Story 16. The Adventurer.

Mehmud’s father Khaleel and my father were friends. Khaleel Uncle as I used to call him was from the aristocracy and was my first exposure to the lives of such people. Mehmud and I were of the same age and the two of us hit it off straight away from the first meeting.

Mehmud’s sister Fatima was much older and was totally given to spiritual pursuits and was mostly otherworldly in her interactions with us youngsters and other members of the family and their help.

They lived in a large estate with dogs, cats and many other animals and it was always a pleasure going over to their place for weekends to spend time with Mehmud who was looking after the estate having done badly in academic pursuits while the father was busy running a couple of businesses in the city.

Mehmud initiated me into shikar and fire arms and along with another friend Hassan, we used to go off on two/three day trips after game big and small. Both of us were avid bikers and would often go on shikar on bikes though the preferred vehicle was a jeep. We would also drag race in an abandoned airfield in the outskirts of the city. There are some very interesting stories about those adventures, but those are for another day.

Our friendship blossomed into a very strong bond with Mehmud spending nights at my little digs in the town whenever he came to town and when we would be late after double dates. The friendship was much encouraged by his parents who thought that I will be a good influence on him as I was already working for a living and studying in the evenings to get additional qualifications.

Fate intervened and I relocated to another city to a better paying job but Mehmud and I kept in touch through letters. Some time after we parted company, Mehmud’s father was able to get him a job as a trainee assistant in a tea estate in Assam. This was way back in 1963 when there were still some British planters staying on in India and it was in one of these plantations that Mehmud was absorbed thanks to his father’s connections.

Plantation life was made for some one like Mehmud who had already some experience with agricultural labour and practices and the laid back life style of planters with their club life and shikar was almost tailor made for him. He flourished there and in short order was confirmed as an Assistant Manager with his own bungalow and other perquisites. It was during this time that I met up with him in Assam where I had gone on a short holiday in 1964.

I moved to Ahmedabad to study for my MBA in 1965 and Mehmud came down for a week end to meet me while he was on holiday in Bombay with his family. He came primarily to talk to me about his life in Assam and the jam he had got into.

My friend and the hero of this story, had fallen in love with his Scottish boss’s wife, who in turn reciprocated his feelings. In the tea business such developments cannot be kept secret for long and Mehmud was in fact looking for a way to get out of Assam and move to the South of India where too there were many tea plantations so that his paramour could divorce her husband and join him. Although I did not know anyone in the tea business, I did know some people who lived in the Nilgiris and gave Mehmud some leads so that when he did move he could have some friends of his age group and who would help him settle down.

That was the last I heard from or of Mehmud till three years later when I was back in his home town on a visit and went to the family estate to find out what had happened during the five years that I had been away.

Fatima received me with great affection and grace but gave me the news that was simply devastating.

Mehmud could not relocate to the Nilgiris as he could not get a job there, he was sacked by his Assam employer and his paramour was sent off to Scotland. When Mehmud broached the subject of his returning home and getting the foreign lady to come down and marry him, his parents went apoplectic and would have nothing of that.

Mehmud put a revolver to his head and shot himself and was found dead one morning when he did not come down for morning tea. Seeing him like that his father suffered a stroke and died within a few months and his mother went into deep depression and what I now know as dementia. Farida took me to meet her but she could not recognise me nor talk to me about Mehmud or anything about our old days.

Farida was in the process of winding up all their affairs and moving to her maternal grandfather’s home in Gujarat where she hoped to further pursue her spiritual studies while her mother’s family could provide care for her. She did that and I found out subsequently that they had moved out. That was the last I had anything to with them.

There are many occasions when topics like shikar, camping, cross-country motorcycling, camping etc come up when I remember that dashing and cavalier friend with much nostalgia.