Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Laughing Buddha

Rajen Mukherjee (October 1928 - July 2011)

You held me when I came into this world
I held you when you left ...
I miss you!

We used to call him the Laughing Buddha - the Happy Man - and touch his belly in jest!

He’d comply with a smile.

I was wondering what to say about my father. In addition to going out of his way to be helpful to people (numerous jobs, school admissions, permits, recommendations) and rising to the occasion to help people in the community (he'd get the streets cleaned up, get dustbins put in place... he left a legacy of 2 beautiful parks in Bangalore), the thing I cherish most about him is that he was truly a happy person and enjoyed life. He had no regrets.

He was a true networker - had I imbibed those skills from him, I’d have had a very successful career :-)

He was a true adventurer - saving to buy a one-way ship ticket to England with nothing lined up at the other end - I’d never be able to do that - my sister does this stuff!

He was a true story-maker - sitting next to Ava Gardner at Wimbledon (no tennis blood in him), becoming secretary of the Karnataka State Badminton Association (not  a drop of badminton blood in him), being at the Queen’s Coronation (not a drop of royalty in him), getting his shoes polished at Trafalgar Square by a local bloke soon after he got off the ship in England (he wanted to get that out of his system early - I guess there were drops of indignance in him), playing cricket (once) on the grass at Old Trafford) (no cricket blood in him either! :)), getting a job with the United Nations Labour Organization and dropping that opportunity on the floor to return to India to honor his father’s wishes to get married and settle down …

I can pen stories, but I’m not a story maker.

He was a small man, but a third of his body weight was bigness
He could pick bones out of any fish with a fork* (* try that with hilsa/ilish)
He would evict illegal street vendors with a flick of his finger
He could brew his own wine when he wanted to
He would launch Diwali rockets with his bare hands
He was the "most interesting man in the world"!

He would be likely to say - "I don't always drink beer, but when I do, I might just prefer Dos Equis."

Our minds opened up at a very early stage in our lives - western music, mariachi, Nat King Cole, berets, western food, sausages for Sunday breakfast … not common across families in middle-class India back then. 

I am not what he was, but he contributed so much to who I became.

I miss him.
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