He was odd, to say the least, and he would walk around hunched with this peculiar gait that made him look like a wounded war-veteran who limped. He seemed so absorbed with himself, and I often wondered whether thoughts buzzed around inside his over-sized head like flies circling a pile of garbage. He had this effeminate way about him, but his voice was a rich baritone that reminded me of the Contrabassoon. It still shocks me that he took his own life because nobody really hated him, and some in fact nicknamed him ‘a man with a thousand reflections,’ and wanted to get to know him better, to put together the hundred pieces that made him so unique, so that they could finally get a glimpse of the solved puzzle. Having said that, loneliness isn’t about being alone in a dimly lit room with a back against a wall, smoking a cigarette; it is being surrounded by different realities, or a hundred faces – each with their contours, pimples, wrinkles and facial hair (or lack of it) – and still seeing this thick impenetrable fog that threatens. Was he lonely? I don’t know, but then again what do I know? I’ve lived with my wife for fifty years and even though she’s been so forthcoming, I think I’ve only peeled a few layers of the onion. Every man’s mind is a galaxy in itself, with ideas and constructs orbiting the core that makes him. Sometimes I wonder if he really was that complex, if he was really an instrument like the piano with its tuning pins, soundboard, keyboard, bridge and case, or if he was just this hollow reed that we mistook for a flute. The naïve often have this enigmatic charm about them that makes them so alluring, and makes us see them from all kinds of vantage points, thereby giving us a blurred reality. Maybe it was just us, looking through glasses, or a microscope when we should have seen him plainly for who he really was. Nonetheless, none of it matters now. He sleeps and with him rests an over-analytic mind that calculated the steps he took to reach the college canteen from the classroom, or an introspective one that told him that there was no escaping the frightening hands of fate; or a creative one that made him think that he was like a character out of a fantasy book: grey in every sense, or a simple straight forward one that couldn’t get past some obstacle, and hence caved in.
© Nitin Lalit Murali (2020)