Friday, July 13, 2018

My Mills and Boon hero

The first  meeting with my late husband Venu was at a Filmfare Awards Function in Kolkatta. in the early 70s. I used to see this tall, dark and handsome man impeccably dressed in white, including white shoes running around organizing the event. He was an employee of Times of India in charge of Economic Times later. Along with late Mr. Khuswant Singh he had gone to interview Mother Tetresa at her Dying Home in Kalighat, Kolkatta and returned with a vast experience..
My late father used to get passes for the Filmfare show and it was an event looked forward to as well as Femina shows.
Venu was in charge of receiving actors coming from Bombay. Later he told me that Amol Palekar took a liking to him and was always behind him calling 'Venu, venu'.
I used to see him at a theatre showing Malayalam movies every Sunday. My younger brother used to be fascinated with his belt with the sparkling huge buckle.
My brother-in-law, my younger sister's husband(my younger sis had got married before me) was his mess mate. He brought the proposal for me. Later I came to know that Venu himself had taken a liking to me after seeing me at the theatre showing Malayalam movies.
When the proposal came, my father refused saying he will not give his daughter to any Tamilian.
His friend who was the boss of Venu laughingly told that Venu was of our caste.
When marriage talks were going on, I refused saying he was dark. My BIL got real angry and asked me whether I considered myself Reita Feria, a Miss World.
I meekly consented to the marriage and till he breathed his last has absolutely no regrets. He is, was and will always be my knight in shining armour and the tall, dark and handsome hero of the Mills and Boon novels which I was a fan of.
After getting married and moving to his house which used to be a mess shared by his brothers and other friends, all were asked to vacate. There was this cook who even if abused never used to leave, the reason was the inmates of the mess would sometimes take loan from him. The happenings in the mess when told by Venu were hilarious.
After marrying Venu, I got a wonderful family from his side. A wonderful mother-in-law, who always sided me in any arguement and Venu chided her asking her whether he was her son or Anu her daugher, three elder sisters, 2 brothers-in-law and a batch of nephews and nieces. I used to be one among them, so got along well with them. Venu was blessed to see his grandsons, granddaughters and also great grandchildren.(grandchildren of his eldest sister who passed away two years back)

He had always wanted his family and friends to be around him. He was everyone's pillar of strength. He had endeared himself to my late father. Call it providence, both had to die due to lung problem.
Both my father and Venu were similar in nature. He was really a father figure for me and a pillar of strength. He kept giving me hope knowing well he will not survive. He would keep calling me every now and then. I used to tell him I had other work also, he would look forlorn and face would light up when I used to enter his room. My hope for a recovery made me chide him to fight and not be inactive, to be up and about and take care of his needs. Then I used to feel sorry for my outburst and say sorry over again for which he used to calmly say that he understood me very well and that he was blessed to have a wife like me. He also said that he would never have been able to take care of me as I cared for him, hold my hand and keep kissing it till I have to ask him to stop. Even though suffering, he never gave me a chance to understand it.
When he complained of chest pain and I asked if it was unbearable, he would say it was OK.
He had started losing weight drastically and also his speech. But my coaxing everyday had made him utter everyone's names..
A few months before, he was training me how to activate his bank details, to make online payment etc. He was always afraid about me and how I will survive without him.
I always kept assuring him not to worry about expenses or anything else and relax. He always told he was never bothered about money. He gave me assurance he would be around to celebrate our 40th anniversary on 26th May.
He had told me he had ordered an online dress for me for my birthday on 30th March.
Feel grateful to Lord Vaithyanathan whose ashtakam was rendered and played everyday since a friend told me it is powerful. Though the Lord did not prolong his life, he made sure that Venu did not suffer.
After taking me for a bride and entering his home, the cook was dismissed. I knew minimal cooking, my culinary speciality was making rotis having learnt from my neighbor who was a punjabi. She was very much impressed by my rotis.
Gradually, I learnt cooking and finally was declared a wonderful cook by friends and relatives.
Having spent most of my life in Kolkatta, my education, wedding and birth of son, we shifted to Chennai in 1986. Venu had resigned from Times in 1983 and joined a foreign company based in Indonesia with branches in Dubai and far eastern countries. He used to come to Chennai every month. My mother used to be me to take care of me and Pravin.
We shifted to Zaire in Central Africa and had a wonderful time for 8 months after which my son and I were packed off to Chennai.
Venu kept shuttling between Chennai, Dubai and africa.
One fine day he said a friend who owned a company had offered him a job as VP in his company. After a year or two he was transferred to Hyderabad where life was a roller coaster ride, making new friends and new experiences. Used to attend functions where popular Telugu stars used to come. It was partying all the way till the year 1994. Was in Hyd from 1991 to 1994.

