Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Once a delinquent, always a delinquent.

One morning recently, out of the blue, I had a bout of nostalgia. It was about a friend who is no more. He was my colleague for three years in Clarion-McCann http://digbig.com/5bbsqw when we became firm friends. He had to leave his job because he could not get along with his boss. Although I used to be quite serious and solemn about work and the world in general in those days, I made an exception in his case and got to be quite fond of him. He used to address me as “DW” (short for “Deepak Waman” Mankar) – a very British trait (“TS” = “Thomas Stearns” Eliot and so forth) he had acquired during his years of stay in London for higher studies followed by a job in advertising. He did it to nobody else, though. I was his chosen victim probably because I used to be such a square and a crushing bore in those days. The bloke was straight out of PG Wodehouse, full of pranks all the time. PG was also one of his favourite authors as he was mine. Our other shared reading preference was Edgar Wallace http://digbig.com/5bcadw. We used to hunt for PG and EW books jointly in shops stocking old books, magazines and other scrap as well as pavement stalls on Hornby Road and Lamington Road. He also loved Topol and "If I were a rich man" from A Fiddler on the Roof . He watched it several times when it ran at the Sterling in the eighties. Later on, we discovered that he had been Ujwal’s contemporary in St. Teresa High School which he had to quit after rustication as a reprisal for what he himself described as a “dastardly” prank. He finished school in St Sebastian. Though a devout church-going Catholic himself walking almost a mile to attend morning mass at the red St Teresa’s (Portuguese) Church, Girgaum, he apparently never got along with the priests running both the schools and even St Xavier’s College. One of his abiding passions in life at that time, besides chess games on the terrace of 233 Khetwadi Main Road http://digbig.com/5bafde and spending the whole day in the David Sassoon Library in Colaba, was the World War II history. He used to regale me with thrilling accounts of the various battle theatres. One event of the era we disagreed about was the Holocaust. He didn’t think the accounts of it were grossly exaggerated although he agreed with me that history is mostly written by the victors. Somewhere along the way, he had acquired a taste for locally brewed hock in spite of his years of pub crawling in London. It probably had something to do with his dire financial straits. He had his own unique style of downing his poison. He would take a fairly large swallow of his drink, make a face, take a lick of salt, quickly pour his next shot, bolt it down and make his exit. He also got into the habit of carefully hoarding stubs of cheap cheroots to later crumple them and smoke the tobacco in a pipe. One of this prankster’s weirdest – and stupidest − pranks cost him the opportunity offered to him on a silver platter for a late comeback into advertising. A newly launched ad agency floated in the late 1980s by his friends had hired him as the operational head. Had he taken the tide at the floods, it could well have turned out to be his swan song, his last hurrah. Alas! It was not to be. Instead of concentrating on marketing and client acquisition, he frittered away scarce resources on ads released on a whim and also alienated a few clients. Then came the point when he had no other alternative except to resign. For several years before his death a couple of years back, we had lost touch. When we came to hear of his hospitalization, both Ujwal and I went sick-visiting almost every day. We even attended his final service held at his younger brother’s flat in Bandra.