Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Star that disappeared under a dark cloud ….. Never to shine again?


Relationships are a part of life.

Friendship is the most common form of relationship and it’s a voluntary relationship. It is a choice one makes out of free will. Some of these friendships are special, and some are extremely special – because they are precious. This story is about one of those rare special and precious friends.

You feel that some friends are precious to you. But when you talk to others you realize they are precious, not just to you but to those others too……many others. You think they care for and share with just yourself. But then you find out they care for and share with many others too…they have time for everyone. They are kind of omnipresent among their friends.

They are like stars. They light up others’ lives. In a technical sense, they are like star‐networks with one‐to‐many connections. Just like the radiance of a star brightens up around it, they brighten up all those around them. This story is about such a star, a star that disappeared under a dark cloud…never to shine again?

His name was Ajith. Ajith Thevadasan. He brightened up the E/83 batch, just like many other groups, friends & family around him.

I must also say that this story essentially includes another of our batch mates – Jeyananthan who was more than a room‐mate and a dear friend to Ajith, but someone who shared his fate. They both left a friends party on the night of 22nd of June 1990, bidding good bye to some close friends, for the last time, and they left on one motor bicycle, Ajith riding and Jeyananthan pillion‐riding. It is hard for me to write this story about Ajith and talk about Jeyananthan without overshadowing the latter by the former. So first and foremost, my appreciation to Jeyananthan.

***

Again, I wake up from that dreadful dream, with a de-ja-vu feeling. Yes I have woken up from the same unpleasant or rather scary nightmare, with an unfinished story, and in an unfinished night, at least a couple of times before. It is heart breaking! It is about a lady weeping over his lost son, rather,disappeared son. Not knowing what happened to her younger son, not knowing what to do, not knowing whether the worst has happened to him, not knowing whether to leave the country that gives her the bitter memories forever, so as to join her only other child, her elder son in a faraway western country. This lady is none other than our Ajith’s mother, Mrs Thevadasan. She wonders what really happened to her most loved/most loving and most lively son. Years after his disappearance, she waits at Colombo Fort Railway Station. She suddenly sees a glimpse of someone who resembles her beloved son, in the middle of the rush hour crowd. She desperately runs through the moving crowds to see that beloved face. But, its hard to get to him. She is quite confident that it is him…..Her instincts say its her son…She can smell its him…..But she is falling behind in her chase, it’s too crowded…Is she losing sight of him in the crowd…

But then I miss the rest of the story, in all three occasions, it comes to a climax, and I have woken up.

I am sure it is not just a random dream.I have a feeling that someone told me such a story about his mum at the Colombo central….It must have been stored in my sub‐conscious mind.

I remember many, many things about him. He was so lively. Wherever he was, there was fun. Cracking a joke, pulling someone’s leg (giving an ‘andaraya’), making a story (‘a card’) or humming /whistling or singing a song are some of common characteristic of his. I do not remember exactly when we became good and close friends. But after we became a kind of same group (he doing Production and myself Mechanical, both being similar streams with many common subjects) our friendship grew.

We had a few things in common. Both of us were believers although technically, we belonged to two non‐connected churches. Catholic & Pentecost. We also had a very strong common bond, a love for music, same genre of music. I think I had no opportunity, no encouragement and more precisely little audience at the Uni for my kind of Music, only exception being my ‘Newman Soc’ group and wider church community (and the many camps and retreats with mostly non‐E’Fac fellow students). Apart from Sinhala Group songs and ‘Clarence W.’ style music my main love was for quite a wide spectrum of country & western, rhythm & blue, folk and a bit of jazz, pop, big‐band and rock. But all of this was Western Music. Not a good choice for Peradeniya. My room‐mate Anton Croos (who entered from my college to Pera Dentistry) and I used to sing in English quite often at Marcus. After Anton and I parted for obvious reasons Anton going to Marrs Hall and myself staying closer to EFac, I had hardly any motivation to sing.

Ajith was a talented singer. A great vocalist. He sang my favourite vintage songs. He sang many of my favourites. He had a beautiful voice and we sang together. I remember we sang some Hymns (with popular tunes) together and we both enjoyed that.

He was multi skilled. His culinary skills were outstanding. He was one of the best cooks (or should I say chefs!) I ever knew. He could make Kottu Rotti just like the Kottu Boy in the roadside café. He could cook meat just like a professional cook. He used to invite me to Hilda for his curry nights. I loved to go there on my way back from Sunday Mass at Galaha Church or Kandy cathedral. I can recollect at least two occasions when I joined Ajith and Jeyananthan (they were room mates) at Hilda in our third and/or fourth year. He called his good friends from adjoining rooms. Rohan Navaratnam (Medical and one year senior to us) and his Dental (our parallel) friend and a few more friends. We talk while he cooks. He adds the spices to the meat curry with precision and with correct timing while paying attention to our topics.

He would make comments on his recipe or explains how to maximize the taste of a curry by adding spices at different stages displaying his culinary skills. He adds roasted curry powder possibly brought from home first when marinating and for a second time about 2 minutes before finishing. He moves his palm‐full of spices along the perimeter of the saucepan while shaking his hand in a zig‐zag motion to allow the spices fall, as from a sieve, just like a pro. Sometimes he sprinkles fine spice powders from far in to the pan. Oh what a talent.

