Sunday, 30 August 2015

The Music is Still

-Brian Mendonça

When  Lloyd died it was difficult to believe. He was only 48, was married and had three girls. As his eyes stared defiantly at you from the coffin, you almost expected him to jump out of it and attend to the drinks of the mourners.

Drink. That was what took him in the end -- an obsession with the spirits coupled by smoking beedis. Often times he used to slink away to grab his sustenance and come home sozzled. At other times he used to down the liquor at home, plunging the family into anxiety with his aggressive behavior and oaths. Incensed by liquor he sometimes attacked his family members.

One night when he chased his sister out of the house with a knife, she called on the landing of the building but no one came. All peered through the peepholes of their doors – and stayed inside. Only one brave girl, whose husband was away, managed to push aside her in-laws who were holding her back, opened the door and thrashed him with her umbrella. ‘If you ever touch her again, I’ll kill you,’ she said.

Owing to his chronic dependence on alcohol, he was often given a wide berth by those who knew him. He abused those who paid for his treatment in hospital, so the next time they didn’t.  Heavily into borrowing for his gambling, he soon got into debt. His job did not fetch him much, as he had not completed his SSC, dropping out from school after falling in bad company.

But he was full of joie de vivre (joy of life) and would always offer you a drink after the small talk was done.  He was helpful to the core. He loved little children and used to stretch out his hands to take them in his arms. Konkani music was his passion and he used to blast it on his system at home, to the ire of the neighbours. Always dressed impeccably with his somewhat wide pants, he would swagger down the road with not a care in the world.

Time was ticking. Recently he had a close shave when he was admitted to hospital. He came through but the doctors warned him not to touch drink – not even beer. He threw caution to the winds and indulged himself.  Days before the end came doctors asked the girls to take him home. There was nothing more they could do. ‘Renal failure’ was what they said. His liver was done for. It was only a matter of time.

The day before he passed on he was feeling much better. They gave him the ice cream he wanted. Just after midnight he rose in terror saying he had seen three women coming for him. He had instructed his family to dress him in his beige wedding suit, with the red tie, beedis in his pocket with a matchbox as well, the watch on his wrist. He was buried a few graves away from his mother. May his soul rest in peace.
Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 30 August 2015; Pix courtesy shutterstock.

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