This is for you, Rami

He was the first person to ever tell me I was full of shit, not as an insult but as an observation. I was in the habit of using my words to get away with everything – of convincing people I was okay and that life was great. He saw right through me and I hated him for it. I thought he was a pretentious old man with nothing better to do with his time. I hated that he hosted me in Mumbai because I had always wanted to explore the place. I hated how he took me to a book store and then for some batata vada by Juhu beach. I hated the goddamn penthouse view of from his living room. I hated that he knew I was escaping a broken relationship. I hated his knowing smile when I listened to a song about heartbreak that reminded me of the one who was no longer mine. I couldn’t stand that he knew … he just … knew.
————
R – What do you want to do with your life?
A – I want to be a war correspondent – I want to be there where the action is.
R – Who are you?
A – What sort of stupid question is that?
————-
Years later when he came visiting, he told me how he didn’t want to be buried because he was claustrophic, he’d prefer the electric cremator. I giggled for the first time with him. This is exactly how I’d like it too – a cremation and a kickass wake. I was older and less angry. He had the same old kind eyes, he whistled the same songs, and he spoke of love. He told me that there was nothing more terrible than experiencing the most beautiful feeling in the world and then being condemned by people you loved. He told me that if ever I got kicked out of home for falling in love, he’d provide me the shelter and support I needed. He was a hindu man who fell in love with a catholic woman at a time when he could’ve been killed for it. But he persevered and she said yes. They remained happily married till the day she died.
————–
R – What do you want to do with your life?
A – I want to be a writer eventually. I want people to read by books and go “Oh.”
R – Who are you?
A – Why do you keep asking me that question?
R – I find that it is more effective than the “how are you” question to which you are only just going to say good, okay, well and a slew of other abstract words I don’t care for. But who you are at moments change – and the answer to that question will tell me how your heart is doing and how you’ve grown.
A – Oh.
R – Who are you?
A – I … I don’t know.
————-
He knew me from when I was little. He was my dad’s professor at TISS where he caused a lot of controversy for refusal to get in step with policies he didn’t believe in. He refused to be called Sir or Professor – he thought that it was hard enough to learn without the added terror of a self-righteous teacher. His students called him Suncle (Sir+Uncle). He pushed me to call him by his childhood name, Rami. He was my story-teller – he knew how much I craved for them. And always stories of war and travel – my two favorite categories. And when I was low, he’d hug me and sing me a song sung to the tune of Auld Lang Syne.
————
R – What do you want to do with your life?
A – I want to travel – Latin America sounds wonderful. But I learnt in georgaphy class today how lovely Canada looks in Autumn. And then, there’s Africa but you know more about that than me (He lived in Nigeria for a while)
R – Who are you?
A – I’m a restless soul looking for a place to call my own
———-
We would shuttle between Mumbai and Bangalore to see each other. He would do the sweetest things. Out of the blue he’d send me a book or a quote that would arrive just when I needed it. And somehow, he’d always be home with a box of chocolates for Valentines day. When I came back from my Europe trip, he was there with a twinkle in his eye and a tootless grin. He became my teacher on an intensive course on applied social research with 15 other students. He gave a moving speech on how the social sector approach needed to move from charity to transformation and suddenly I knew the joy that came from being his student. While answering numerous questions, telling us stories from his field work, sitting silent sipping a drink after class, he would look at me from across the room and smile – that smile that would light up the world. He became my sunshine. My only sunshine. Later that month, we wrote a book together.
——–
R – What do you what to do with your life?
A – I want to work in the social sector. Make a lasting difference. I want to change lives and bring smiles on the faces of children.
R – Who are you?
A – I’m a driven and happy woman waiting to be let out into the world. The universe is not going to realise this till it’s too late but I’m going to re-arrange the furniture.
R – You notice this is the first time you’re happy with and proud of being female?
A – Oh.
———
The last present he gave me was this

The last words he said to me was this

“Glad that you are getting what you want but as usual wondering ‘now what? and so what’. It is so reassuring to feel that my Anju is still the same young Anju. Can’t wait to see you soon, you can pour me my whisky and I will make you Tomato soup as always. Till then, keep happy and review what you are upto and want to become. I am with you. Love as ever, Rami”

———
R – What do you want to do with your life?
A – I’m confused. I tried the social sector and I tried writing. And I’m lost
R – It’s the first time you sound dejected and without a plan. This is as it should be. You never learn if there are no more challenges to overcome.
A – But aren’t you supposed to know by now, stick to a career, find someone good and marry them?
R – I’m 82. I’m still clueless. But isn’t that what makes life exciting?
A – Life Sucks.
R – Not so long as you are around.
A – Oh Rami. When will I see you again?
R – Chin up. And smile.

And then he burst into his favorite song
——–
A smile is quite a funny thing,
It wrinkles up your face,
And when it’s gone you never find
Its secret hiding place.

But far more wonderful it is,
To see what smiles can do.
You smile at me, I smile at you,
And so one smile makes two.

I smile at someone, since you smile,
And then that one smiles back,
And that one smiles until, in truth,
You fail in keeping track.

And since a smile can do great good,
By cheering hearts of care.
Let’s smile and not forget the fact
That smiles go everywhere.
———-
I learnt he passed away this morning, a ticket to Mumbai for next week still on the computer.

Rest in Peace Suncle Rami. I will always remember you.

17 thoughts on “This is for you, Rami

  1. I attended just 1 class by Prof. Ramachandran. It was the most memorable Research Methodology class ever. I hate research and left that class wondering if I was making a mistake. This is a beautiful eulogy. I am sure he is reading it and thinking, “Who are you?” once again! RIP.

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  2. So sorry to read this post, but it was beautifully written and reminded me of the summary of an indian Isabelle Allende novel. May he RIP.

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  3. I’m way too late but I loved this post. Very well-written. Very touching. Very heartfelt.
    I am deeply sorry for your loss. From what you have written, he seemed to be a great man and have taken life as it was. I loved how in your conversations, he helped you see yourself better your own way.

    Hugs. I’m sure he’s watching over little Anju all the time.

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    1. It’s never too late, Addie. Thank you so much for that. He was lovely and he helped me confront myself when all I knew was to run. Even in his death, he’s helped me reach some critical life decisions. Big hugs back. You’re awesome!

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  4. What a wonderful and touching post. You have written it so well that even I hoped I could have met him in person… I am so sorry for your loss. May he rest in peace.

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