My friend Vispi was cast in the strong silent mould. The only time we saw tears in his eyes was after a teacher had humiliated him in class, and he insisted it was because he had bitten his tongue. Although we sat together in the back row and constantly competed at who could balance his chair longer on two legs, neither I nor any of our friends had ever been to Vispi's house. We knew his parents only from their occasional visits to school when they had been summoned over some issue concerning their son.
Vispi's mother, small and bird-like, dressed in cotton frocks of subdued colour. Most times her smile seemed to be tinged by a hint of apology. His father, a worker in the local motorcycle factory, looked exactly the way one might imagine a grown-up Vispi. He too was a man of few words, but was freer with stern looks directed at his son. Vispi's parents exuded the frayed and anachronistic gentility of Parsis who had come down in the world. They conveyed the impression of valiant struggle against the intractability of a puzzling world.
Vispi too struggled valiantly with the mysteries of the universe flattened into the dismal grey type of our text books, but with limited success. After high school we heard that he had apprenticed with a refrigeration company, but no one knew for sure. We never met again.
a school friend's snicker echoes
in the bird chatter