This is the second story originating in Pondicherry, the first one being the Gritty Lady. The hero of this story is Elangovan. Neither Elangovan nor Tanya are aware of each others existence and you will soon see why.
Elango was also a classmate of mine who was in the school hostel as his father, a farmer/merchant of Pondicherry had sent him to Chennai to study. Elangovan soon started to be known as langot but was able to carry that off with panache. He was an excited student and full of cheer and was always playing practical jokes on his classmates.
I lost touch with Elango after school till I went back to Chennai to work. On one of my weekend visits to Pondicherry, I succeeded in locating his father’s shop and then traced him to the local Medical College, where he was in his final year. After that, we were in regular touch by letters, yes those wonderful things that people used before the advent of emails. He graduated and joined up for postgraduate qualification in orthopedics.
Till now, his story is no different from thousands of other stories that we all know. But from here, it starts being bizarre. Six months into his postgraduate programme, his father died and the joint family business and agricultural operations were taken over by his uncle. Something went wrong between Elango and his uncle and our hero dropped out of college and started a poultry farm on the plot of agricultural land that he got partitioned as his share from the ancestral property.
Going back to the late sixties of the last century, poultry farming was not what it is today. Elango was more or less a pioneer of sorts and had his share of grief and joy in seeing that the operations became profitable. I know that he had to struggle a great deal and in the process, alienated his family who refused permission for him to marry his cousin to who he was betrothed from childhood. Our hero fought on and made his enterprise a grand success in about three years time.
He then decided to sell the business and move on with his life outside Pondicherry and using his French entitlement which his father had not fortunately surrendered, emigrated to France. His understanding was that he would resume his medical education there and make a life for himself as a doctor.
Reality was somewhat different and he ended up qualifying to be a pathology laboratory technician and started to work in earnest. By this time he was nearing the age of 30 and among the few contacts that he had in India was yours truly. By the late seventies, our writing to each other tapered off and I did not know what had happened to him till fate again intervened in the form of a visitor from France who traced me to Mumbai where I was then stationed to seek some help. He had been told to contact me at need by Elango and having contacted my Chennai office which was the last address that Elango had of me, he traced me to Mumbai. It was lucky that I had not changed jobs and through this little development, I reestablished contact with Elango. He had by then married a French girl and was residing in Marseilles and continuing to be a Laboratory Technician in a hospital there.
We would exchange new year greetings every year and that was about all the contact that I had with him till fate again intervened.
I had to stop over in Paris in 1988 for a few days visiting friends there when with their help I was able to speak to Elango on the phone. He insisted that I go over to Marseilles at least for a day which I did and had the most enjoyable reunion with him and met his somewhat shy wife. She could not speak English and it was a trying time for her to be anything other than an onlooker while the two of us chatted away and caught up with a lot of history. He had by then bought a nice little row house in a terrace and well settled in his career though he thought that he had made a mistake in not pursuing a career in medicine in India. He had burnt all his bridges with India and had little to do with other Indians in France content in his small world.
We parted company once again and I went my way onward to the UK and again lost touch with him till 1997 when I had to go to Paris again, this time on business and I was able to combine a weekend there. I got in touch with Elango who readily agreed to come over to Paris for a day and that was when I got the shock of my life.
Our hero had again changed his career and was now a transcontinental truck driver. He simply said that he found the new career paying much more than his Lab Technician job did and he was building a nest egg for his retirement.
That was the last time I met him and my attempts to locate him via the internet have failed and he did not respond to mails sent to him to his Marseilles address. I speculate that by now, in his seventieth year, he must have retired and be pottering around in his small garden. I dare not speculate anything else.