The Best of the Night to you, too, Bala...


for E.Balasubramaniam

(June 13, 1935 - August 7, 1993)





So you took the covert road of the night

and stalked me

while I listened to Vivaldi up to midnight

At two when you were ready to go

you woke me stunned stark in your memory

your impishly entrancing laughter

your dark bright pupils beaming through the slits of your tightly drawn lids

your ivory teeth basking in uncontrollable mirth

your blacker than black ear-antennae and higher than high civil-servant brows

marking your dark-diamond worth

your patience

your more than necessary feeling for the less than fortunate friends and relatives

stretched cummerbund tight round your caring nature

How you knew how to share your luck

Always a little put out for your beneficiaries' putout-ness

Worrying speechless night after night lest your luck run out

teeth in protesting grind

against the risks of your calculated outstepping


Paths led up straight

for one whose smiles funnelled from the heart

lit in ever-foraging circles of fire


There was no obstacle to the summit

for you took with grace

only what you knew how to spare

with care


Do you remember your run-up to the crease

your Lindwall-delivery dragging the clasping flannel round hobbled boots

your anger

at the wicket that went on a no-ball


Do you remember your opening bat

that snicked the runs to leg and off

which dozing umpires signalled as byes from pads

Do you remember Brigitte

her perky bobtail

her boucles of prancing hair

lances on her forehead

sickles on her verti-vir-ginous temples



Where are the bridges you have crossed

and those you had planned

and those you saw grow pebble by pylon and cementing stone

where the roads you laid

up virgin forest and limestone


Where indeed the buildings you repaired


re-erected and razed

and the thousands and thousands of miles

you rode the wild seladang of the primeval jungle

hand on hump

with no stars in the paly night to guide you

through venomous blukar

and the boiling green torture

seared deep into your burning entrails

these that now have run out on you



Watch now how the river glues under your fuming stare

when the monsoon torrents sweep the knock-knee-ed pylons to a side

those dry as split-bark legs of yours

itching once too often in comforting company

though a little spindly for a Pied Piper


Yet you made the puppety Peninsula run

down drains and monsoon pipes

to a purge-full sea


Who is there now who wouldn't wake to your fits of irrupting gurgly merriment

to ease the tension

amongst unlikely fellows

who who wouldn't miss your seething whiteheat glee

at his side


You who knew how to accompany Kay and Richard

up to the closed door of your last night

a very good night on your lips


Your opening bat's duty done

the side shored-up in safekeeping

the last fast breathless ball you faced

nicking the bails off


You needn't return to the pavilion

for the standing ovation goes on

for you Bala

long after the cloddy-stumps lie slain on the tiled floor



T.Wignesan 1993

August 8, 1993 - Paris-Fresnes

[from the collection: back to background material, 1993]