To my quin ai de

29Jan05

I remember how you taught me to gulp down my glass of milk without any fuss.

‘Shut your eyes tightly, press your nose, and drink up!’

And how you cheered me on during my first maiden jump from the first floor parapet, looking terrified and like the little kid that you were. I remember you watching speechlessly as I played Mozart and Beethoven and Hammerstein. You later asked me ‘Why do you play so angrily?’ ‘Angrily?’ ‘Yeah, you always purse up your lips like this when you play.’ I punched you then, right in the stomach and went to complain to your mum. But some ten years later, I watched myself play on a recording you had made.

I do not purse up my lips anymore.

I remember how jealous I had been when you bought an icecream for that garrulous Sweta. Her honeyed smile made me sick. But you later made me laugh by comparing your muscles to Darryl’s. He won hands down, but you seemed to think otherwise.

You always looked so sweaty and hot after your tennis matches. How the other girls would secretly stare at you, wishing you were theirs. You would toss me a casual hi before moving on to flirt with some hot chick or the other. Your chicks were never the dumb, bimbo kinds. They were all my friends, intelligent and fun.

I remember how you helped me make the transition from milk to tea. You took tea very, very seriously. You taught me how to boil the water, counting every second. I remember watching mesmerized as your long slender hands stirred in the tea leaves. You showed me the sensual side of tea. You taught me to take in the aroma.

‘No, no, no. Don’t breathe in like you are breathing in everyday oxygen. Breathe in deeply, slowly.’

You cried with me when I was leaving Visakhapatnam for Mumbai. For a new life. A new subject. I remember you made some Earl Grey then. We sat on the terrace, sipping tea, watching the setting sun. The heat was oppressive. I can still touch your Captain badge, which stood out like a black blob on your wet, white shirt.

When I returned from Mumbai on vacation, you looked tired. But that didn’t stop you from throwing me into a cold, wet sea. How you laughed at my spluttering face. You always did have a beautiful laugh. Loud. Happy.

As I entered my first year in BA, you told me to screw Eliot and have fun. But I remember you pretending to cower in your seat out of embarassment as I went onstage to collect my third prize in Creative Writing. It was your camera that flashed the brightest.

I remember telling you about meeting ‘someone’. You grabbed my favorite copy of Ullysses and made disgusting kissing noises. You put Ullyses on your head and asked me who the unlucky bastard was. I remember being half amused and half angry.

I remember you brandishing your acceptance letter to Yale before you swung me round and round. You looked so happy then. You promised then, that you would return. You promised you would bring along a ‘gori chitthi’ on your next visit.

Eliza visited alone. America claimed you. Both body and soul. Your cancer took you away. My love was not enough to fight it. Neither was my friendship. They buried you on a cold, wet day. I remember looking at the redness of my roses against the black of Eliza’s dress.

My quin ai de. It has been nearly two years since you made me some tea. But I haven’t forgotten. I have taught kids how to drink their milk. I make tea everyday, remembering you. When I sit in the college foyer, I always lovingly cradle my cup in both hands. When I play Beethoven’s Fifth, I always smile. I screwed Eliot and won laurels for my efforts. And you have always been remembered.

Sleep well mon cher. We will meet again, unless I go to heaven, instead of your own proverbial hell. My Quin ai de.

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