When your friends' children grow up, it's like getting a whole new set of friends, and that happened in a very special way with Joseph Ollapally....Appu, as he was called at home, went off to Brandeis and then Harvard, and returned home full of dreams...which he shared often with KM and me....he planned to do a lot of things; he was such a fit, outdoor person. He had such a sweetness of temperament, and such an honest way of looking at things. I remember one occasion where he and I chatted till 2 AM in the morning, and never realized where the time had gone. We could talk endlessly on so many topics...it was fun when we agreed, and even more fun when we disagreed and argued.
We did have one long conversation about death...and he said that he'd like to go quickly when it happened...and I remember teasing him about whether he'd come to my funeral. Yes, he said, he'd come and sing and dance, because he felt that death was a transition to existence in another plane, not an end....oh, Appu, who could imagine that YOUR funeral would ever be before mine?
On one unforgettable occasion, it was his affection for his grandmother that probably saved his life...instead of sleeping in his own room at home, he went to his grandmother's room, to keep her company...early in the morning, the gas cylinder in their home burst, and his bed was full of glass shards from the window (the force of the explosion broke the windows of a home beyond an empty plot behind their house).
We were close to his parents, first, as his father was a year senior to KM at IIM-A... what brought us together, before I knew the fact, was our standing in the same parent-teacher meeting queues in school, and because his elder sister and A were very close friends throughout school, and afterwards. After she moved to the US, and Appu came back, it was he who visited us often, and we found a delightful, unassuming new friend...the brat little younger brother showed himself to be a very interesting person in his own right.
Appu died in a hiking accident in Thailand yesterday...another school friend of A's just called, to give the news. He slipped and fell...down a waterfall...."like a bird", his sister said. There was, apparently, no sound of fear or distress from him.
So..I heard of the loss...but am not able to take it in very much... I think I am completely shocked. I think, in turns, of him, his parents, his elder sister, his younger brother...his grandmother...him again...surely someone so young, bright, so nice, could not have gone off like that? ...but he did...
I think of him intensely, as if just thinking of him so lovingly would bring him back, somehow cancel that call....
One can, perhaps, accept the loss of one's parents, or older people, as being in the order of Nature. But the loss of one's children, or those whom one thinks of as one's children...that's against the natural order of things...and is very hard to accept.
Appu...you were one of the very nice people that I got to know. It's going to take some time for this to sink in. It's too horrible to think of for any length of time....I am too shocked for tears; perhaps they'll come later...
Probably I'll be more coherent later. Right now...I'm not able to breathe properly.