One of the insights I’ve gathered after all my years is that almost everything in life – situations and people is shades of grey, barring few exceptions that are downright black and white. However, we start in life foolishly by expecting everything to be black or white, become judgmental and keep getting disillusioned and disappointed with events. The fault many times is with our perspective and not just with the circumstances or people around us.
This happens because we’re not given the proper education when we’re kids. We’re told moral stories with characters who’re mostly either totally wicked or total saints and we grow up with wrong expectations. Especially in India, we’re taught to eulogize relationships and put people on a pedestal and consider elders to be infallible and unquestionable. I think this puts undue pressure both on the elders and the children who can’t be themselves and honest with their feelings or thoughts. Nowadays, we also have “Mother’s Day” and “Father’s Day”, which again give rise to so much sham and unrealistic feelings. Each relationship and family is unique and should be assessed separately and honestly, and space be given for variations rather than generalizing all.
I’m not sure why I decided to write my own story, except that it was a sudden idea and I thought that it might be interesting because it’s quite unique. Besides, it’s also much easier to write your own story than cook one up. Writing might also help me see my own life in an objective manner from a distance and make better sense of it, and hopefully be useful to others in similar situations.
Looking back, I can see that one of the reasons that I survived quite a few challenges was because I was an extravert and never hesitated to make friends and open up to people. I met some really wonderful people of all ages and types throughout life who made a big difference and helped me cope. I also met some nasty people who really hurt me, but that’s what life is all about. I plan to write about some of the wonderful and few of the nasty people I’ve met in my posts.
Today I’ll write about Mr. Nair – who was one of the wonderful people I met when I was in high school, and he was my “best friend” for a few years, I learnt a lot from him and gained a lot from his company. It was a very unusual friendship between a fifteen year old and a sixty five year old. He was like a father (and grandfather) who I never had.
He was a retired physics lecturer from AFMC in Pune and came to stay with his son in our campus. When my mom got to know that a “physics lecturer” with a lot of free time happened to be in campus, she asked if she could send me to clear doubts, and Mr. Nair agreed. However, it had been more than five years since he had stopped teaching and was out of touch with the subject, and I realized that I knew more physics than him. But I continued to visit him for discussing other subjects like current affairs, politics, literature, philosophy, mythology etc. and for taking long evening walks. He also didn’t have any friends in the campus, so it was mutually beneficial.
Unlike my grandfather who was eccentric and difficult, Mr. Nair was very easy going, down to earth, fun loving and great company. You could discuss anything with him, and he would be very understanding and insightful. He was also quite impressed with my “poetry writing skills” and the biggest fan of my poems. We took long walks in Koramangala every evening. In those days Koramangala was sparsely populated and used to be quite deserted after dark, I was allowed to go there for walks only because he accompanied me.
He also loved cooking and experimenting with recipes. So very frequently I would get to taste whatever he’d prepared on that day before leaving for the walk, and this was an added bonus. He cooked quite a few things, but I remember only his “capsicum sambar”. I remember that he was quite thrilled that it turned out to be a success because capsicum is not usually added to sambar. Had it quite a few times with idlis at his place. He also inspired me to experiment with cooking at my own place and I used to carry the successful outcomes for him.
His presence was a very big support during my teens and provided me with a lot of stability. He also used to visit my place whenever my grandfather was around and the two would have interesting discussions on various topics that I’d listen to attentively. Both were roughly the same age and both had lost their wives, and one day I heard them discuss how life is after the death of a spouse. The discussion was at first sentimental, then it turned religious and then spiritual and quite incomprehensible. Finally I heard my grandfather remark to Mr. Nair “You’re the wiser one of us both”. I was extremely happy to hear this because I wholeheartedly seconded this view 🙂
However, his son found a new job and left our campus after some years, so Mr. Nair also moved with him. I was very dejected and resolved to keep in touch via letters. I did write for a few months, but stopped after that. I’ve never been very good at keeping in touch via letters and regret that I didn’t follow up with him and many other friends.
PS: My next post in this series will be “Train to Calcutta”.