I first saw him when we moved to Coimbatore in 1994, a then sultry and sleepy city in the southern state of Tamil Nadu in India. I was thirteen then, just moved into 10th grade. He had bright sparkling eyes, a fair complexion and lean. He instantly reminded me of another of my friend Sri who was very close to me and I took an instant liking to him. We became thick friends soon and strolled around the neighbourhood talking about cricket, wrestling (WWF then) and all other things that tweeny teens talk about.
We used to cycle away to a dirty water pond named the Kallukuzhi which was a couple of miles away from our houses. It was nothing more than a pond formed by collection of rain water and also sewage (though it didn’t bother us). Washer men used it to wash the clothes and dry them on the rocks near-by. It made us happy that we could catch hundreds of tiny colourful fish with just a small fishing net and a plastic cover. We kept our fishing adventures to ourselves for fear that our parents would scold if they come to know; the pond was supposed to be deep and slushy and any slip could prove fatal.
We would then put the fish into a cement tank in the front of his compound which was used to store water. It gave a sense of satisfaction and happiness to us. Come Sunday, it used to be the cricket day. Along with a gang of other friends from the neighbourhood, we used to play cricket from dawn to dusk and go home only for a snatch of food. He wasn’t a good player though.
We cracked jokes at each other’s expense and discussed what not from cricket to movies to school life. Sekhar was especially the target of the jokes since he was very thin. He was called a mosquito and it made him angry. Once when playing cricket in front of Gopal’s house, I went over board and started teasing him more than the usual amount and he became very angry and stopped speaking to me. I saw him many years later as a college student; he was taller than me but still lean. He frowned at me and went on his way.