My father passed away on 21st September 2020. He had a cardiac arrest and suffered little. He lived big and always, always on his own terms. He had a deep confidence in his own ideas of right and wrong – I can say this because of how often he was willing to change his thinking when provided with new evidence and perspective (and through some impassioned shouting matches). He moved with the times, wanted me to go further than his imagination, and constantly struggled with the inner battle between a romantic heart and a rational mind.
This post to make sure this one tribute (and maybe others after it) don’t get lost in the din of social media. This is by my father’s elder cousin, Sudhir Tewari, who knew him intimately before I did – as a brother, a friend, a fellow cricketer.
Can he be no more? An Almorian, an altruist, a biblophile, a born cricketer, a cricketing buff, an aficionado, a raconteur, a chef, a gourmet, an epicure, a conversationalist, a connoisseur, a chatter box, a dapper lover, a humorist, a host, a gossiper, a friend, a guide, a doting father, a recent golfer….and more…. and great & perfect at that!
Not many in the family and among friends may either not know or be in a position to readily recall his real first name. He was known as Babboo to one & all and he took demonstrable pride in his nickname. In fact, his mother had lovingly ‘nicked’ it further and she addressed him invariably as “Babua”! She confided that once she herself appeared to have forgotten his real first name. Try as she might, she was not able to recollect it. In the thick of a cold wintery night in Almora, therefore, in panic she rushed into Babua’s study to glean his real name (Rajeev) from labels pasted on books & notebooks and heaved a sigh of relief!
From his childhood, Babboo was extremely fond of books, magazines and comics of all hues and they would be strewn around everywhere in the house in plenty. Till the moment he had stepped out completely in the open to play cricket in the courtyard with home made cloth ball, he would continue to take a glance at something or the other that was readable. His life too remained an open book, warts and all, without pretensions and without any attempt to hide anything from an already ugly world. Also, true to his love of cricket and fondness to open the innings, he continued to bat fearlessly in the treacherous game of life as well in perfect copy book style. Umpires often may make wrong decisions but a disciplined cricketer leaves the field without the slightest demur in the greatest traditions of the game!
I have had the fortune to be in his company intimately for some years not only as a member of the close knit clan but also as a dear friend, class mate and player on the cricket ground. He would not mind playing truant to indulge the game he loved. Lean, thin and in perfect form always in a dapper costume, he was agile on the field and literally looked number 1 with a batting cap on his head! Off the field too, he was second to none. He was always sharp & witty and he had a splendid gift of repartee as well. Once during an examination in college, he sought some clarification from the invigilator in a Zoology paper that was supposedly tough. The invigilator pleaded helplessness & ignorance in the subject as he was a Sanskrit teacher. Instantaneously, Babboo quipped, “Sir, in that case, you may help by reciting the ‘roop’ (various forms) of a ‘frog’ (Rana Tigrina) at least”! In that tense environment, the entire examination hall burst into laughter.
Dear Brother Babboo, in remembrance of and deep reverence to what you personified, I cannot afford to shed tears at this juncture as well to bid you farewell. You led life on your own terms valiantly as an Emperor. Dear Usha and Dear Baboosha, you have inherited a rich legacy. We are all extremely proud of Dear Babboo’s superior skills, accomplishments and all that he has bequeathed to us. Entire Almora mourns the loss of its valuable opening wicket. Rajeev’s wicket may have fallen. Babboo the eternal batsman, however, continues to live!