Friday, June 24, 2011

A STAR CALLED JOE

Joe has passed on.

We had been friends since the early 1980’s when met for the first time. Though we lived in the same city for about three years and worked in the same organisation for just about decade, our paths crossed again and again, in New Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai as he went job-hopping and I got shunted from state to state.

I had had a taste of Joe's sense of humour even before I actually saw him! On confirmation, Joe was posted as Assistant Accountant in Bombay (Main) branch. So was his batchmate Damodar Menon. They had a letterhead printed jointly with 'Menon & Manimury, Assistant Accountants' emblazoned on it – a la Lovelock & Lewis, or Aiyar & Cherian, Chartered Accountants. I had happened to see this piece of stationery even before I set my eyes on either of the personalities involved.

I still remember a joke narrated by him. A Sardarji was visiting Europe and was intrigued to see people wearing masks and costumes and dancing celebrating Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) as part of the Carnival between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday. He asked a passer-by what the merriment was about and got the obvious and terse reply, ‘Mardi Gras.’ The turbaned foreigner thought to himself, ‘Ye kaun si gaali hai jo hum nahin jaante? (What is this abusive word I do not know?)’

Joe had a way with kids. As a bachelor, he used to be a regular at our rented house in PTP Nagar, Trivandrum. He got along famously with my son Hari and his playschool-mate Miriam (our colleague and neighbour Kora Ipe's daughter) – both four years old then. These two kids used to call him Joe (no 'uncle'). He used to be so much a part of their lives. A relative who called on us overheard them refer to Joe in their conversation asked them if Joe was a boy who went to the same playschool as they did!

On Sundays, he would join us at home for lunch preceded and succeeded by games of Scrabble. Which reminds of words like SITCOM and QUASAR which were rather new to the language in those days and rare words like SYZYGY that he introduced us to. No prizes for guessing who won the games.

On some of these days, the lunch would be preceded by a glass or two of chilled beer. As Joe popped the bottle and poured the frothy amber liquid into the schooners, Hari would sidle up to him. ‘Pour some for me, Joe,' he would ask, stretching a small glass. Joe would turn stern and say, ‘No. Not for you!’. As Hari continued to plead, explaining, ‘A small glass for the small boy!’ Joe would tell me, ‘We shouldn’t be drinking in the presence of kids.’ He would never smoke in front of children, for he was keen that he should not set a bad example.

During the days I was in regular touch with Joe, he used to smoke, rather heavily. The blood donor's forum which we were a part of approached Joe in their membership drive. Joe joined but cautioned, 'The suction pump would first go "Puff, puff!", drawing the smoke running through my veins before it starts drawing blood!'

During one of the occasions when I saw him for an hour or two in later days, he did not light a cigarette. When asked, he said he had quit smoking, though I suspect he had only reduced the daily quota.

Joe was an avid reader. It was he who introduced me to Sci-Fi and its patron-saints Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke. And he tried to inculcate reading habit in kids. We still have what is referred to in our home as Joe’s Alphabet Books that he had gifted to Hari – a set of five volumes from My First Library series brought out by the Readers' Digest in association with Mothercare.

Given the range of books he read, Joe HAD to be a repository of knowledge. And he was a great quizzer. I recall participating in some quizzes either as a partner or as a rival. I used to marvel at the way he used to hazard ‘intelligent guesses’ and score points. I recall as vividly the way my similar attempts at second-guessing would fall flat.

I used to think that a cloud is a cloud is a cloud is a cloud. Till I met Joe, that is. Joe took me through the cirrus, cirrocumulus, cirrostratus, etc to the cumulonimbus and the cumulus. Thanks to Joe, I learnt that what I had all along thought was a red star was in fact a planet, Mars to be exact.

A little-known fact was that Joe was a star-gazer. He had spent many weekends with us. After sunset, he would go up to the terrace with Hari to watch the stars. In a matter of weeks, Hari could identify some constellations like Ursa Major and Sirius. On days Joe was not with us and we went up on the terrace, Hari would draw our attention, ‘Daja, that is Joe Uncle’s star, the..e..r..e..’

It was from Joe that I had my little education in astronomy, that stars are identified by their color, which indicates their temperature based on which they are divided into spectral classes O, B, A, F, G, K, and M, the hottest being O (blue in color) and the coolest stars being M (red). He also told me how to remember it by the mnemonic ‘Oh, be a fine girl, kiss me.’

This evening, after the sun sets, I will get onto the terrace and look at the sky. I am sure there will be a new star shining in the blue sky: Joe.

12 comments:

Ponnoly Blogs said...

