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Issue No.: 577 | July 2015
 

Truly, The Complete Man

Vivek Raju
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Most readers of Freedom First as well as those associated with my father, S. V. Raju through his work will know him for his clear and astute insights into the world of political and social action. I shall not dwell on these as for the past four decades he has spoken and written about it extensively. I leave it to other tributes to him in this magazine to refer to his intellectual attainments. Rather, I would like to introduce you to a side of him, and perhaps a much larger one for us at home, that would complete the picture of the man you would have known as Raju. To us he was Dad.

So let’s start with his name. Whether you were just out of college or an octogenarian, he liked all to call him ‘Raju’. He was not one for the formality of being Mr. Raju. But he was not born ‘Raju’. In his early 20s he changed his name officially to Raju since all his friends and people who knew him called him that. It just made sense to him to change it to that and not hold on to the identity given by his family. And most who know him will attest to this simple fact – that he was a friend first above all else.

Family was a non-negotiable element of his life. It was his security net. And the reason for this goes back to his early years. He was born and brought up in Bombay. He was the only child (his sister before him had died when she was just a year or so old). His Mother passed away when he was 4. He thought the world of his Mother who was a linguist. Within a few years his father remarried and his life took a turn for the worse for a few years before he finally broke down before his grandmother during one of his annual trips to his grandfather’s home in Coonoor. Her directive was immediate. He was thereafter to be in the care of his uncle, who also lived in Bombay. Dad was 9 then, and for the next decade and more he lived with his uncle as one of a family that included 5 cousins. He shared close bonds with his cousins and his growing years with them took him through school and college. It was during this period that Dad was also exposed to the booming social and cultural scene in Matunga when he probably developed his uncanny ability to size up people from all walks of life who drifted in and out of his uncle’s home. I also remember him telling me that he used to accompany his two cousins for Bharatanatyam practice. His knowledge and love of this dance form grew from here. This experience of not having his own mother bringing him up shaped his deep need to have a family and home he could call his own to protect and nurture with love and care.

The story of his home and family, therefore, is at the very heart of who he was. And no story of Dad can ever be complete or have any depth of meaning without his relationship with Mom. She was Kumud to him among other terms of endearment. It is this relationship that was the backbone of all his intellectual and other attainments. This relationship allowed him to explore and pursue a vigorous work life and yet have an unshakable security net. No matter where he went or what he did, there was always Mom and home to come to. And the start of their tale is right out of the pages of a romance novel! Dad’s first job was in Garlick and Co. By then he had moved out from his uncle’s home to a dorm in Sodality House in Byculla. He travelled by tram and drew Rs. 15 / month. He then moved to work with another of his relatives in the area of labour relations. Here he dealt with unions and this is how he met Mom. He fell ill and was admitted to KEM where he met this fiery, gregarious, confident and highly intelligent nurse. She looked after him and the rest is history. He was a Tamil Brahmin and she a Protestant Christian. Their respective religions did not matter to either of them. Throughout his life he would shun all ritualistic tradition. But traditional he was. He remained an unapologetic Hindu. He loved mythological movies and TV serials. But I digress. Dad and Mom got married in 1961 and a small party was arranged by his two close friends – George Dewaji and V.P. Bhatia, who were his roommates at Sodality House. Marrying my mother got him a whole new family of 8. His mother-in-law thought the world of him and treated him as the eldest son. He shared a particularly strong bond with my eldest aunt Kusum or Akka(elder sister) as we all call her. Akka, who lives in Toronto, was instrumental in getting my Dad and Mom together and played a steady role throughout his life. Another of his close associations was with Dr. S.P. Aiyar who was a professor of political science at the Bombay University. It was at Dr. Aiyar’s insistence that Dad applied and got a small 350 sq. ft. house as part of a Housing Board scheme on the then outskirts of Bombay near Chembur. He moved in with Mom,two mattresses and a kerosene stove. From this very humble beginning he built his home with much love, attention and care. He would live here for the rest of his life.

The love and affection between them lasted till his very end. He doted on her. Till the very last days when he returned from office, he would always carry something savoury for her. And there was always music at home. He loved a variety of music be it old film music played through the Binaca Geet Mala, Chaaya Geet or even the beauty of classical Carnatic violin. In fact he had a good voice and played the harmonica. Dad loved watching movies – Bond movies, old English, Tamil and Hindi classics, Amitabh Bachchan, new wave, etc. He would often regale us with anecdotes of slipping away from school to catch the latest Douglas Fairbanks or Errol Flynn movie running as a morning show at the nearby Aurora Theatre. I still remember with some envy seeing him laugh till he cried watching a Tamil comedy on TV. He had an excellent eye for sarees and the collection that Mom has was put together by him. Whichever corner of the country he went to, he would bring back the local specialty saree. However what he loved doing most was to read. When he was growing up and with all that was happening in his life, books were his best friends. They revealed a world to him that was beyond his existing, limiting condition. He was extremely well read, had a wide repertoire of taste and remained a voracious reader right through his life.

By the time he was married he was well entrenched in the Swatantra Party. To me there were two distinct happenings that shaped Dad. The first one was his childhood experience that shaped his character. In spite of his difficult childhood he never got cynical nor did he get consumed by blind ambition to be successful in the ‘traditional’ sense – money, material comforts etc. ‘Simple living but high thinking’typified his life. In 1959 when, against several odds, he got the position of Executive Secretary of the Swatantra Party his resolve to be more than just a clerk, as some astrologer had told him he would become, would come to fruition. This was the second big happening and this shaped his intellectual life. At just 26 being in the presence of Rajaji, Minoo Masani, Narayan Dandekar, Sir Homi Mody, N.G. Ranga, Maharani Gayathri Devi and a whole host of other intellectuals had a tremendous impact on him and this experience gave him his raison d’etre for the rest of his intellectual life. Of course his biggest influence was Minoo Masani for whom he had great affection and thought of him as having the highest level of integrity and clarity of thought.

