I heard the news of Leo’s death while I was in Denmark, on my way to England in an odyssey that saw me visit seven countries after my Advanced Levels in Madras, before I finally got to London. It was probably the best place and time to hear something so upsetting, for I had seen the most exciting places, lots of antiquities and art in Greece and Italy, and then exotically Prague too by road from Frankfurt, and I was exhausted. Our Danish friends were about the most comforting to stay with, and I could collapse in a home, with just the occasional visit to a museum. The frenetic activity I had engaged in over the previous weeks had tailed off, and I was ready again for domesticity and being looked after.
I went away the day I got the letter to a very minor museum and sat in the garden and grieved. The death was a shock, but not a surprise, for I had long known that the way of life I had enjoyed so much at Kurunagala was staggering to a close. Through the sixties we had seen service more difficult to obtain, the army that had cooked and cleaned for Lakshmi and Leo diminishing over the years. The food too had grown less extravagant, in part because there were fewer people to help prepare it, but also because Lakshmi had decided to take Leo’s diet in hand after he first had heart problems. Long gone then were the luscious chops and rich desserts that had made Old Place a gourmet’s delight in the early years of the decade.