Your memories of Joe made interesting reading. It made me a bit emotional. My association with Joy Manimury goes back to our college days. He was in Spl. BSc Physics and was an outstanding student. I think his interest in astronomy goes back to his college days. After BSc he switched to M A English Literature. His father was Prof in the English Dept of the same college. Joy was an intellectual par excellence. He did not change his old self as he progressed through his professional career, climbing corporate ladders. He was a man without any pretenses or camouflage. Busy as he was always, he would not leave me without a cup of coffee whenever I would visit him in his bank in Ernakulam, Trivandrum, Mumbai, Delhi. Joy was a joy for all his friends.

kochuthresiamma p .j said...

i first met manimuri at your place in TVM. the GMs and lead bank oficer(i think)were there. manimuri belonged to neither category, but he too was there, dominating the party conversation lacing it with jokes.i've seen him only one more time. that was in mumbai in 2005(i think) in Kora ipe's place.

a friend of mine who is a prof in the university once told me that she met an extremely interesting person- a banker who knew more about english litt that an english lecturer.she was talking of manimuri!

a extremely well written piece.

premraj.c said...

What happens to a person after his death ? This question baffled me as a boy, it still baffles me. Over the years, I realise that the only place where one lives after death is in the memories of his close relatives,friends and those who remember the dead soul.

A fitting tribute to a genial friend, written in a beautiful way.That should be the way friends should be remembered .

Gopes said...

I think his own batchmates including me couldnt have described Joe better. Yes, his subtle sense of humour was his trade mark. We all have enjoyed his company immensely. I enjoyed his company a lot(probably one of the last ones in SBT to do so) just before he left for Tanzania in 2005, as both of us were staying in Bandra and used to meet frequently for a drink.

paramgiri said...

He was my boss at Kozhikode ZO during the formation of the new Kannur Region. While all other regional Managers had their PC inside their cabin, he was the only RM who had the PC outside so that all others can use it. He goes to branches alone and without disturbing the branches. He wanted me to join Indus Bank. But (unfortunately ?) i backed out just before the namesake interview and that created a gap between us. Then once he called me and told me that his wife working at Tripunithura was denied a new account by the Branch Manager inspite of his name being mentioned. I introduced the account and opened her salary account. At Tripunithura i understood how he took lot of pains to get a gas agency for an invalid lady.
So good a man he was..

Damu said...

Millions of anecdotes on our dear friend Joe. One about his habit of voracious reading that you have referred to. He would devour a book overnight if he found it interesting, and quite often he does find them so. He and I shared an apartment in Bombay in 1978-79, and my mother joined me there for a couple of months since I was down with jaundice. Every night, when my mother thought it was well past bedtime, Joe would be reading in the drawing room. She observed "He reads unfailingly every night before going to bed - must be the Bible" - I let her believe so! May his soul rest in peace.

A Stoic said...

Joseph Manimuri???

Whom the gods love, die young....

A Stoic said...

Joseph Manimuri???

Whom the gods love, die young.......

bmochan said...

Last week, when I was speaking to you sir, I told you that I had either worked or had the privilege of knowing all the stalwarts of SBT.I never met joe Manimuri, but the way you and my good friend and Boss santanu s.c. painted him through your writings is beyond expression... joe manimury came to me in person after I finished your piece of writing... Sir, sometines I wonder whether you are aware what a fascinating writer you are ..

Lalitha said...

As mentioned by me in Mr. Chowdhury's blog, I met Joseph Manimury when he came to Bangalore as a probationer in SBT and I was the accountant (in my previous life as Lalitha Krishnan). I still remember his calm demeanor and willingness to tackle anything he was asked to do. It was a shock to me to learn about his passing away. He was a good friend and I am glad to have known him, even if only for a short while. Rest in peace, Joseph!

Saravanan said...

I wandered on to your blog by chance, and it was a pleasure reading. You come across as someone belonging to that generation which had `class', which is slowly dwindling. Your remembering of your friend Joe simply moved me. If there was a way to live life, he seems to have done it well - to live on in the memories of whom he touched.

It might be a pleasure to know you more. And I will definitely read your blog with interest.

sukumaran n said...

I reported at Irinjalakkuda branch for my second branch training as a probationer where Manimuri sir was the BM. I had requested him to allow me to commute from Palakkad daily because I could not leave my my wife with a new born to stay alone and the human concern in him readily okay-ed my request. The bond strengthened for the rest of six months and his mentoring helped me pick the nuances of his style of banking, both under advance and deposit segments that guided me in the years that followed. I met him only once later at STC, Tvm.

But ironically, his obituary news was picked by me without any miss on the day it was reported.

Your blog rekindled my association with him and I thank you from my heart for that.