Mr. Raman is our gardener.

He comes round every month, sometimes more often, sometimes less. He cuts the grass, sweeps the leaves and clears the drains.

He’s built like a tree, solid and barrel chested. Our garden is a two-day job for him. He’s getting older now. He’s had several eye operations and wears big sunglasses when he works.

Once he tried to introduce me to another lady in the neighborhood who also employs him to keep her garden tidy. I think he thought I was lonely, since he only ever sees me sitting at my table hunched up over a drawing or my computer. Finally, I ran out of excuses and went to visit her. We had tea. She was very nice to me, but I got the strong impression we were both there to oblige our gardener.

The portrait shows him cutting down a bougainvillea tree that used to choke our front fence. It was a massive tangle of thorny branches that grew so high, it blocked out the street light. I remember him standing in the shadow of the bougainvillea, hacking away at its trunk with a small hand axe: Thwuck! Thwck! Twhuck!  For some reason, that image is like chewing gum on the bottom shoe of my mind.

He invited us to his 68th birthday party yesterday! I rushed like crazy to finish the portrait in time. I gave him the drawing, but I’m not sure if his eyes can see it clearly. We met his family. Most of his children are in Port Dickson now, so he’s got company. He’s been a widower for many years.

I ate too many poppadoms at the party, which I am wont to do. And I tried not to be envious of his super cute garden, full of pretty plants. I want green thumbs, I get green eyes. WHY.

Happy birthday, Mr. Raman!