Dear Capt Rowe,
I was shocked when I heard you were no more. On the threshold of Diwali, you have gone away quietly, leaving tears in my eyes, without letting a soul know what you were feeling. Probably, you knew it was time …do we all know when ‘the’ time comes? I often wonder.
Honestly, in the last 15 years that I knew you, I always felt a little scared whenever I came visiting or called you. You were 75 when I met you and I remember how you kept avoiding a young girl like me for pestering you to teach me ‘copywriting’. For three months I followed you like a puppy and then finally you gave in, more out of helplessness than anything else.
Our copy-writing sessions were great fun; wish they made more teachers like you – just a table, two chairs and the gift of the gab – humour and satire peppered with life’s wonderful anecdotes. No boring lectures, no fancy power-point presentations, no assignments, no exams. Only a firm belief that I was there to learn and you were there to share. My students too would have loved you to teach them.
Just sitting there listening to you was enough to inspire a young mother with a three-year old baby to ‘become the best copywriter in the world’ (after you of course). No.1 was reserved for you and in my eyes, that position could be taken by no one but you.
I used to often wonder how you lived alone all your life, with friends and friends like family, but not even a handful to call your own. I used to often wonder whether you felt lonely. The way you spoke, the way you wrote, the way you painted, it was all incredible. Worthy of respect. And I did. I worshipped you. Still do.
I had got my son to meet you as he used to wonder who this old man was, who evoked so much respect in his fiercely independent mother. He, I remember was first terrified of your thick white curly hair. Not one in its place! My mother used to wonder who this old man was who never took a single paisa for teaching her daughter to be one of the better known copywriters. My husband just knew that it took a lot for someone to make his wife salute another person. And I know that there cannot be anyone like you.
During the last 15 years, there were umpteen times when work or laziness conquered my wish to come and meet you. And I will curse myself for it for life. Especially because I had called you and said I will visit you on Guru Purnima this year, but couldn’t. I have nothing to say in defense; we often take life for granted and feel that ‘I can do it tomorrow,’ but tomorrow never comes.
And I am experiencing it now. I know that there will be no tomorrow when I can visit you. That bag with a rope going down from your terrace will not be there anymore. The birds you fed so lovingly will never come home again. The house you lived in as a tenant will be rented by someone else. The paintings…I don’t know what will happen to those. No. There will be no tomorrow.
But I still have yesterday. Your teachings still lie in a small notebook with me. The huge water painting you painted still adorns my wall, your twinkling eyes and smiling face still talk to me. You will live in my heart, dear Captain and in my learning and my writings. Forever.
Right now, yesterday is alive, palpable. It will remain so even tomorrow.
Sonali Karande Brahma is a Strategist, Creative Consultant and a Writer with 12 years of experience in creating powerful stories for advertising, brand building and communication. She has worked in mainstream advertising for major MNC and Indian brands. She writes on subjects that interest her and teaches Creativity and Writing to young student managers at B-Schools. She can be reached on email@example.com