Sunday, December 27, 2015

Merry Christmas - Timothy Paul's Gift

For well over three decades I have known Timothy. Handsome, quick thinking, fast on his feet and a man who hates to lose a cricket match, a table tennis match, a running race or even a battle of wits (I pitted myself against him on all four and lost). Timothy must always have the last word.

I remember seeing him for the first time at the Osmania University cricket grounds way back in the 80s when we were in college, me studying engineering and he studying law. He made an immediate impression with his Clint Eastwood kind of Hollywood looks, slim hips and broad shoulders. And of course a pleasant countenance and an intelligent mind.
Merry Christmas!
Somehow we gravitated to each other and shared many confidences - he would advise me on all things from love (always marry someone who loves you, never make the mistake of marrying whom you love), to captaincy (give them clear roles, set them targets, most people have no clue what to do unless you tell them). He was a keen student of the game too and would give many insights into batting. Many are the hours we spent at the Ameerpet playground practicing and talking.

I made several trips to unheard of places to play games thanks to Paulie - from Aizza College in Malakpet, Guntur, Nanded, Parbani, Machilipatnam, Zaheerabad, Bidar, Basavakalyan and maybe some more. In most places we won and sometimes were in physical danger from local sides. I would not have gone on a  single one of those tours if it had not been for Timothy - I trusted him to handle my end and also make it a good outing. We won some crazy games - the one at Aizza College was one of the craziest - and played as opponents at times. One particular memory I have is the two of us sitting on the railings at parade grounds and watching the game - we were part of the Hyderabad Under-25 team that game.

We watched movies - in Machilipatnam and in Zaheerabad - picking the sleaziest ones. In fact I remember watching one movie with him at Tivoli where we took a bus to Patni and hired a rickshaw to Tivoli. Crazy days.

Then there was the music phase when we would exchange music and he was in the best-of-collection phase.He still has a great collection of movies and of music. Without doubt Paulie has been one of the very few cricketers who remained a special friend with me on and off the pitch.

But that's not all. Paulie, to me, is now synonymous with Christmas.

I remember walking into Paulie's home back in the 90s on a Christmas day. Paulie then lived in the Punjagutta quarters. A quick Merry Christmas and some delicious cake and we were gone. little did I know that this would become a wonderful tradition in the years to come. Today the crowd at Paulie's house is only growing each year. For two decades now or more it's now customary for us to go to Paulie's house on Christmas evening - meet him and Seema - partake of their generosity and love and great food, company and ambience. Yesterday, after another one of those wonderful Christmas parties, I was telling them how they have somehow made this day so special for us with their graciousness and love.

It is only here, on this day, that Paulie lets his vulnerable side show up - else he is always on guard and waiting to seize the initiative. But on Christmas day he is all good host, caring to a fault, putting every single guest at ease and making them feel fully taken care of. His care and attention to detail always shows and he walks everyone in and out, which is so different from the Paulie we know (or think we know). So from the littlest kids, right from Anjali, to the oldest, Paul takes personal care. So there are the regulars - Rahul, Nagender, Ashok Nair, Ramani, Bhaskar, Aman, Ranvir, Raghavaiah, Bansi, Kumar and many more. Yesterday I caught up with the Askari brothers - Mujtaba, Khurram and their younger sibling, Sunil Bhange and many more people.

Thanks Paulie and Seema, for all the wonderful Christmases and for being around. Now Christmas can never be complete without what you made it. It is truly something special.

There was something we used to laugh about - Paulie and me- in fact we laughed about it yesterday too. There was a time when there were four of us and for some reason we decided to go for lunches each sponsored by one. Of course those were times when we all did not have money either (I certainly did not, still don't). I got some money from the HCA for the Ranji Trophy championship and I put up my hand. After two parties from Kumar and me, the other two, Paulie included, stopped. They wanted the other to host first in a game of one upmanship. It stopped there. Though Paulie laughs and says he got the best of us I don' think so - he has been hosting these wonderful parties that remind me of the Gatsby parties, for over two decades now. Mine, Paulie, in retrospect, was just a drop in the ocean.

And among his many virtues, Paulie is one guy I can share deep confidences with and at the same time, really laugh. He's one of the few guys who makes me laugh. Merry Christmas Paulie.

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