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If I can just give to the world more than I take from it, I will be a very happy man. For there is no greater joy in life than to give. Motto : Live, Laugh and Love. You can follow me on Twitter too . My handle is @Raja_Sw.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Raman Chittappa (uncle)

Today when I returned home and checked my personal e-mail, there was a short e-mail from my sister with the subject heading "Raman chittappa".

Even as I clicked on it, I had a sick feeling in my stomach. I pretty much knew what it was about.

And it was exactly what I had expected. Raman chittappa (my uncle) had passed away today - in the early hours of the day.

I was filled with sorrow and my thoughts were entirely with him, with my aunt and with my two cousins - their son and daughter.

It was too late to call India so I decided to speak to them in the morning.

Not that news of Raman chittappa’s death had come totally unexpected. I don’t know his exact age but he was not old. He must have been in his late sixties. But he had been ailing for several years now and , one by one, his organs had been failing him. He was a diabetic – and if ever the cruel side of diabetes has been experienced by anyone, I think it must have been chittappa.

First he lost the functioning of his kidneys, resulting in his requiring a kidney transplant. His health continued to deteriorate. It took its toll of his eyesight. Then, about a couple of years ago, he had to have one leg amputated. He continued to have complications – diabetes is such a slow killer – it was just one thing after another.

I don’t know all the details nor – to be honest, do I want to think about this dimension of his life.

For there is so much more to remember him for.

Raman chittappa was one of those persons who you had to meet just once, to realize the strength and depth of his personality. Once was enough.

Even I have not met him many times in my life – entirely my loss. I spent the first seventeen years of my life in a remote part of eastern India, a period during which distances made it difficult to meet up with relatives.

Raman chittappa was then based in Delhi. I remember spending one summer vacation – 1978 – with him in Delhi. It was my first visit to Delhi and, despite Delhi’s heat waves, I thoroughly enjoyed the vacation. My aunt was, well, ever the doting aunt, my cousins – much younger in age to me – were also good fun. Chittappa himself - while having a tough exterior – was very interesting to listen to and learn from.

Chittappa was a very strong-willed person who believed in a disciplined lifestyle. He believed that if discipline is inculcated from an early age in a person, it would hold him in good stead later on in life. That summer vacation, he taught me and my brother some yoga exercises. We would get up at 5.30 a.m every morning, go to the terrace of the building - and do yoga for about 45 minutes. It was an excellent way to start the day before the summer heat kicked in.

Chittappa was very direct – and, to be honest, I was just a bit scared of him at that time. I think we all were to some extent. But behind that tough exterior was a really caring person who would joke and laugh and discuss any subject with you.

By the time I moved to Delhi in 1981, Chittappa and family had moved out. He was a civil engineer (from BHU) by qualification and had worked in different places – from Nepal to Iran to Libya, as far as I know. He returned to Delhi sometime in the 1980s to be with DLF. But by then I had left Delhi. So I never got to spend more time with him in Delhi.

After that, his health began deteriorating. I met him on only the odd occasion – at weddings and such functions. The few that I myself attended – and where he also happened to be present. It was always a pleasure, more an honour, to spend time with him even if it was only for a few minutes.

But his health kept deteriorating. He continued to work with DLF – they valued his services greatly and kept him on as consultant long after his retirement. I know he did a lot for DLF and was proud of all he had achieved.

In the last few years, as his son (my cousin), got a very good job in Hyderabad, Chittappa and Chitti (aunt) sold their Delhi place to be in Hyderabad with their son. It made a lot of sense – by then, Chittappa’s condition was getting worse and there was no point in their living on their own in Delhi.

I met him in Hyderabad when I visited that city in September 2007. I was meeting him after many years – and I cannot describe how happy I was to see him. He was very happy to see me too – he talked about a lot of things. Although he was confined to his wheelchair – and he was a bit hard of hearing – it did not deter his enthusiasm one bit. He told me “Chitti and I visited Amsterdam many years ago. Of course you were not there at that time. We will come again and visit you in Amsterdam”.

He talked about a lot of other things too – and stopped only when Chitti frowned and told him not to exert himself. With all his complications, even talking drained him of a lot of energy.
It was a most enjoyable meeting and I was very reluctant to leave him that day. But he needed rest and I left after an excellent dinner.

Whenever I would be in Bangalore he would speak to me on the phone. And everytime I felt his strength surging through in his voice.

I met him again in Hyderabad a little over a month ago. He had become still weaker but his spirit was as indomitable as ever. Again he talked to me about this and that – though this time it was for only about 5 or 10 minutes. I could make out that he was exhausted. I left somewhat reluctantly.

That was the last time I saw him.

Whenever I called up my mother, she would tell me about him. Usually it was not good news – he was in and out of hospital a lot. I know he hated it – he told me so during my last meeting with him.

Now he is no more.

And though the news is not entirely unexpected, it does not make it any easier to accept. I think about my aunt. Always cheerful, always a laugh on her lips. My cousins – both very well-brought up by my Chittappa and Chitti.

I think about Chittappa. Another person would have long since lost the battle to live, so many were the complications that he went through. But he was a different person. His determination, his courage, his will power, his strength – all of these kept him going. And not just going but as active as he could be. He was still cracking jokes when I last met him.

Rest in peace, Chittappa. I met you on only a few occasions (and spoke to you on the phone a few times) but I would like you to know that it takes no more than this for a person of your nature and strength to leave his mark on the rest of us. You were an inspiration for many of us and will always be with us in spirit.

1 comment:

Nandini Vishwanath said...

I know what you mean. I was always a li'l scared of him.

Every time I went, he'd make it a point to talk to me. I was too young for him to remember my antics as a kid or anything, but the interest in me surprised me.