Shamu and I were best of friends. He lived in the house opposite mine. We loved to hang out and he would even sneak over to our house when his parents went out for the evening.
We had so much fun riding our bicycles, playing cricket and doing all the crazy things that little boys do. We had an amazing group of friends from the neighbourhood and fun was always on the agenda.
Although he was a year or so younger than I was, I admired Shamu. He was a fearless and daring chap. I remember once how we (rather stupidly) set up a makeshift ramp made of bricks and planks in the middle of the road. The plan was to ride onto it at great speed and jump our bicycles off (and land safely). Shamu’s bike wasn’t quite up to the job and the guy ended up doing some sort of un-planned back flip somersault on to the asphalt. Needless to say, the landing didn’t quite cut it as a ‘safe’ one. Shamu skinned his arm badly and we were both shocked and scared as hell. I remember rushing home to raid the brand new first-aid kit my Mum had bought just the other day and patching him up as best as a 12 year-old boy could.
Shamu’s family were really good to me. I was free to come and go to their house as I pleased and I was always made to feel welcome there. His Dad would take us both to the railway sheds where he worked and show us the trains close-up. He would also sometimes bundle the two of us into his car and take us out for ice-creams and to rent videos to watch at theirs (my family didn’t own a VCR).
Shamu and I loved watching ninja films. We both desperately wanted to be ninjas when we grew-up.
Shamu’s little sister was our little helper and accomplice. She was a pretty girl with long black hair and had the personality to match. She was much younger than we were, but that didn’t stop her from trying to keep up with us and joining in on all our boyish antics.
I remember Shamu’s mother. She was a tall, elegant and beautiful lady. I would often hear her playing the sitar and singing beautifully in the evenings.
I also remember Shamu’s Grand-Dad. He was a slim and dignified gentleman and an award-winning professor of physics. I still remember how he once told me off for climbing a tree during a tropical thunderstorm (don’t ask – I think it was part of that day’s ninja training). His words still ring in my ears: “I say sonny! Get down from there at once!”. You should have seen this wannabe ninja hauling ass!! Jet Li would have been proud!
The funny thing is, that it turns out Shamu and I are somehow different. It turns out that we come from different ethnic and religious backgrounds. Fancy that!? All those years we played together. All the times we were over at each others homes. You couldn’t have ever guessed from the way, we or our parents treated each other. We just knew we belonged together as best-friends and it seemed as though the whole world understood and approved.
My family and I moved away from that neighbourhood around 1986 when our lease ended. I was so sad to leave. I was even sadder when Shamu and the family left the country. I didn’t know why they were leaving, but I understood that it was for the best. It may have been because they could be happier and more at ease in another country, because the one they called ‘home’ was no longer exactly the best place for them.
Shamu, I have been thinking of you my friend. There is still a lot of love in my heart for the bright-eyed, mischievous, dare-devil that you were. I hope that life has treated you well. I also hope that our paths will cross again one day and we can pick up where we left off on that ninja training.
Be warned though: I have a daughter now, who might want to join in. She is a feisty little one and might put us both to shame!