"What are you doing tomorrow?"
That was an uncomfortable reminder. The gang was not living together anymore. Tony was right. It would be my first Vishu in four years without a Vishukkani.
During the last four years, I used to set the Kani. Not out of any sentiments, but to give my friends and auspicious first sight of the year; to give them a pleasant surprise. And surprised they were - every time. Even last year, when they got the whiff of my preparations, they acted surprised to make me happy.
On my first attempt in 2008, I missed the konnappoo, the first and foremost ingredient of a Vishukkani. But I managed to place some gold, thanks to Rakesh. It was fun playing the elder for a day. Rakesh went abroad that year, with a better job.
The next year, thanks to the increasing Malayalee population in Thavarekere, I managed to get some Konnappoo. We had two visitors then. Waking up Denny was tough. Thanks to a popular Malayalam film, he was sure that we were up to some prank. For Baabul, it was more than a surprise - it was the first Vishukkani in his life.
In 2009, my plans were almost foiled. The Vishu eve was longer than usual. Aby and Mithun were discussing the changing fate of Indian cricket, with Aby comfortably reclining on the makeshift 'diwan' in the hall, planning to sleep there - where I had to set the Vishukkani up! After waiting till 2 am, I nudged him to a side and pretended to be asleep. He had no other go but to go to the bedroom, to wake up with others to see a beautiful Vishukkani.
He married 'Teacher' (yes, you read it right, Sunayana!) a month later - the first wedding in our Bangalore gang.
Next Vishu came with a surprise. I was chosen as the finalist for a movie contest. I boarded a flight to Bombay on the Vishu day to meet my favourite filmmaker. Being in Bombay, Mithun missed that year's Kani. Career had left him shuttling between Bombay and Bangalore.
Tony went to Udupi in March 2011 and came back with a lovely idol of Krishna. "Make it a part of our Vishukkani," he said, which I did. The surprise element was lost that time, thanks to Jeeson. But that year's Kani was complete - with the idol, mirror, fresh fruits, new cloth and money. And the gang was happy, as usual.
Shortly after that, Mithun left to Calicut, to seal his wedding deal. He came back engaged, without a ring. He married his "sweetheart from kindergarten" (as we say) in May that year. Four other friends also tied the knot in that month.
We moved out of our den a month later. Tony married Charu in August. Jeeson, Lal, Denny, Jacob and I now live close to our workplaces.
Writing about Vishu in this blog three years ago, I had wondered whether I would be in Bangalore for another Vishu. I am still in the city. Something or the other has been pulling me back to Bangalore every time I tried to move away.
It's Vishu again, and I did not have the heart to stay back in Bangalore. I'm off to Vellore, to visit my aunt after a year. Before I left, I handed over the Krishna idol to Jiji - it was her turn to surprise Mithun.
Denny wrote in Facebook: "Happy Vishu to all my dear ones . Let the New Year be a much brighter one. I miss u Chandu."
Miss you, Denny. And our gang too. Vishu will never be the same without you guys.