I Saw a Star Collapse

Author : DarianReilly
Publish Date : 2021-04-17 08:11:22
I Saw a Star Collapse

In India, the early 70's belonged to two stars by the name Rajesh; one Rajesh Khanna, the other, Rajesh Swami.

Rajesh Swami was just a 5-year old kid and my classmate for the 11 years, until S.S.C. did us apart.

Rajesh Swami was the quintessential star kid; a front bencher, alright. He would consistently rank first, year after year. He was the champion on the playground, had a mesmerizing voice, was the most celebrated actor in school dramas, excellent at art & craft, a very creative writer and eloquent speaker, his handwriting was like pearls, but most of all, he was a hugely gifted painter (to make an understatement).

In fact, at the beginning of every academic year he would be asked to prepare the time table in his own style that would decorate the walls of every classroom in the school.

That he ranked first in a state (or national) level drawing competition came as no surprise and I have no qualms in admitting that I never managed to develop my own style of handwriting or drawing because I always tried imitating him.

After S.S.C. and during the higher studies, I would sometimes see him draw pictures of gods and goddesses in temples in Badnera, a sleepy village with little or no earning opportunities.

As we finished our academic pursuit, I tried persuading him to leave the village and move to Mumbai to make a career in the advertising industry as an illustrator and artist. I was quite sure he would eventually make his way into the film industry.

But responsibilities prevented him from heeding my advice or accepting my support.

Then, I finally shifted to Pune and we lost contact for almost 17 years.

But last year, I went back on a short visit determined to meet him.

I also had a wish to at least have my portrait drawn by him.

Yet we could not meet despite visiting his house daily as he worked somewhere that no one knew about. I left my cell number hoping he would call me.

Then just when I was boarding the train to return to Pune, I got a call from him, wanting to meet me.

It was late and I promised to meet him on my next visit and he in turn promised to fulfil my wish of a portrait.

Last Diwali, I told him my plans of bringing him to Pune and introducing him to the advertising industry; rather introducing the advertising world to him.

I knew he still had it in him, though he told me he was not in touch with the brush anymore.

Just when I was to complete a year since that reunion that never happened, I get a call from our common friend. I ask him about Rajesh and he breaks the news of his sudden demise.

A victim of circumstances, Rajesh Swami passed away with the sunrise on 27th January this year.

My heart was filled with darkness. I knew a huge star had collapsed in our galaxy that bright morning.

For the entire school, a generation of alumni and the village, his memories and drawings will be hard to wipe off.

Alas, I now need to remain content with this final portrait in my heart!

And I thought, how easily we put off meeting someone, attending some event, or even calling up a relative or friend for some other day.

Today is that "other day".

Tomorrow that someone may not be around; or we could be that someone.

In India, the early 70's belonged to two stars by the name Rajesh; one Rajesh Khanna, the other, Rajesh Swami.

Rajesh Swami was just a 5-year old kid and my classmate for the 11 years, until S.S.C. did us apart.

Rajesh Swami was the quintessential star kid; a front bencher, alright. He would consistently rank first, year after year. He was the champion on the playground, had a mesmerizing voice, was the most celebrated actor in school dramas, excellent at art & craft, a very creative writer and eloquent speaker, his handwriting was like pearls, but most of all, he was a hugely gifted painter (to make an understatement).

In fact, at the beginning of every academic year he would be asked to prepare the time table in his own style that would decorate the walls of every classroom in the school.

That he ranked first in a state (or national) level drawing competition came as no surprise and I have no qualms in admitting that I never managed to develop my own style of handwriting or drawing because I always tried imitating him.

After S.S.C. and during the higher studies, I would sometimes see him draw pictures of gods and goddesses in temples in Badnera, a sleepy village with little or no earning opportunities.

As we finished our academic pursuit, I tried persuading him to leave the village and move to Mumbai to make a career in the advertising industry as an illustrator and artist. I was quite sure he would eventually make his way into the film industry.

