A train journey and a friend for life

A train journey and a friend for life

Shiv Sethi

As a child, I had a predilection for writing letters and sending greeting cards on festive occasions like Diwali and New Year to friends and relatives. My passion for writing letters kept me close to many of the relatives and friends living in far-flung places, who were otherwise hard to approach in the absence of the modern and swifter means of communication.

Once, I was travelling to Delhi by Punjab Mail. And unlike the modern-day travellers, most people of my generation had a habit of indulging in garrulous gossip. They would never hesitate to broach discussions or intervene in a talk with co-passengers while journeying by public transport. Thus, I began a conversation with a fellow passenger sitting cheek by jowl with me in the train. He, too, reciprocated my warm gestures. In no time, a friendship was forged and the journey completed without an iota of the boredom that characterises the solo traveller.

But there is a dictum that in every end lies a new beginning. Our train journey had ended, but on its completion, a new journey of friendship began after we disembarked. While departing at the Delhi railway station, my co-passenger Ram Lal (who had more or less become a friend now) placed a piece of paper, which contained his postal address, on my palm. The days rolled by. One day, I decided to write a letter to Ram Lal to enquire about his wellbeing. I was joyful beyond belief as he reciprocated my gesture in an equally befitting black-and-white manner.

Thereon, a round of letter writing followed, which was kept alive by both of us for more than a decade. In the process of writing, we had become the best of pen friends. Although we never met members of each other's families, we had, in a way, developed a close connect with them as well. He was blessed with a unique style of letter writing. His descriptive style would often make me visualise his home and village. Writing about his wife, he would hardly fail to jocularly explain her constant habit of nagging.

As times changed and technology registered its presence in lives, our bond of friendship, too, was revolutionised. My pen friend had become my phone friend now. Though the frequency of writing letters had considerably decreased, the old mode of unifying communication was still not fully forsaken. Decades have glided by. Ram Lal and I never met each other in person after that rail journey. But our friendship is still intact. Rather, the bond of attachment is growing stronger day by day, as we both are now friends on social media. But once in a while, the past practice of writing a snail mail to each other spices up our bonding all the more.

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