He would not allow others to cut the pineapple for the dessert. Just like the Chef de Cuisine, or the Souschef assigning duties to his assistants, he gets his friends to peel the pineapple (with proper care, ensuring it is properly peeled) but cuts it himself. He uses the right knife and cuts the pineapple spirally. And removes it carefully from the centre stem without breaking, just like handling a baby. Personally, I had very minimal skills in cooking, having come from a family of five sisters. I would slice the bread and butter them while other friends mainly the Hildians help in cooking.

Once it was Kottu, and he goes bang‐bang on the hot metal plate with a pair of cutters – don’t know where he got it from. May be he got it from a kottu‐joint in Kandy. From my small time I couldn’t sleep without rice for dinner. String hoppers was the only possible, but non‐preferable alternative. But Ajith changed my habit for the first time. I learned to survive a night on Bread or Kottu.

Ajith always loved to join us at our Church socials. He never missed any of the welcomes going‐downs or frequent String Hopper nights hosted by Fr Mark at the Chaplaincy. I also made sure that he was invited or rather ‘told’ to attend. He enjoyed the company of our church community – boys and girls alike…and it was reciprocal.

I think it was one of those Vesak or Poson holidays. The halls were empty as everyone who could, had left for their homes for the long weekend. Ajith and Jeyananthan were among the few who were remaining in their wing. He came up with the idea of visiting his uncle (Dads own brother) at the TRI at Talawakelle, and he invited me to join him and Jeyananthan. As I had never been to TRI I was more than happy to join him, packed up the best warm clothes I had and we left in an afternoon. He also wanted to see his relative Pastor at N’Eliya. So we first went to N’Eliya, and the Pastor was about to leave for an important matter, so he met the Pastor briefly, and we proceeded to TRI. Due to lack of buses and it was already late in the evening we got dropped off at allocation about 5 to 8kms away from the TRI (St Coombs Estate) and we walked, walked and walked. That must be the longest walk that I have ever done in my life. Only compares with a walk back from Sthree Pura Caves hike, closer to same distance – now under Randenigala reservoir.

After good two hours we reached the Bungalow. But the walk was refreshing as the temperatures were low and cool and comforting and we came past beautiful sceneries of tea carpets and water streams ‐ which resembled mini water falls ‐ all pretty and amazing to me. We were warmly welcomed by Ajith’s uncle and aunt and their pretty daughter. Ajith’s cousin sis Deb was very sociable and very close to him, too. Just like an own sis. Thanks to the hot water we warmed ourselves up and played carrom for quite some time with cousin sis as uncle had to finish some work still (at the factory/office). He was a top official there and accordingly the bungalow was a top end one too. We also played Table Tennis. Now this reminds me the skills of Ajith in TT and the time he spent at TT tables whether at the Hall or at the Faculty common room. He was good at Carom too. Well what wasn’t he good at?

His uncle was a music lover too. It ran in the family. Although I cannot confirm, I am pretty sure his uncle was a great singer too. I had listened to an SLBC program where one of Ajith’s cousins (one of two brothers) played the guitar. They were Thevasagayams, one of them was a Vet from Pera.

It was the first day I saw such a big collection of Jim reeves songs, all on spools. His spools set was lent to our room, where three of us slept, nice and warm, thanks to the heaters. I don’t remember about Jeyananthan, but two of us listened and sang many many songs of Gentleman Jim. It was just like a competition, we refreshed our memories / recollected lyrics at the speed of the turning spools. I always liked to listen to music at a quiet night, possibly in wet and thick air and dimmed light conditions. All good things had to come to an end, and we went to bed around 3 am. One song Ajith loved to sing and sang beautifully was ‘I’ve been accused convicted and condemned; the trial is over and now my terms begun….’ and I got him to sing that song several times later at several different places.

If there is one person who has surprised me in my lifetime by visiting me at a sick ward (at C – Quarters of Akbar Hall, allocated for Chicken Pox victims during our Final Exams in Feb 90) with a Special Rice parcel from the best restaurant in the town (by students’ standards), it was Ajith. He brought a Lyons Special lunch, just before my lunch time and the surprise was not due to that. He gave me the Lyons Special and wished me a Happy Birth Day. How on earth did he know that, or remember that. The answer was, I had mentioned several months ago, and he had a photographic memory for numbers. As I was down physically and mentally with chicken pox and also having to sit the exam with chicken pox he had come to ‘raise me up’, and brighten my day. I asked him to leave me asap and he didn’t care to listen to me. Instead he said that he and Jeyananthan had already gone through it and recovered (a few weeks before) and won’t catch it again. He offered his help, notes, short notes etc. and asked Jeyananthan if he could help, too. Because I insisted, he agreed to leave me say after about 20 minutes.

He rode away the Kawasaki 200 with Jeyananthan pillion riding.

***

Volumes can be written about Ajith. That’s just from my friendship and experience, alone. But I know some of you, our batch‐mates, were very close to him, much closer than I. You too, will have memories that can be written in to volumes of books. So, I would like to pen‐off with the few memories, jotted down above. In fact I did most of above writing, in June 2013. I didn’t get to finish it on time to circulate.

So last week I did some finishing lines. You will notice that my write up comes to an abrupt stop, with the sentence ‘He rode away on Kawasaki 200 with Jeyananthan pillion‐riding’. That is the story of Ajith.

An unexpected, sudden and abrupt stop, as he rode away on that Kawasaki 200 with Jeyananthan pillion‐riding, but this time, for the last time, on 22nd June 1990.

But our memories will live and linger as long as we live.

Parakrama Fernando aka Para (E83)

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