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  • Writer's pictureDr. Aparna Santhanam

Thank You Mr. Postman!

I met Sharath when I was 19. He lived in the same building as my friend Rajam and we met purely by chance on a Sunday morning, when I , a constantly hungry hostelite was at her place enjoying delicious home cooked food and he stopped by to return a book. Later that evening, he called us over to his place to play Pictionary (the only thing that we have ever fought over!) and marked the beginning of a friendship that defined so many events in my life subsequently.

I was a medical student, and he was a few years older than me and already out of college and working. Our friendship was not the result of us being classmates or work colleagues or even two people who ran in the same circles. It was serendipity at its best and Sharath, even more than me ensured that we got to know each other completely. He would come to meet me all the way at JJ hospital in Mohammed Ali Road on weekends and we would walk and talk, just investing time in understanding each other’s lives and having fun along the way. He became a familiar fixture in JJ Hospital.

Somehow, it was a different period of life when time was fluid, flexible and aplenty and talking was easy. Some people thought I had a new boyfriend, others just liked stopping by and chatting to this interesting, handsome, dimpled, smiley person. It is hard, I think for anyone to understand a friendship literally in the making, but somehow definitions never mattered to either one of us. He had a way of drawing everyone in, making everyone feel included and welcome. His friends from college meant everything to him and he wanted me to know all about them, before I met any of them, which he was sure would happen eventually.

So, he wrote letters to me. He had a flair both for speaking and writing where he could paint a vivid picture with words. His initial letters were all about his friends, detailed descriptions of their personalities, how he met them, what they meant in his life, how indeed they defined in many ways the person he was. His penmanship was as beautiful as his prose, and I would eagerly look forward to his letters in the hostel mailbox. The first letter I received had this little note at the back: “Thank you Mr. Postman!”, his unique and thoughtful way of thanking the man who delivered his words. That small act of his personified his caring, sweet and quirky nature in a way nothing else could have.

He wrote to me extensively about my husband, Narayan, much before I met him. He was there when I met him finally of course and I was there the first time he met Mili, who is a perfect mate for him, in every way possible. He was always totally chuffed by the fact that “his best friend married his other best friend,” and would tell both me and Narayan that for him, his individual relationship with both of us was never to be compromised by us being a couple. And he ensured that it never was.

Sharath literally loved life and every experience that it offered. Great books, delicious food, stimulating conversations, political debates, watching movies and plays and interactions of all kinds with all manners of people, he devoured them all with intensity and enjoyed every moment to the fullest. He was guileless in many ways and brutally honest in others. I remember him calling me from Goa airport, a month after my first book was published and he told me, “I’m seeing your book in the airport store and I’m so proud and so jealous at the same time! You have done what we both had always wanted to do, only I’m still just talking about it!”

Earlier this year he met me with a draft of what he hoped would be a book he could publish. But the universe had something else in mind and that dream has travelled with him elsewhere. My heart still refuses to grasp the fact that he’s gone and many days I wake up in the early hours of the morning thinking of him. Knowing him, he’s probably reading this note, so thank you Sharath Ail, not just for your beautiful friend-lationship, not just for your unconditional love but for literally marking an epoch in my life from the first day I met you. Wherever you are, keep regaling everyone with your wonderful tales and your beautiful words and may the dimples on your cheeks and the twinkle in your eyes stay on in every life you touched before you moved on, too young & too soon.

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