Two indigenous financiers came into my life and both left deep impressions on me. One for becoming something totally out of character and the other for his tremendous character.
This one is about the former. My readers may find it amusing.
During one year when I was about seven years old, my parents moved out of Chennai and left me with my uncle to experiment if that childless uncle would be comfortable adopting me as his own. Quite a normal happening in India. That experiment was a failure due to no fault of either my uncle or aunt, but that story is for another day. My aunt was a teacher in a nearby school where I was enrolled.
Ilangovan was my classmate in that school. He was from the Chettiar community from Chettinad. His parents expected him to study well and become a modern young man and put him into that school because it was well known and had a hostel facility. By the time I met him he had already studied in the school for three years staying in the hostel. He was my classmate only for one year as I got transferred out to another school on my parents’ return to Chennai at the end of that one year.
Ilangovan was a shy and mousy character. Since he was mousy, his name got converted to Eli. Eli in Tamil means mouse. He never liked it but had to bear with it as by nature he just was not the disputing type. Like other such children, he was subject to much teasing by the others in the class and the hostel.
I lost track of Eli till many years later when I was working in Chennai in the early sixties and bumped into him a few times in restaurants and movie houses. He was still studying but in college and staying in the college’s hostel. He had become a handsome young man and was a little more confident of himself than he was in school. He would share a coffee and a smoke with me and express his envy that I was not studying and was independent whereas his parents were keen for him to study up to a Master’s Degree.
I left Chennai in 1965 and had no contact with Eli till 1988, almost a quarter century later.
I was flying home to Bangalore from Chennai and was at the departure hall awaiting the call for the flight when Eli kind of sidled up to me and tentatively asked if it was me. I recognised him immediately and greeted him effusively. Eli very firmly told me not to call him Eli in public particularly because he had some other people accompanying him. During that brief meeting I was able to gather that he had joined his father’s business of money lending. He was personally handling the financing to film producers in South India.
After exchanging visiting cards we promised to be in touch with each other. I wrote down my residential address for him on the back of the visiting card and he promised to visit me when he was next in Bangalore.
About a month later, I was in bed reading at about 9.30 pm when the door bell rang. We were staying in a big bungalow then and I had to come downstairs and open the door perfectly willing to let fly some expletives if it turned out to be one of my mischievous friends, to find Eli standing there with a big grin on his face. He was reeking of colon and whisky and looked somewhat like this.
I invited him in when he turned around to talk to another person standing there. Obviously a body guard, that man did not like to be told to go and wait in the car parked outside the compound. I intervened and said that the car could be brought inside the driveway and took Eli inside.
Eli wanted me to go out with him to have some more fun and frolic and would not take no for an answer. I went back upstairs, changed into some street clothes, told Urmeela about the development and came down to go out with Eli. When we came near his car was when I discovered that there were two women sitting on the rear seat. Obviously some film extras, almost asleep while being seated. I took Eli back inside the house and firmly told him that I was not interested and that he should go for his fun and games on his own, by which time Urmeela came down to see what was going on. I introduced the two of them to each other and all life went out of Eli. He paid his respects and took leave of both of us and scooted.
He called me on the telephone the next morning and let fly some choice expletives and said that I had embarrassed him by taking him back inside and introducing him to Urmeela. I quietly listened to him, and told him that I was not in the same league as he was in and asked him not to bother me ever again.
I haven’t heard from him since then, but discovered through some other sources that he is no longer in Chennai and has disappeared from view.
The Mouse had become a Tiger and then performed the vanishing trick.