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‘Time was away and somewhere else’

The reunion of anyone after a lapse of many years can be the stuff of drama. The story of the meeting of Krishna and Kuchela, classmates at Sandeepani’s gurukul, comes to mind.

There was no drama whatsoever when at last my high school classmate K. and I met recently after 75 years. COVID-19 had stranded us in Thrissur, where a mutual friend, also stranded, had put us in touch with each other. We had several exchanges over the phone, and once the virus had relaxed its stranglehold on the city, K. called and said he would visit me the next morning with his son, who is in his 60s.

I opened the door to the father and son. Both wore masks, which they removed as they walked in. K. and I beamed, gave each other a once-over, and exclaimed almost in unison: “I wouldn’t have recognised you if our paths had crossed anywhere outside.”

K. had kept himself much better than I had. He is lean and erect, has no difficulty walking, still has a well-groomed crop of hair, and no wrinkles to speak of.

Despite all those phone conversations, we were still a bit shy. Ogden Nash’s Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker from Reflections on Ice-Breaking kept playing in my mind. But what came out was, “What will you have — tea or coffee?”

“Thanks, but no, nothing,” K. said. “It is almost lunchtime. Let us just sit and talk.”

“Something to munch, then, while we talk,” I said.

I reached for my stick and hobbled to my kitchen, K.’s son, thoughtfully, following. I put some roasted cashews into a bowl and some banana chips into another. He carried the bowls to the living room.

Violin days

K. pulled up his chair closer to mine and showed me a few pictures from his violin days. How I wished I could hear him play! He had stopped playing because he found it hard to sit on the floor, and he was not used to playing on his feet or seated on a stool.

It turned out K. had lived most of his life — and still does — in a port town next to Kochi where his father worked. He attended school there but with the distant rumblings of the Second World War and the resultant fear of air raids on Kochi, the family had temporarily relocated to their home village in Malabar and that was how he had happened to be at the same school as mine.

Or rather, I had happened to be at the same school as his for I had joined it a year later — relocated from Calicut (Kozhikode) to my home village for other reasons.

The hour we spent together was travel in time for us, a holiday in old pastures, and a study in the ways of destiny!

Before leaving, K.’s son noted my e-mail ID. Later, he mailed me a few pictures of two oldies in earnest conversation. I gazed long at those pictures and as the poet Louis MacNeice put it in a different context in his Meeting Point, Time was away and somewhere else…

pmwarrier9@gmail.com

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 12:53:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/time-was-away-and-somewhere-else/article33887347.ece

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