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The best is yet to be

I did not ask for it. It came like a vague yet stimulating dream. And, like a dream, it was lost — not for ever, I hope.

A cousin of mine, three or four years junior to me at school in the 1940s, called the other day and said one of my classmates was in town and wanted to get in touch with me. He mentioned the name but that did not ring a bell. He then mentioned the boy was among those chosen at random each morning by our Namboori-Maash (Namboodiri master) to sing the morning prayer.

The noisy hall loomed in my memory, the girls to one side and the boys to the other separated by a narrow aisle. As usual, the short and paunchy master emerged and stood facing the gathering with his winning smile. “Who shall it be today?” he would intone. He would then pass a quick eye over the boys and girls.

“Ah, yes, we haven’t heard him in a while,” he would say.

“Let us hear that sweet mellow voice. You there, Karunakaran!” A lean, shy boy would walk up to him and, as the master withdrew, start his prayer in a Carnatic raga.

I got the boy right but still could not put a face to him. He was not in my gang, but we knew each other well. He was the retiring kind. I was not. I was very much into games and sports, he was not. I had not seen him since our SSLC examination in March 1945, over 75 years ago. I knew we were about the same age. Two nonagenarians meeting after seven-and-a-half decades!

I had come from the U.K. for Ayurvedic treatment and was stranded in Thrissur because of COVID-19. Was this classmate in Thrissur all the time? The prospect of revisiting a long lost world with him, however briefly, was alluring. Come to think of it, I hadn’t seen anyone from my SSLC batch in all these years!

All in quick time

I got his phone number from my cousin. In the next few days, we must have called each other at least half a dozen times. He had pursued his passion for music, switching from vocal to violin. He was a widower like me and lived with his younger son in Kochi. He had come to Thrissur to visit his older son and been stuck there because of the pandemic. We were now less than a mile apart. COVID-19 had brought us together and yet was also keeping us apart.

One day, he said his younger son was coming to pick him up. He would then briefly drop in and see me. I was thrilled. I told my children in the U.K. about it and they wanted the meeting to be captured in a video if possible. After all, two nonagenarians meeting after 75 years is a rare event.

The visit was not to be. Thrissur saw a sudden spurt in COVID-19 cases. Before leaving Thrissur, my classmate called me and said he had, justifiably, been prevailed upon to drop the thought of visiting me.

I always believed in Robert Browning’s “Grow old along with me/The best is yet to be!” The aborted meeting may yet happen! Who knows!

pmwarrier9@gmail.com

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Printable version | Nov 24, 2020 9:50:20 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/the-best-is-yet-to-be/article33150706.ece

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