But responsibilities prevented him from heeding my advice or accepting my support.

Then, I finally shifted to Pune and we lost contact for almost 17 years.

But last year, I went back on a short visit determined to meet him.

I also had a wish to at least have my portrait drawn by him.

Yet we could not meet despite visiting his house daily as he worked somewhere that no one knew about. I left my cell number hoping he would call me.

Then just when I was boarding the train to return to Pune, I got a call from him, wanting to meet me.

It was late and I promised to meet him on my next visit and he in turn promised to fulfil my wish of a portrait.

Last Diwali, I told him my plans of bringing him to Pune and introducing him to the advertising industry; rather introducing the advertising world to him.

I knew he still had it in him, though he told me he was not in touch with the brush anymore.

Just when I was to complete a year since that reunion that never happened, I get a call from our common friend. I ask him about Rajesh and he breaks the news of his sudden demise.

A victim of circumstances, Rajesh Swami passed away with the sunrise on 27th January this year.

My heart was filled with darkness. I knew a huge star had collapsed in our galaxy that bright morning.

For the entire school, a generation of alumni and the village, his memories and drawings will be hard to wipe off.

Alas, I now need to remain content with this final portrait in my heart!

And I thought, how easily we put off meeting someone, attending some event, or even calling up a relative or friend for some other day.

Today is that "other day".

Tomorrow that someone may not be around; or we could be that someone.

 

In India, the early 70's belonged to two stars by the name Rajesh; one Rajesh Khanna, the other, Rajesh Swami.

Rajesh Swami was just a 5-year old kid and my classmate for the 11 years, until S.S.C. did us apart.

Rajesh Swami was the quintessential star kid; a front bencher, alright. He would consistently rank first, year after year. He was the champion on the playground, had a mesmerizing voice, was the most celebrated actor in school dramas, excellent at art & craft, a very creative writer and eloquent speaker, his handwriting was like pearls, but most of all, he was a hugely gifted painter (to make an understatement).

In fact, at the beginning of every academic year he would be asked to prepare the time table in his own style that would decorate the walls of every classroom in the school.

That he ranked first in a state (or national) level drawing competition came as no surprise and I have no qualms in admitting that I never managed to develop my own style of handwriting or drawing because I always tried imitating him.

After S.S.C. and during the higher studies, I would sometimes see him draw pictures of gods and goddesses in temples in Badnera, a sleepy village with little or no earning opportunities.

As we finished our academic pursuit, I tried persuading him to leave the village and move to Mumbai to make a career in the advertising industry as an illustrator and artist. I was quite sure he would eventually make his way into the film industry.

But responsibilities prevented him from heeding my advice or accepting my support.

Then, I finally shifted to Pune and we lost contact for almost 17 years.

But last year, I went back on a short visit determined to meet him.

I also had a wish to at least have my portrait drawn by him.

Yet we could not meet despite visiting his house daily as he worked somewhere that no one knew about. I left my cell number hoping he would call me.

Then just when I was boarding the train to return to Pune, I got a call from him, wanting to meet me.

It was late and I promised to meet him on my next visit and he in turn promised to fulfil my wish of a portrait.

Last Diwali, I told him my plans of bringing him to Pune and introducing him to the advertising industry; rather introducing the advertising world to him.

I knew he still had it in him, though he told me he was not in touch with the brush anymore.

Just when I was to complete a year since that reunion that never happened, I get a call from our common friend. I ask him about Rajesh and he breaks the news of his sudden demise.

A victim of circumstances, Rajesh Swami passed away with the sunrise on 27th January this year.

My heart was filled with darkness. I knew a huge star had collapsed in our galaxy that bright morning.

For the entire school, a generation of alumni and the village, his memories and drawings will be hard to wipe off.

Alas, I now need to remain content with this final portrait in my heart!

And I thought, how easily we put off meeting someone, attending some event, or even calling up a relative or friend for some other day.

Today is that "other day".

Tomorrow that someone may not be around; or we could be that someone.

 

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