[caption id="attachment_327" align="aligncenter" width="218" caption="Duraisamy's lock and key trick"]Duraisamy's lock and key trick[/caption]

Many of you have heard about the Disappearance of Duraisamy from us: I never got around to writing about it because it was so depressing. At first his decline was harmless. Once, when he was giving me stuff for safekeeping, he brought a key and asked me to keep it safe. I refused to take it, saying that he should give it to his son or someone else. He then said, "Oh, you don't want to keep it for me; OK, actually you don't have to, because...",  and he fished out the lock from a trouser pocket.

His decline got worse, and the villagers tied his hands behind his back to prevent him from stealing things. (He was stealing coconuts and bananas "for the Gods"). In a spirit of  "Karke dikhayenge", Duraisamy set fire to some dry fencing while thus tied! We, too lost a couple of our largest Silver Oaks which were near the fire, which went out of control. That was the last we saw of him.

Then he disappeared for close to five months. There were rumours (from progressively farther afield) that he had been beaten up for stealing in Thumbal; that he had been seen on the streets of Valapadi; that he had been killed and his kidneys stolen in Attur... But, no definite news from anyone.

Then last week, Thenan came by to say that a relative had "found" him in Attur and had brought him back (to Pudur). And a few days ago, the man himself visited us. He looked quite cared-for; he was plumper than we have ever seen him. But he was a little unsteady on his legs, as if he were drugged. He did not answer questions directly; his responses were, to coin a phrase, semi sequiturs.

When I said that he had really given everyone a hard time by disappearing, he told me, "But I did tell you that I am going to make a tour of all the temples". This, he had said, many months earlier, and in a different context.

When I asked him where he had been, and who had looked after him, he responded by saying that his father-in-law had told him where to go. (His father-in-law is dead, and Duraisamy did not make it clear whether this direction from the old man was in the present or in the past).

Then I said I hoped that his wandering days were over, and that he wasn't going to disappear again. To which he said (and this sounds better in Tamil, or any other Indian language), "My work down is over; now all my work is up", leaving ambiguous whether he meant up in the hills or up in heaven!

He said Hello to Varuna, and asked about Badri Baba , who came out to greet him. When we asked if he remembered Bagli, he replied, "Where I have been in the last few months, there were many dogs; bigger dogs, better dogs, Muslim dogs and Christian dogs..."

And with a sense of the dramatic, knowing an exit line when he utters one, he left.