Sunday, September 13, 2009
Noel da Lima Leitao
This Sunday morning I received an email from my friend Victor informing me that our school friend Noel had died. Just like that. I read it a couple of times before it sank in. Slowly, I was hit with a sadness that weighed me down that I sat for a long time reflecting on a life that had just ended.
It was a cold wintry March day in 1967 at St Joseph's College, Nainital that I first met Noel. We were in grade 4. Life's success in those days was counted on the number of marbles one had or who had the best fountain pen ( we had just graduated from pencils to pens).I remember he had the biggest "bunta" Anyone remember what that is ?( the striker marble)
Noel was a natural athlete and this was evident not only on the "futta" and hockey fields but even in track and field. He always played full back for St Francis ( Nehru house), the house he eventually Captained in his final year. His kicks always crossed the half line. Little did we know that one day he would dominate the Indian football( soccer) scene as a commentator par excellence.In the evenings in the lockers after a gruelling games period one would find him working with the bull worker and he always had a witty comment on any situation.
He excelled in academics as well passing out with an enviable 7 points in the ISC exams. I recollect English essays were tough in school... I once got 35/50 from Bro O'Shea and I pranced about the class assuming mine was the best till I happened to glance at Noel's paper. It was lying on his desk and he was not even bothered and was busy talking with some one elsewhere in class-- he had been marked 39/50.
Noel was easily a class apart. Athletic supremacy, futta and hockey skills, academic brilliance, confidence and style. I would give him a 10 all through. Rarely does one come across such an individual. I last met him in 1985 in Goa and my wife described him as a character right out of a mills & boon when she saw him striding towards us dressed in full white from a six cylinder vintage car.
Today even as I write this, I know preparations are underway for Noel's funeral. Though we know that this is a fact but my mind refuses to accept the reality. It is hard to forget you my friend but we will meet again on the other side, only this time I aim to have a bigger "bunta" than yours.
Rest in peace, Noel.