The first time I saw him was a couple of years ago. He was dancing ! It was during one of those Mallu stage shows in Glasgow. Jayaram's to be precise. I thought to myself 'Here is a man who has decided to enjoy the moment'. I too joined in the fun later.
That first impression held on to me.
A few months later I had decided to start playing badminton again after a long gap with a renewed vigour to keep obesity at bay and add flexibility to my large ageing frame. And there I met him again. He came across as a very friendly individual. Any apprehensions you would have with regard to his age as to how he would converse were completely blown away when he started speaking. I was pleasantly surprised. Within ten minutes, I felt as if I had known him for all my life! Such was the magnetic personality of the man. He had an easy going , चलता हैं यार attitude. After play, most of the days we would gather around a tree outside the sports center and have a chat. He would regale us with anecdotes and stories about his travels and happenings during his volleyball days of glory. The man, I understand ,used to be a State level volleyball player and travelled extensively across India during his heydays. He was always the center of attraction in a group. Along with his sense of humour, he displayed a great deal of compassion and understanding too. A rare quality if you ask me. You felt like you could discuss anything with him. He always lend an understanding ear and would give his views on how to go about it. Very soon, you tend to have this feeling that he was someone in your family.
As a badminton player, he was at par with the best in our group. Personally I rated him the best. I have never seen a 55 plus old man jumping high into the air and smashing the shuttlecock with great power and precision. He was fit as a fiddle and played with great agility. I did notice a few of us, I did definitely, copied his tricks on the court. He played with great passion and always wanted to win. He never compromised on any points and fought till the last serve.The competitive spirit was never missing in his case. A few of his co players were reprimanded in the 'choicest' of words when a point which could be scored was not! All in jest and good humour, of course. And he always had a thing or two to say about my paunch too!
He was not exactly one of my bosom friends. Our families did not meet every weekend nor was there that routine everyday phone call amongst close friends. I would have loved to but circumstances and certain factors prevented that. What I remember about him is the talks we had in his car whilst he used to pick me from home and drop me back during a time when our badminton play was a routine affair. I found him a genuine person in this world of fakes. A sane person in this insane world. A level headed man in this rash unlevelled world.
We both shared a nostalgic love for Bombay. I was born there, did a few years of schooling too. He was settled there for years with a wonderful job and enjoyed all the perks that came along with it. He knew Bombay like the back of his hand and had contacts everywhere. He did tell me once if I ever faced a problem there, all I had to do was dial him. I think he regretted leaving the place.
Yesterday, I saw his almost lifeless body in a coma, lying on a bed with tubes and wires all over. He looked so different from the vibrant man I knew. They say he wont live and there's no use keeping the ventilator on . How I wish he had fought this last fight as he did on the badminton courts.
Goodbye Rajan chetta, I know I would not be getting that odd phone call ever again " എടോ , ഇന്ന് കളിക്കാന് ആരൊക്കെ ഉണ്ട് ?"
There are some dead who are more alive than the living.
ROMAIN ROLLAND, Jean-Christophe