A young man’s tale

My dearest Appu,

I’m not so good at story telling, though I do or rather did like writing them when I was a boy. One of your aunts was so good at telling fascinating stories and we the younger ones were enthralled by her story telling skills. But today, I’m going to tell you a story. Story of  a young man called Varghese. You won’t get to read the stories of people like him in the books or in history because to the public, they and their lives are so uninteresting. There are probably millions of Vargheses in the world who born and die everyday and not a single person would take notice because they are so ordinary. They are ‘destined’ to live their un-interesting lives.

Okay, so our story begins in a village, now a town, in the middle part of Kerala. Varghese was born 41 years back on an August 3rd to a crude father and a lovely mother. He was the fourth child of the couple. He was named after St. George and don’t ask me why people with the name Varghese have St. George as their patron saint. Perhaps it is because St. George has a Malayalam name of “Gee Varghese” (‘ghee-varugees‘ as the name spelled in Malayalam).

Varghese was different from other kids in his family. He was slightly dark, too much of an introvert and artistic. He loved painting, movies, music and reading. He was very possessive about the people whom he loved (here, perhaps you can draw some parallels between him and your Appan). Varghese did not study much and dropped out of school early. He did many jobs after that. He worked as a salesman in a fancy goods selling shop in the town. He worked there for many years and then moved on to masonry.

Varghese did not have many friends or rather was very choosy of his friends. He did not hang out with friends much. He spent his spare time painting. He loved art though he did not have access to learn much about art or artists. All he knew was to paint with the pastels and a single brush that he had bought with his own money. He could not afford to buy a canvas paper, so he would collect the old Sivakasi calendars to paint on it’s back, on the white space. His youngest brother would curiously look at him doing the painting – first the outer form with a pencil and then the pastel colors flowing on the paper with the stroke of a brush. He was so skilled. People who saw his artistic skills asked the family to enroll him in an art school or send him to somebody who can teach him art. But how can a family that struggled hard to make their ends meet afford to pay the fee for such a thing? But he did not give up. He continued painting with pastels on the back of the calendars or with a white chalk on their verandah. He even applied some of his skills in his masonry work with the permission of his supervisors.

Another passion of his was movies. He so loved movies. And he would take his youngest brother along to watch movies. Imagine a young man just in his twenties taking his brother who is ten years younger than him to movie halls while he could have hung out with his friends. If he couldn’t take his brother, he would narrate the story lines to him. And Varghese had some skill in narrating the story line of movies with hand and face gestures. So he would narrate Ten Commandments or Benhur to his brother who loved these story telling sessions. Like I said before, he rarely went out with his friends but he had a solid set of friends who stood by him. After each day’s work, he would come home, take a shower and would go to the nearest library where he was a member. Or he would go for a movie screening organized by Navachitra Film Society in which he was a member.

Then on a bright Sunday morning of January in 1997, while he was on his way to attend a friend’s wedding, he met with an accident that took his life away. He was just 27 years old when he died.

If you ask me why Varghese’s life was so interesting to me, it is not only because he was my second elder brother, your Valyappan, and we loved each other so much but also it is about a young man who was denied the opportunities he could have had as an artist. It is about young men like him denied of the chances and had to suppress themselves because of the lack of money or the people around them thought that art could get them no where. And one day they just fade out to memory. Nobody asked him if he was happy with the life he had. He never complained.

Do you know why his birthday this year makes me sad than ever in his memories? Because now I understand why my Amma still can’t control the tears when she speaks of my brother. Now I understand how it would feel when you lose a child forever. How precious a child is to a parent. How the first memory of holding their child would rush to their mind when they think of their child’s birthday. Today, I drop a tear for your Ammamma and pray God give her strength and comfort.

PS: You know I don’t usually cross-post anything I write in this private blog I created for you. But I made an exception this time and I am going to publish this post in my blog also, because I wanted to tell the world about him.

PPS: I love you so much!