Wednesday, September 3, 2008

My cousin Raman

Raman was to all intents and purposes my elder brother, in true Indian extended family tradition. He was my first cricket hero and his exploits in schools cricket fired my imagination before I entered my teens. He was a leg spinner of considerable potential, the best in PS High School and the best in the city and state as I was to find out soon. He was an orthodox spinner then, who took wickets by the bagful and could bat a bit, known more for brutal power than finesse of any sort. He took eight wickets playing for the City Schools XI once and his photograph appeared in the newspaper, to the delight and pride of his growing band of young admirers in the neighbourhood and at school.

It was in college that Raman blossomed. He joined the PSG College of Technology at Coimbatore, where for the next five years he constantly hit the headlines. Very soon, he was opening the innings for his college, the District Colleges and eventually Madras University, besides bowling fastish legbreaks from a good height. He had abandoned his earlier slower, well flighted style when he shot up in his first year in college. He found he extracted considerable bounce and as most of the cricket at that level was then played on matting wickets, Raman was soon a successful and dreaded bowler. His batting was positive, full of attacking shots. He drove powerfully on the rise and, with strong wrists, he could flick the new ball over square leg or midwicket for six.

At the university and junior level Raman was a most successful cricketer. He was a contemporary of BS Chandrasekhar, the great Indian leg spinner, and bowling in a similar style, PSR was just as successful for Madras University and Juniors, sometimes outperforming Chandra to win matches for his side.

When PSR finished his engineering studies and found employment in Madras, he was expected to graduate to Ranji Trophy cricket, but unfortunately, his form deserted him. He had a miserable couple of seasons in the TNCA league, when he strung together any number of single digit scores. He worked hard, practising for long hours at the nets, where he looked to be in no discomfort, but runs just dried up. His bowling too seemed to have gone to pieces. He was hardly able to land the ball. I was his teammate, generally enjoying greater luck with my form, and it broke my heart to watch his cricket disintegrate.

Raman had other problems as well in the local league, in which matches were occasionally fixed to help one team to garner championship points or another to stave off relegation. He refused to be party to such unsporting practices and even walked out of a match half way through. Among his calculating peers and his secretary, he found no sympathy, but I respected and admired him for his honesty and integrity—which marked all aspects of his life, accompanied by a somewhat short fuse.

Raman later migrated to New Zealand and from there to Australia, where his cricket enjoyed a second innings. Playing grade cricket in Sydney, Raman was a team mate of a young man beginning to make waves in Australian cricket called Steve Waugh. His leg spin bowling had made a comeback when I met Raman in Sydney in the summer of 1986. I was touring Australia as a member of the late Ram Ramesh's team Madras Occasionals, consisting mostly of Madras Cricket Club players. He was happy to show me a newspaper clipping in which Steve Waugh had praised his bowling. I was delighted to meet my cousin at a time when he had regained his form.

Raman came to India a year later, but by then he was a condemned man, a victim of lung cancer. His enthusiasm for life or love of cricket hadn't waned one bit. He was there at Chepauk to cheer Tamil Nadu to its second Ranji Trophy triumph in the 53-year old history of the championship, and he had to endure great physical hardship to go to the stadium and climb the stairs to the pavilion terrace enclosure. (He refused to watch the game from downstairs because he enjoyed the view from the terrace). He was happy and proud that Tamil Nadu won, doubly so as my younger brother Sivaramakrishnan played a key role in that victory.

When Raman went back to Sydney, we all knew that we would not see him again. The end came soon—the end of an honest, hard working career, in cricket and at work. He was a devoted husband and loving father to the end.


Harimohan said...

Very touching. Brought tears to my eyes. I think the fall of any noble and upright man does that to me and for certain Raman was one. He was all integrity and possessed a zest for life and cricket, qualities I admire in any human. May his soul rest in peace and may we draw inspiration from his uncompromising ways and keep him and his ilk alive.
You've managed to keep the essence of the grand drama of his life, cut short by lung cancer, even more by downplaying it. I think Raman would have approved.

abhorigine said...

Thanks. I appreciate the trouble you take to appreciate a writer. A rare trait.

mayan said... a complete stranger, i feel touched...beyond words....shows the power of emotions.....perfect use of words, there wasnt a moment when you feel lost, but then, as a student of yours, i dont think i was expecting anything lesser in quality....i look forward to reading all that you post, and please continue writing....
amit kumar

abhorigine said...

Thanks, Amit. Generous of you.

Dr. Deepak Patil said...

I accidently came across your blog. You really have natural way of narrating incidents along with the impressions they make on you... all these put across honestly and from heart. A very difficult task indeed.

I am touched by Raman's life and more touched by people like you who remain grateful to their benedictors. Keep it up Ram, I promise I will keep visiting your blog eagerly to read your postings... or should I say thoughts from the heart !!!

Warm regards, Dr. Deepak Patil, Bangalore

Shankar said...

Really touching. Felt bad when I read about Raman's untimely demise.

Also, I cannot but wonder that I was probably a few feet away from where he sat at the terrace during that memorable triumph for TN. I watched the entire game and yes, VSiva (as we used to call him because of LSiva's presence in the team) played a wonderful knock - if I remember he missed his century.

abhorigine said...

Thank you Dr Patil, thank you Shankar. Yes, Raman probably sat fairly close to you. He had a walking stick with him. Siva made 94, I think.

Great to receive such positive responses from both of you.