You may wonder why it has taken me so long to write to you. Well, for me, you are still around and will be because you left behind so many visible memories. Each time I see a vintage or classic car on the road, I imagine you sitting at the wheel, elegantly dressed, relaxed, cool, everything under control, and then I think I would see you any moment. Tears come to my eyes.
We would meet once a month for lunch. We had our first and our last lunch at the “Italian Riviera” in Colombo. We would always picture sports cars from Italy, Germany and England driving up to the porch. Not only did you know the details of these cars, you had also been to the factories and test driven some of them. The Mille Miglia road race, Brescia-Rome-Brescia, was our dream. We wanted to do it in your Alfa. In the meantime you would have met your favorite Mille Miglia driver, Juan Manuel Fangio, a gentleman driver, with magnetism, debonair charm and physical presence. Actually, that is what you had; in a crowded room, your presence was always felt.
When I first saw you, it was not so much the Rolls-Royce, but your Johnny Weissmuller frame that caught my attention. Never mind the fact that a mutual friend of ours told me later that you can’t swim. You not only had a golden hand with cars, you also, and more importantly, had a golden hand with your wife and best friend, Shanthi, a swimming champion. A really close friend (five, maximum ten in a lifetime) is somebody you would like to spend the rest of your life with. Somebody you could just sit with in conversation or in silence, enjoying each other’s company. You are one of my five friends and I may be one of your ten friends. Unfortunately, we had not even ten years to share.
Collecting vintage and classic cars is like the work of an archaeologist. The older the artifacts, the more interested he becomes in them. How lucky we would have been to grow old together with you! You would have become more and more interested in us. Why could you not be with your family and friends a few more years? Like your father who lived up to the age of 100!
Dear King Freddie, you would call me Chevalier. I will miss hearing that. But whenever we sing ‘My way’ or ‘Hello Dolly’, your presence will be felt. And we will cherish the memories of you. And we believe in what the Bible teaches us about synchronicity, spiritual appearances and presence. This is our consolation. But we remain immensely saddened by your physical absence.