Sunset boulevard: The last gift

  • Amarjit Singh Hayer
  • Updated: Apr 26, 2015 21:00 IST

Professor Charles Moss, director of a research institute in England, came to PAU, Ludhiana, on a short assignment in November, 1976. He was accompanied by his wife Joan, who met my daughter Navjot by chance at the university market. They liked talking to each other and Navjot brought her home.

We invited the Mosses to dinner that weekend and thus began our friendship, which lasted 38 years. Charles was a reserved scientist whereas Joan was an outgoing, affable, sociable person, who showed keen interest in other countries and cultures. Playing piano and painting landscapes were her passion, learning foreign languages and reading world literature her pastime. She loved flowers, birds and ornamental trees. She admired the PAU campus as it has plenty of these. In England, their official residence was named The Garden House, where she enjoyed gardening. Before they left she gifted us seedlings of her favourite flowering plants to grow in our backyard.

After Charles’s retirement, they settled in Sheffield where I had an opportunity to visit them in 1997. They took me for a walk in virgin forest that city has preserved with care and at great cost. Joan was a wonderful hostess, who made me feel at home and made my visit memorable. They were a happy couple who had a blissful married life. She played piano for me and showed me her paintings.

Joan was a great letter writer. She kept regular correspondence with me. Her letters were a joy to read; they reflected her lovable personality and wide interests. In 2010, I brought out a book entitled‘ Chitthian mittaran diyan’ (letters from friends), which contains her letters too.

Charles passed away on August 7, 2010. Charles and Joan fell in love when they were university students. They married in 1939 and enjoyed each other’s company for 71 years. Joan missed Charles but continued to live in the same house and pursue her hobbies.

In December 2014, instead of the greeting card and a letter, I received a painting from her. It gives a kaleidoscopic view of a vista of green trees. It adorns the wall of my bedroom and greets me when I wake up in the morning. Keats said, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” This painting is more is a symbol of Joan’s affection for us.

I sent a letter of thanks and Christmas greetings to Joan. The reply came from her daughter Marylin that Joan passed away at 96 in the last week of December. Her last gift will always remind me of her as the epitome of grace and connoisseur of art.

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