When you are twenty-four, your friends land high-paying jobs after MSs and MBAs in renowned institutions. The odd enterprising types even start out on their own. Some gullible ones get married. Yes, when you are twenty-four, your friends do several things… But they don't die! Dead twenty-six year-olds are strangers whom you read about without a tinge of regret in the third page of local dailies. They aren't supposed to be names from your past that bring a thousand memories gushing back!!!
Stephen was dead! He had been dead for a good six months when the news reached me on my return to Trichy from Calcutta! I didn't visit the bereaved family as it was too late and I didn't want to reopen healing wounds. I also tried my best to avoid the many "I know how it happened" accounts that made his death sound more like some spectacle that I'd missed. Strangely, I wasn't feeling sad. There weren't any tears in me for Stephen - six years down separate roads makes you forget a lot. But a strange pensive cloud settled on me then and even now, in the odd quiet thoughtful moment, I still think about him.
That's rather funny. In the six years since I left school, we had met each other only twice. Even those meetings were by chance not design. But for a four year period in which we were in the same class, we hadn't exactly been bosom-buddies. In fact, I have even parted ways with most of our mutual friends. But now that he is gone for good, I try hard to recollect where I first met him, what I thought then and the few memories I have of those years we spent as classmates and friends.
Stephen was older than the rest of the class. He was repeating class seven. He was among the tallest in the class and easily the strongest. A few impatient whiskers were already laying siege to his upper-lip (which he shaved once and became the talk of Std.VII A for a week). He carried a small but menacing rod for "security", was pretty creative and fluent in swearing, and was often seen with established thugs of higher-secondary school. In short, if you are a five-foot-odd weakling who is also unlucky enough to be among the top three ranks in class, you'll give your right arm to befriend a guy like Stephen to avoid being branded a sissy. And that's exactly what I did.
I don't recollect how we first broke the ice, but I remember helping him with his English and Tamil elocutions and "Sales-talks" through all four years (Some creative educationist had dared to make all these and even music graded courses in RSK Higher Secondary School thus placing students and teachers alike in great peril). Stephen and I were also members of an infamous 12-member "Boy-Band" - starting from Mageshwaran through Premkumar to Stephen, each boy marched to the stage with a copy of the school prayer-song book and insisted on singing the hymn "Make me a servant..." for the tests in exceedingly gruff voices year after year, much to the exasperation of our music teacher. I also helped him prepare for a few exams now and then. And that was enough for me to win the unflinching gratitude and loyalty of this then-towering and feared bully.
My most fresh memory of Stephen is when I was forced against the wall by a couple of guys for daring to call them names. From nowhere Stephen arrived in a flurry of blows and swear-words and sent them flying. I didn't bother to explain that it was my mistake. He didn't want to know, either.
We were in separate classes during our last two years in school. For some reason, we didn't talk much. He had taken to smoking and the occasional drink. I had "romantic interests" that demanded that I avoid smoke, smokers and the like. Odd rumors of his "outrageous" acts like carrying drinks to class would do the rounds in school and I carefully kept my distance. Even on our last day in school, we merely smiled at each other. I met him the next year when I went to the school Sports Day. We were both cordial and cold - we were in college now and were trying desperately to act our age. On one other occasion I waved to him from a bus as it overtook his bike.
Now he is dead. And now that I come to think about it, I find it strange how there are things about Stephen that I alone know. And there are similar things about me that he has taken with him permanently. Things that didn't seem worth discussing or narrating to other friends until one of us is gone for good. Now, I can never think of those four years without thinking of Stephen. Though my thoughts aren't draped in any real sorrow, there is an ineffable unease and emptiness. Maybe, as Elliot says, a part of me is gone forever with Stephen Jayaprakash – junior-school strongman; eternal back-bencher; bully; my friend and one-time protector...
We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.
April 23, 2009 05:44 PM PDT
hey...was touched and i still have the same feeling as you do for Stephen..Havent been to the school after we passed out...just some memories and tears rolled down when i read this...........
October 16, 2008 03:05 PM PDT
Hey, i happened to stumble into your blog and read this post. It brought back memories that i had completely forgotten...of Stephen who was a classmate in class 11 and 12. I clearly remember him helping out a couple of girls who got surrounded by some bullies on one of the school trips.
August 17, 2006 01:50 PM PDT
This is the fourth of the Four Quartets...
August 15, 2006 02:59 AM PDT
Could you tell me the name of that poem by T.S. ?
|Jean Walter |
May 29, 2006 09:09 PM PDT
A spine out of the pine.......in my previous comment smelled should be read as SMELT (after all, my thoughts fail to think in English)
February 8, 2005 09:24 AM PST
Welcome to The Atticus Diaries buddy!
Pleasure meeting someone from the old place... BTW, was never under Mr.Lloyd. Bulk of the credit for my English goes to Ms.Prema Juney with whom I used to have long drawn arguments in class :)
|Spider Man |
February 8, 2005 02:13 AM PST
Just chanced to stumble onto this blog today !!
As an ex-RSKite I do know that anyone that has been coached by Mr.Lloyd can do the entire blogworld proud of their language and expressing power.
Great blog, you have here !! Fantastic !!
What year did u graduate from RSK??
September 13, 2004 02:00 PM PDT
oye Atticus...start writing again.....not everyone is as busy with their studies as u.....guys like me need some literary stuff to fuel our procrastination.
August 27, 2004 03:24 AM PDT
Atticus Aug 27, 04 Delete
Things aren't as bad in Trichy :) I went to one of the best schools in the state - RSKHSS and I owe a lot to my language teachers there. (A post on them soon...)
I took to reading to keep up with my elder sister. And, thankfully, my dad was thoughtful enough to ensure we never ran out of book as kids!
Love and Peace,
August 26, 2004 10:45 PM PDT
i guess its not quite appropriate to compliment your talent for writing after reading THIS post. but hats off to you... the words just flow from your pen...err...fingers. i really wonder how come a boy from trichi beacome so good in english...i mean did i miss some tricks here?
August 26, 2004 10:24 AM PDT
your blog looks awesome sir...and needless to say your language as well....oh my god!!!...i jus' cant even think of posting something like this....waiting to skim thro' your next post....