When they called to tell me he was gone,
dead of a heart attack just twelve days after he turned 39, I was filled with
rage. An all-consuming, white-hot rage that robbed me of words, that even robbed
me of tears.
I placed the receiver carefully back in its
cradle and took down the album in which I’d stashed snaps taken when he had visited me up in the hills, just a couple of months ago. There he is, standing by the
door of the miniature train at Lovedale station. There he is, glass of beer in
one hand, cigarette in the other hand, high up on a terrace-with-a-view. And
there he is, in a classic snapshot, kneeling at my feet and accepting the royal
gift of a handful of roasted peanuts.
He came in as a friend of my sister, and
stayed on as a friend of the family. He and I bonded quickly, seamlessly. He
was the one who stayed awake beside me all night long, a silent comforter, when
I lost my father. He was the one who helped unravel a dismayingly knotty legal
problem (he was a lawyer, after all, even if he was contender for the title of
most laid-back lawyer) that happened to crop up. Soon, he became my sounding
stone for virtually everything and anything.
We had our rituals, he and I. I’d come into
town and almost as if by telepathy, he’d call. We’d go see whatever good film
was running, we’d take in the occasional play, we’d check out the newest
eatery, catch up on gossip and laugh loud and long. He rode an ancient
juggernaut of a scooter, the butt of endless jibes, a vehicle he loved
unabashedly. Not on your bike, I’d protest and he’d say with an injured air, ``Even Michael Schumacher rode a bike like this before he moved on to cars.'' And,
of course, we’d go to wherever we were headed to on that set of rattling parts tied together with
They called him Mickey which I adapted to
Michael. And soon that became Michael- Madana-Kamaraj, after we saw the Kamal Hasan film of that name. I thought it was only fitting to expand his moniker into
three, seeing how he was a big man, a dead ringer for Bud Spencer. He accepted
all three handles with one of his booming laughs.
Now he’s gone. And I’m angry. How could he
do this to me? We had miles to go together. We were to have been part of a
commune up here in the Nilgiris. We were to have seen about a million more
films, eaten a million dinners, quaffed a million great and indifferent wines,
argued over yet another million things, big and small.
The tears will come later, I know that. It
will come when I meet his young wife and two little boys. For now, I am holding
on to this anger like a lifeline. A thin, lurching raft between me and a life