Shiva was related to no one. But he had been with Indra at Cambridge and it is conceivable that his last thoughts, as the petrol flared up about him or, we hope, substantially earlier, were of a punt on the Cam in those heady days and a graceful swan floating past. On the other hand it is also conceivable that his last thoughts were of the placid beaches of his own country, and the sun and the sand and the reverberating sea beyond. At Cambridge he would have said that he was happier there than ever before. Yet later, back at home, his senses sated in his snug retreat by the sea—and indeed elsewhere— he would feel that he had felt all this before, that he had returned to a security registered long before in the dim reaches of the subconscious, and constantly desired since.
This may not have been entirely fanciful. He had been taken away soon after he was born to ancestral palm-decked lands by an immaculate beach on the then almost virgin Eastern Coast. The birth had been a difficult one and his father, whose heart had fluttered, had decided then to endure no more stress. He was an old man, having married late in life when he had already achieved distinction in the Colonial Service, the first Tamil from the relatively neglected East to be knighted. It had been difficult for him to put up with the snide remarks of the Tamils of the North who had resented the conquest of one of their brighter stars by someone they considered an outsider. He was convinced that Lady Lily loved him, and perhaps because of that he had felt obliged to stay on and endure, not to take her away immediately to a place where there would only be himself to divert her. But once the baby was born and there was a threat to her health, he grasped eagerly at the opportunity to retire to the rural retreat he now felt he had dreamed of from the very moment he began to work.
So Shiva spent his earliest years in a dry land where the sun struck warm and the sand lay smooth beneath and the deep blue water rolled luxuriantly over the flesh. He was never lonely for all the children of all the retainers who had clung ever more closely limpet-like to the family through several generations always surrounded him, ministering to his every whim but also, for they were all young and generally uninhibited, suggesting separate consciousnesses that constantly impinged. His father was wholly content and Lady Lily was never unhappy, and her refusal to send her little son to school for long after he should have gone accorded entirely with the wishes of both the father and the son. Continue reading