In 1963 he had his first taste of fatherhood when I was born. He was very keen to have a daughter but as fate had it he had two sons! The story goes that when I was to be born he was electioneering in Rajkot for Minoo Masani. When he saw me he said I measured the length of his fingers span (I was born premature by many weeks) and ‘looked like a rat’!He took off immediately after I was born but not before writing on a small sheet of paper the time of my birth. A few years ago he gave me that paper for my safe keeping. Three months later he got back from the elections and was stunned. I had tripled in size and when he picked me up he dropped me! Thankfully my Uncle’s lap cushioned the fall. My Mom told me that he would sit hours at a stretch with me cradled between his locked legs looking at me with doting eyes. It seemed that he finally had something he could call his very own!

It’s difficult to capture my relationship with him through a single descriptor. He was much, much more than just a father, a guide or a friend. He was, above all else, a good human being. He gave both my brother Vinod and me much love and affection. I remember when we were driving back after a month long road trip to Kanyakumari and back (he loved to drive) we were on the outskirts of Poona and he turned around to go back to a Military School because I was keen to become an Air Force pilot. He did not hesitate to go along with my desire. I was all of 9 years. Of course I got into the school and spent a year there before being sent back home due to intense homesickness! Then there was the other time when for the first time he saw me playing a cricket match. I was in my 12th grade and he had fully supported my love for cricket from school itself. I was playing a quarter final of the intercollegiate tournament at Matunga Gymkhana. He was to pick me up on his way from work after the match but I did not know then that he got there early and watched me play. In the car he told me that he did not realize I was ‘this good’. He later, without my knowledge, called his friend in London and in a few months time I was the ecstatic owner of a Duncan Fearnley bat. He supported both me and my brother in all our endeavours. And while he rarely imposed his will there were times when he did so but gently.

In my early 20s we were at loggerheads with each other. I was drifting and he, like any father, wanted me to make something of my life. In this situation of intense conflict I decided to write him a letter stating my position and how he was not being very understanding and supportive. I slipped this letter into his bag one morning. That evening he spoke to me on the way back in the car and said "I got your letter. You know son, you write really well when you are angry!” It just deflated the entire situation and communication flowed after that. He also valued my relationship with my brother. Whenever I came down to Bombay from Bangalore, which is where I have now made my home, he would always encourage the brothers to have their own space. He never got involved in our conversations or other activities unless we asked him to. He gave each one of us the freedom to pursue our choices without the pressure of expectations from him. When in 2001 I decided to quit a lucrative Corporate career to work with non-profit organizations, he supported me fully. Freedom was truly First for him. And it was precisely this non-interfering nature that led to our family being so closely knit.

How is one to encapsulate an entire lifetime in a few pages without mentioning so many with whom he shared rich and extremely vibrant relationships? My intent, however, through this brief article, was to leave behind the essence of the man people knew as Raju that was beyond his work and intellectual life. There was so much more to him than just Freedom First, Swatantra Party, liberalism or politics. He was a terrific listener, primarily because he had that rare quality of listening without judgment. People naturally gravitated to him for advice. Of course when it came to his principles on liberalism etc. he came from a stronger, more defined position. On several occasions he told us that he generally ‘followed his nose’ in taking decisions. It was obvious that life’s energy ran through him with great force. He lived a full life with great heart and integrity and respected the individuality and needs of other human beings. I guess most people would say that he was passionate about politics and liberalism. But I would like to put it differently. He was a passionate man and that passion ran through all that he loved to do. As I look back and attempt to capture an entire lifetime with him, I can say, that to me, he was truly, The Complete Man.

 
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Other Articles in this Issue

Editorial

In this issue

RS
 

Tribute to S. V. Raju

Truly, The Complete Man

Vivek Raju
 

S. V. Raju: A Political Rishi

Nitin G. Raut
 

Memories of S. V. Raju

Sharad Joshi
 

Raju Lived for a Cause

Y. Sivaji
 

S. V. Raju: A Personal Tribute

Minoo Adenwalla
 

My First and Only Meeting with S. V. Raju

Ronald Meinardus
 

My First and Last Meeting with S. V. Raju

V. Krishna Moorthy
 

Tributes from Friends

 

The Economy

Trouble Spots and A Way Forward

Sunil S. Bhandare
 

Point Counter Point : Every issue has at least two sides

Modi's Year in Power

Ashok Karnik
 

AAP's Ambition

Ashok Karnik
 

Cricket with Pakistan

Ashok Karnik
 

Facts and Rumours

Ashok Karnik
 

Perspective

Life and Death

Firoze Hirjikaka
 

Reflections

Questions Needing Answers

Ashok Karnik
 

Foreign Relations in the 21st Century

“Manufactured Sovereignty” in South China Sea: Sino-American Confrontation Heats Up

B. Ramesh Babu
 

Book Review

HOW BUSINESSMEN CAN ENRICH PUBLIC LIFE – D. N. PATODIA – REFLECTIONS

S. V.Raju
 

INTELLIGENCE – AN INSIDER’S VIEW

By Ashok Karnik
 

Educating Adults

Examination Reforms at the Bachelor’s Level

R. W. Desai
 

A Doctor In The Air: Ancient Aviator Anecdote

Cecil Parker
 

The History of the Swatantra Party

The Swatantra Party in Gujarat: A Shooting Star (Part III)

Usha Thakkar
 
 
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