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Sunday Sentiments


    Posted On October 29, 2023

    By Karan Thapar

    It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of cricket. In fact, I barely understand the game. I rarely watch it. Consequently, I don’t know very many cricketers. But there are three I count as friends who have repeatedly saved my bacon when I pretentiously attempted cricket discussions and asked ill-informed, if not asinine, questions. They’re Tiger Pataudi, Bishan Singh Bedi and Abbas Ali Baig.


    Sadly, Tiger and Bishan are no longer with us and Buggie has just lost dear Vinu. Bishan’s death on Monday brought back memories of these three friends and this morning, as a toast to them, I want to share them with you.


    Tiger knew my knowledge of sport is minimal and, except in a television studio, he would gently but deftly deflect the discussion to subjects that he knew would please me rather than leave me with egg all over my face. Often it was a compliment about the tie I was wearing. He was a man of discerning taste. So whenever he admired one I’d make a point of repeating it. That was until the first occasion he remarked on it. He cocked an eyebrow and softly said: “That’s the third time you’re wearing that tie!”


    Tiger also had a delightful sense of humour. Wry and very British. It was usually the mot juste delivered with panache and excellent timing.


    Bishan was very different. He was effusive and his emotions and inner feelings were frequently transparent and visible. He loved a good chat but he was as patient a listener as he could be unstoppable as a talker.


    We often met at Buggie and Vinu’s. We’d drift on to their terrace and he would ask what I thought of the prevailing political situation. It didn’t took me long to realize he understood it far better than I did. He’d hear what I had to say and then regale me with what I’d missed and had not fully appreciated.


    Of the three, I’d say Buggie is the more reticent. But then Vinu more than made up for his hesitation. She was vibrant, chatty, a bon viveur and a wonderful hostess. It was a pleasure to dine at her home, not just because she kept a superb table but also because she enjoyed having people over. She liked the company of her friends.


    As I write this, I’m all too aware that often the important thing about friends is the memories that linger with you. You may not have met for months or years, you may be separated by oceans and infrequent letter writing, but that only strengthens the memories that connect you. With time, you could say, they acquire a life of their own. Now, of Tiger, Bishan and Vinu all I have left are memories. They’ve taken the place of the three people they are about.


    In a sense, I’m saying the obvious. But I’m also saying something you only realize when people die and it sinks in you’ll never meet again. Their memories acquire a different status. No longer is it like remembering someone who’s still alive, who you could meet tomorrow or next week, who is, at most, just a phone call or email away. Now, memories are all you have. A meeting or a chat or an email will never happen again.


    Undoubtedly, age has determined a lot of these thoughts. That’s inevitable. But if I’m honest, it wasn’t very different when my wife Nisha died 34 years ago. Or Mummy in 2015. Or anyone else I’ve been close to. It’s just that when I was younger I wasn’t so conscious of how memories can transition and transform. Bishan and Vinu’s death, within weeks of each other, has made me conscious of it.


    Oh dear, I didn’t mean to become maudlin or even philosophical. I started off on a note of cheerful remembrance. I seem to have ended more sombrely than I intended. As they say, c’est la vie.

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