Chaudhary & I go a long way back. I had just been transferred to Seremban then while working for Rothmans in 1979. Didn’t know anyone there except for my classmate Raymond with whom I stayed for the first 3 months or so. I later moved in with my working colleagues who were renting a house in Jalan Templer.
I used to patronize The Pearls, an up-market restaurant along Birch Street that was run by one Mr. Arjunan. My then new love interest was also working upstairs next door so it was sort of a convenient meeting place for us after work. I would spend hours on end chatting away, downing my favourite beer till its time to call it a day, usually in one of the private rooms in the restaurant that Mr. Arjunan had.
It was on one of those days that I met Chaudhary otherwise known as Roton to his family. (I especially liked the name Chaudhary as it reminded me of the Sivaji starrer of the 70’s where the hero excels in his role as a policeman). He worked in the estates in nearby Pedas town and was a football referee, often refereeing the game for the Indian Association team players in the town padang just opposite Pearls Restaurant. I was having my usual pint when we struck up a conversation. Upon learning that I was an out-of-towner, he was more than nice towards me. We soon developed a close friendship………. and I got to know his family too when he invited me to his parent’s house in Bahau one day. I have spent so much time with him in his estate bungalow that it was more like my second home. His sister (Lolo) also stayed with him so sometimes when I am rushing back to work the next morning, I would drop her off at her work-place in Senawang that was along the way. He even gave me a spare key which meant that I could access his house during the times when he and his sister weren’t there.
After I left Seremban in the early 80’s, we still kept in touch. I would visit him once or twice and learnt that he had grown career-wise, having left his Pedas job to take up a posting in another estate in Labu, closer to town. He was married by then to someone from India with whom he was communicating back in the 70’s while I was still in Seremban.
We lost touch for a while after that until about 25 years later when I somehow managed to get his phone number through another one of our common friends. Made contact with him and visited him a couple of years back. He had bought a beautiful house in Seremban 2 with a large garden and had a gardener to tender to his plants when I dropped in……reminding me of his estate life back then.
We spoke for quite a while catching up on old stories. He mentioned that he was retired and was looking forward to taking up an offer from Sabah or Sarawak (can’t quite remember). After having lunch, I left promising that we’d meet again. I later invited him for my daughter’s wedding but it was unfortunate that he couldn’t attend. From then on, I would always tell myself that I should visit him when I get a chance to drop by at Seremban but somehow never got down to fulfilling that wish. Spoke to him over the phone though……the last being about 6 months back.
As such it was a real shocker to see his photograph in the obituary section of the papers on 22nd November 2010! I called up his sister and was told that he had had a massive heart attack the previous evening and had passed away.
It is so sad that unlike in a race, life does not offer a finish-line. It just ends…..and so abruptly at that……! Thus ends another chapter in my life leaving behind only fond memories.
Rest in peace Roton. God bless you.