Farewell friend

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 twine.

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 without Mickey.

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