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On Iqbal Chaiwala

On Iqbal Chaiwala

- Kersi Gandhi


Received a friend request from a young lady, yesterday evening, and on confirming that I desired her to be my friend, she sent me a real shocker.
This is what she said, "Uncle, Iqbal Chaiwala has expired."
My mind drifted to approximately six decades in the past.
I was a student in Campion School then. A notice had been placed in our School that Lala's was conducting a tour to Nainital. Those Students who desired to undertake the holiday, should give in their respective names along with the payment for the same. The cost then was a measly Rupees Two Hundred, all found. My primary motive in undertaking this tour was to go and meet the beautiful Marion McClenahann, who was a Boarding Student of All Saints, Nainital.
Marion used to reside in a building, Sea Glimpse, on Walton Road. Had made her acquaintance during the Christmas Holidays when she would come to Bombay from Nainital. Used to treat Audrey Adams and her to Ice Cream cups, which they would demand of me. Just plain friends, never even held their hands, forget about the kissing and heavy petting. Those were the days, the cost of an ice cream cup was just four annas, or one fourth of A Rupee.  Went across and met Marion's Mother, informed her of my trip to Nainital and whether she would like to send a parcel for her Daughter. She was overjoyed and asked me to return in two days. Collected the parcel and left for the tour, by train.
On the train, we had a bogie to ourself, and there were some students from Cathedral School. One of them was Iqbal Chaiwala. We used to converse aplenty, with want of nothing to do. Partake of our meals together and talk the night away till sleep would finally overtake us. If I remember, he was slightly older than myself. At Nainital, we resided at The Metropole Hotel. Nainital had a lake and the contour of the lake was so similar to that of Ceylon. Every morning and evening, I would row the length of the lake and back. I could feel that my arms and forearms were getting muscular, by this daily exercise ritual. Then decided to go and meet Marion at her School. Had a pleasant talk with her and gave her the present of foodstuff that her Mum had sent for her. On the way I noticed two other Schools. Sherwood and St. Josephs.
Back at the hotel I spoke to Iqbal and asked him whether he would be conducive to the idea of taking on one of the Schools in a friendly game of Hockey. He readily agreed. The next morning we went and met The Principal of St. Josephs, and challenged the school to a friendly game of Hockey. He readily agreed to a game on a Saturday afternoon, followed by high tea in their Dining Hall.
The Saturday afternoon arrived and we arrived at the School premises. I nominated Iqbal to be our Captain. The only problem was that we didn't have a competent Goalie. St. Josephs readily supplied us one of their lads. A grand time was had by all. I truly can't remember who was the winner of the game, but, I do recollect that a fabulous fun time was held by all. Our bespectacled Captain urging us on to score and defend.
Back in Bombay, we all parted as good friends. Iqbal used to reside in Jhansi Castle, three or four buildings south, in line with our school. Even due to the close proximity, I never bumped into Iqbal, ever again. Today, at the Race Course, I heard someone mention some adverse remarks about him. I was disgusted. For me Iqbal, you will always be that chivalrous Hockey Captain, urging us on to victory. It's a bloody shame that I never got to know you better. Be truly happy, wherever you may be.
My sincere thanks to Little Lynette for taking the trouble to inform me of his demise.