If I go down my memory lane, 80's were a period that is most green in my memory. That was the time I had a wide network of friends who shared my interests. Among them were two writers. One was a novelist of great repute who wrote novels under the penname 'Vilasini' (His real name was MK Menon. He passed away in 1994) and the other was a short story writer named Jayanarayanan who was a winner of Sahithya Academy award and was a well-known translator of many Latin American poems and short stories. Incidentally, both were middle-aged bachelors. I used to meet Jayanarayanan more often as he stayed in Cochin whereas Menon stayed in a palatial bungalow in Trichur.
Like many writers, Jayanarayanan was a morose character and his friends had a tough time to tune to his frequent emotional outbursts and stubborn spirit. I happened to be among the few who could tolerate his temper. He worked as a ration officer in the Civil Supplies Department. For him, job was leisure and literature was his prime passion. He had a delinquent attitude towards job and sometimes he used to take many days leave to immerse himself in writing. He suffered from a strange disease, a lack intestinal absorption of Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is essential for the production of blood and as a result he would often relapse into an anemic condition and had to undergo blood transfusion to balance the deficiency. Jayanarayanan had no close relatives. He had a distant nephew who came to inform me whenever he was admitted in hospital. As my blood group matched his, I donated him blood whenever he suffered such bouts of blood deficiency.
1988 was a prolific period for him and many of his stories and articles appeared in popular literary journals in Kerala. During those periods he stayed away from his office. I often warned him that his job was his bread and butter and the remunerations he received from his writings would neither be steady nor would it sustain his future needs. He never listened to me and bragged about his ambitious plans and the invitation offers from various editors. He was a perfectionist and as a result his output dwindled. The earning from his literary output too meager to make the both ends meet. He started borrowing money from me and I obliged him on many occasions though with an admonition that he should return back to his job. A notification came to him that he had been transferred to Idukki, a remote district in Kerala, and that sealed whatsoever interest he had in his job. He never even bothered to report to the new location. A year passed and he was facing termination from his job. One day I took a stern step and refused to advance him cash.
As I mentioned earlier, novelist MK Menon in Trichur was a mutual friend of ours. He was a former director of the French press agency AFP, in Singapore and was a gentleman to the core. One day I received a letter from Menon pleading me to meet him urgently. I rushed to Trichur. Jayanarayanan had written a letter full of expletives about me and it was a tirade to tarnish my character. He didn't even spare Menon and described him as a snobbish writer whose his literary works as nothing but kitsch. I returned home visibly upset and straight away cut off my bond with Jayanarayanan.
A month later, one evening his nephew knocked at my door again and informed me that Jayanaraynan had been admitted in hospital and he needed blood transfusion urgently. Despite protests from my relatives, I went to the hospital. My friend looked timid and tired like a toothless lion. His illness had mellowed his tongue. I donated blood and gave him a good sum to cover his medical expenses. I did not make further enquiry about him as the wound he had inflicted was still raw in my mind.
A few months later the same nephew knocked at my door and asked me if I could accompany him to the autorikshaw parked outside my house. There was big container on its top. He informed me that my friend Jayanarayanan had instructed him to deliver it to me. I unloaded and opened it. It contained hundreds of precious classics from his collection and the books were a gift to me as a gratitude to my genuine gesture of friendship. Well, the man succumbed to his illness two months later. But the books still adorn and light up my bookshelf. It taught me that only in arithmetic it is true that a negative multiplied by a positive is a negative. But in the arithmetic of life, it is a bold positive and I still believe in it. Reciprocate unkindness with kindness, the result will be kindness. Reciprocate ingratitude with gratitude, the product will be gratitude. As Edward Gibbon said 'Revenge is profitable but gratitude is expensive'.
The event taught me that 'Gratitude is the mother of all virtues'. It is a magical elixir that unlocks the fullness of life. It turns enmity into friendship, denial into acceptance and confusion into clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. It makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.