My first friend here in Kerala was my trainer at work. He’d been lumped with task of getting me up to speed in my new profession, and he proved himself to be a genuine, sweet soul with remarkably little pretension. He’s been a particularly welcoming presence since the first day I came to interview at the company, teaching me the ropes of the various systems in place – both formal (an entire new lexicon of terms to understand) and informal (where and when to get the best local chai). We bonded over anecdotes, philosophies and – thanks to a shared interest in amateur photography – ‘snaps’, as they’re known here.
I was gutted when I was unable to attend his wedding in early ‘09. I think he was, too: “I had told so many people you were coming!” Fortunately, I had a chance to atone for my sins when his house was finally finished. (That’s a story in itself, going right back to before he was born and his father’s decision to strike out on his own in business, hoping to one day provide better for his children than his parents could for him). Along I went for the housewarming with the four good men pictured, also colleagues, all of whom have been and continue to be remarkably open and welcoming. Several unintended detours across Trivandrum eventually led to the chess-patterned paving and impressive façade of my colleague’s newly built home.