“But I don’t want to go among mad people", Alice remarked
“Oh you can’t help that “, said the Cat. “We are all mad here. I’m mad, you are mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” asked Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat. “Or you’d not have come here”.
1975-“Unlike Hamlet there was no method in his madness if you want to believe that he was mad, because he was not mad. If he showed insanity as we call it, it was only the reaction to the incongruity with the world he lived in, the corollary to an insane world.” She said.
“I have not seen him in that state of anguish. His chirpy voice and the sprint in his steps seemed to be a memory from distant days. I was worried for him but also feared that he would make an unpleasant seen. He was in great emotion and I guessed I saw his eyes were glimmering with tear.” She paused and looked out through the window and exclaimed, “That was an unusual sight! It seemed that finally the misery of loneliness had grasped him."
I sat across on the sofa in the modestly spruced room and watched her intently. Rows of bookshelves stacked with books lined the walls aesthetically. The accolades and mementos she gained thus far adorned a couple of rows. The laurels that were awarded to her for excellence in academic and creativity in literature were enviable in display. A four feet tall bronze oil-wick lamp, the quintessence of Kerala stood in the far corner. The token of gratitude from the alumni she shepherded as the member of the faculty for thirty and five long years!
“That’s where he sat,” she pointed to the right side of the sofa in which I was seated. “I offered him some tea and he took it. He wondered if I would cook him a meal with the entire flavuors of the Kerala household and his favourite lamb curry in spicy gravy of coconut milk and coriander.” She paused and again looked out through the window. “Remember how he used to devour eggs and meat at the cafeteria in the college? The time when he gobbled twenty five iddlis in a whiff of time in that manic competition! He had not lost the lusting and intense fascination for food- spicy meat and fish.” Her eyes seemed to display moments from the long time past.The sun was frantic and ablaze, unrelenting on that midsummer afternoon. Did I notice her eyes were moist?
“I suggested that he come back another day and I would have all he wanted laid on the table. He sat still for a while not talking much, puffing away in chain the ‘Panamas’ and when I came back with some jack fruit chips, he was gone.”
She moved towards the rosewood paneled book shelf in the room, opened a tiny chest of drawer affixed to the shelf and delicately took out a book from in it. She walked by to my side and sat next to me in the sofa. I noticed her hair was graying but her face still sparkled with elegance and charm that enchanted many of us, years ago while we were at the university. The panache was distinct as ever- in her gaze, her gestures and I noticed even in the walk back to me caressing the book as it were her pet and her soul. I sighed involuntarily; it has been thirty plus years since we were all alumni.
“ ‘Desert Spring’, this is CV’s only published work and he did the publishing himself spending a tidy sum. I did the forward to this anthology of poems.” She extended the book to me. I opened the pages and saw his elegant autograph carelessly across the forward page, ‘To the dearest friend of my youth and of all times’.
“There are many who trivialised and even rubbished this work as the clowning of an eccentric. Yes indeed you know as I do, that people branded him eccentric because he was different from the insipid and specious conventions that we, they claim as wisdom and so, inviolable”. She tapped the book and continued, “Even the poesies in this book are distinct and ricochets his mind, his persona. Because it is different from what the world likes to see can we rubbish it? His life was a statement against the frivolity of this world.” She was annoyed and incensed, I felt. She continued, she again threw her gaze outside the window and watched nowhere, “He was a bellwether friend, you will agree as you knew much about us”. She still seemed to have retained the passion to defend him, his words and his life too. Something she was adept and keen about while in our youth. Did I see a strange beauty that even anger and melancholy can display in some?
“I saw no necessity in more than a cursory glance at the small news column in The Hindu that a middle aged man, a Government officer was found dead for three days in his apartment in Palghat. The man was unmarried and staying single .It read that he apparently overdosed. It was later in the evening that I was called on the phone by a former ward to tell me that the newspaper report was on CV.” She keened muted.
“It was only less than a month before he sat here in this very sofa and despite his stirred mental state we spoke quite a bit. He was not paranoid nor was he in a devastated state. He was probably burdened by the occasional excitement and worry we have seen often in him. I do not think for a minute that he would overdose. I ‘m sure he died peacefully in his sleep. The annoying aspect of his self was the cigarettes he smoked. You knew very well didn’t you? Even from our old times? I confronted ,beseeched him many a time to kick the habit.” She looked down at the book she held in her hand, her slender fingers clasped around it. It seemed a tear fell on its neatly bound outer and she quietly turned her face away.
It must be true that CV would never have overdosed; it is hard to believe otherwise. For, despite the fluttering mind and instances of anguish as he seemed to display in later life, he was a person who wanted to live and live forever, to never die. The lust for life was unbounded. He used to remark while we were together at the university that a life is full and marked for ending only when there are no more books to be read, no one to author anymore and when he is barren of ideas to pen.When the mind ceases to function, to think, to create ,then it is time to depart.
For that he had a long, long way to span.