On Vasanthan’s last birthday, I made my customary telephone call to wish him. His wife, Padmini came on the line. I asked her teasingly whether she was following the doctors’ advice and going on romantic walks with JV. Her answer saddened me. He cannot walk, she said because his foot had been amputated. I tried to cheer her up saying that when he was fitted with a prosthetic foot, she should dance with him. Alas, that was not to be.

In 1971, when I was in the USA, a fried Julian Smith kept talking about ‘Va-saan-ton’. I learnt that Vasanthan was a man of many talents and a person with a sense of humour. I met him in person when I returned to India and we became friends.

I remember Vasanthan paying a tribute to my late wife, Mahema. He said, Mahe was a great beauty but he could not say the same about me! So I did a large watercolour of a butterfly (representing Mahe’s beautiful spirit), sitting gently on the arm of a teddy bear (representing me) and titled it ‘Beauty and the Beast’. But he ended the speech by quoting himself, “You may be going blind, Manohar Devadoss, but you have taught us all how to see.” Generous words, these.

Just last month we had a happy reunion at his home in Madurai. I played a Christmas song and a couple of nostalgic, Hindi film songs on my harmonica for him.

Before leaving I hugged him as he lay in bed. I did not realize it would be a final goodbye.


To Sir, with loveJanuary 22, 2014