Except for brief bouts of escapism that I enjoyed in my youth, nothing much happened during the first 15 years of my life. It was plain routine otherwise. Going to school, coming back, homework. That was about all there was to it. Once in a while the monotony was broken by punctuations of a game of badminton with neighbours.
All these changed during my Upper Secondary when Imbaraj joined my class. My initial reaction to his demeanour was one of surprise. For a start, it was difficult to read him, much less to understand him. Being quiet and aloof most of the time, it took him a long time before he opened up. Once we passed that stage, it was fun all the way. Being a son of a Station Master and the Station being just across the road, his house was located immediately outside the school perimeter fencing. In spite of the proximity to school, he was a regular late-comer. And having become close to him, I would often stop by at his house for breakfast together before jumping over the perimeter fencing to get to class, avoiding the ever vigilant school traffic wardens in the process.
He gained prominence in school one day when the NST reported him as a ‘player to watch!’ It was then that everyone took notice of this demure character……he was actually representing Penang State in badminton. This was big-time news those days. To be featured in the papers was glamorous. I knew about it all along as I was his self appointed manager. Being reserved, he rejected the many advances of the fairer sex during the tournaments that he played in. To capitalize on the glamour that he enjoyed, I became the go-between for them. And it ended in many an exploit thanks to my relentless energy and imagination in such pursuits. We were teenagers. And as teenagers, we were going through what everyone else went through during that experimental phase of life.
From then on, the relationship gained momentum. There were very few occasions when we weren’t together. We did everything, or at least most of it together. To the extent that when I joined a cigarette company one day, he too gainfully secured employment with one….but with my competitor. Nevertheless, the job was similar and although we were based at 2 different locations, we still found time to meet up to spend time together. During one of those meetings, we had vowed to each other that to seal the bondage and to give a meaning to the friendship, we will adopt each others names in naming our own children. It was not a promise made at the spur of the moment but one that was made with deep and strong beliefs based on the strength of our relationship. Such was our rapport that we were often the envy of friends and relatives.
And true to our conviction, we have it that after my son was born, I used the phonetics of his name to name him as Hem Raj. And he went on to name his son as Kelvesh.
In case you are wondering how on earth could Kelvesh be in anyway linked to or even remotely sound like 'Aravind', please be enlightened that Kelvesh is a lose but stylized adaptation of my family name………Kalveshwara Namboothiri! (I was born a Malayalee Brahmin).