, not someone you are crazy after.' Lots of wisdom of course.
Paul is easily one of the few guys I can laugh aloud with. He has a terrific sense of humour and is always trying to match wits with everyone. We are always at each other and are very fond of one another. From his law studies in Nanded. his job with the Central Excise, his wedding with Seema, the loss of his father, his new house at Chikoti Gardens, his children, I have been with him. Just as he has been with me through my ups and downs, my books, my marriage, my loss and my wins.
Many moons ago, almost twenty years ago, on one Christmas day, while passing by his house in Panjagutta I stopped by to wish him. And it has never stopped since. It is one thing I enjoy most on Christmas day. So this year I picked up Kumar and we went to his house. All the regulars were there - his friends, Uncle, Aditya, Bhaskar and the party was on in great spirit. Paulie suddenly assumes the look of the host on these days which is fun to watch. I spent a good hour of completely uninhibited bonhomie with my friends and came back home, filled with the Christmas cheer. Thanks Paulie for all the good times.