Remember the train journey from Chennei to Hyd, where minister Kalyan Singh was in the next coach. Black cats sitting at the the window seats next to our seat were invariably going along with him weilding their guns when he went to toilet. Pravin used to be fascinated by their guns and allowed to go through it by the black cats.
Venu as usual quirked,' Happy I am not a minister'.
While in Hyd, venu was invited for the inagural run of cable cars in Gujurat, Gujjar Hills, Ambe Mata Temple.
While in Hyd, venu was invited for the inagural run of cable cars in Gujurat, Gujjar Hills, Ambe Mata Temple. The cable car he was travelling with 3 others literally came off the hook and it was a miraculous escape for everyone because the racing cable car came to a stop when it stopped because of a stationary cable. The people inside were asked to be very still with not even a slight movement to avoid the cable car from coming off the hook.and may crash down. After help arrived, one by one the people inside were brought down by pulley technique.
When press came to make a report, Venu immediately stopped them and said they were doing a trial run to see what would happen in a calamity. The owner of the company literally fell at Venu's feet for saving his company..
Once, while in office, ( I used to go with him to office once in a while and friendly with the staff), a youngster who was to get married in two months narrated the cable car ordeal (he was one of the occupents of the cable car), told me the only person who remained calm was Mr. Venugopal and he made sure the other 3 got down before he got down in the end. He also said it was difficult to come across a person like Venugopal..
In honor of Venu's act, he was invited to garland the then Gujarat CM, Kashbai Patel and I was asked to garlad Mrs. Patel. Such was the respect he got from anyone who was in contact with him.
Then it was transfer to Delhi from 1994 to 2000.
He had to attend many VIP meets and in one such meet thrown by a prestigious Newpaper owner, I too had the chance to go with him. The whole open ground was filled with black cats. I befriended the owner's wife as well as Mrs TN Sheshan, Ex election commissioner.
While sitting for lunch, the person sitting beside me was explaining how the rabdi was made when I said it was tasty. The person very patiently explained how it was made.
While leaving, I bid goodbye by patting Mrs Seshan on her back. Venu, when outside asked me if I was aware of what I had been going. He said the person sitting beside me was none other than the newspaper owner himself and I was behaving with Mrs Seshan as some long lost friend.
He used to the PRO for LN mitthal, the steel tycoon whom he used to meet whenever he was in Delhi and narrated a lot of interesting things.
He was also invited for Mr. Mitthals son's wedding in Kolkatta, the venue being The Victoria Memorial.
He could not go. The wedding invitation with a box of sweets was delivered to Venu at his office in Delhi. A beautiful meenekari box, yet to see its worth as it looks like it is silver. The sweet inside were shared with the staff and only the box brought home.
Venu had the charm to charm everyone, be it neighbors or their children. Our neighbor's children always used to be at our place.
Our immediate neighbor had come down from Mumbai to pay homage and said his wife was crying her lungs out.
From Delhi, it was Chennai again. He suffered a massive heart attack in 2006 July and had a bypass in 2006 August. He resigned his job and while seeking for one was offered a job in Mangalam Timbres, a Birla company as VP by a friend working there. He jokingly told everyone that he got the job at an age when people retire as the VP.. He was 58 at that time. As always, he endeared himself to one and all, his boss and colleagues. He was fit and fine till 10 years and I had a lot of wonderful moments with him. He and Pravin were more like friends and not father and son. He was called Babe by Pravin. Being in Kolkatta, father was baba, but Pravin changed it to babe.

He was a prankster.
While attending a colleague's wedding while in TOI, he had retorted that his bride was far better than his other girlfriend.
The next day, the colleague came rushing to Venu saying he was ruining his married life as his wife believed it and was furious with him. Then Venu had to go and pacify her saying it was said in a joke.

When I befriended the mami, our first floor neighbor in Kolkatta, she narrated their first meeting.
She was Hema and Venu told everyone he had Hemamalini as his neighbor. One fine day she told Venu that Hema was coming down to meet him. The way she narrated was hilarious. Venu was standing by the stairs and she told Venu he could see Hema malini in person. She was a stout and dusky lady and Venu was quite shocked.
Later she and her husband and sons became very friendly with us.
He had once told mami (fondly called) that even if anyone married a patti (dog), none should marry a pattar.
Mami fumed saying how dare he insult their caste when immediately Venu said, ' Mami marry a naya (dog in Malayalam) but never a nair which made mami burst out laughing.
The house we lived were Naxalite infected. Our neighbor too had been a naxalite.
Venu befriended all and was able to change a few advising them to continue their education.
Once a problem brought the whole slum at our doorstep.
Hearing of it, his naxal friends came with pipe guns shouting in Bengali who were the people planning to attack Venuda.
He endeared himself to one and all. His friendship with his neighbours in Chennai who were his school mates also is credible. The friend ship still carried on till the end. A 56+ years of friendship. He was more like a family member to his neighbors whose mother looked upon him as her son. A similar freindship lasted from Kolkatta days where he had another mom.
His nature was such that if if he was abused and kicked, he would go that place. He had no enemy. If anyone had critisized, it was because of their ignorance in knowing him.
His stature was such that friends and relatives from all around the globe called up to pay their last respect. A family friend's daughter who stayed with us while in Delhi used to call us her Delhi parents. She called up from UK and broke down saying she had lost a loving father.
His goodness gave us a loving and responsible son and a more loving and responsible daughter, our son's wife Meena. She gave us a wonderful extended family. Since she lost her father 10 years back, she looked upon Venu as her father affectionately calling him Daddy, scolding him, fighting and arguing with him. There was no need for him to have missed having a daughter.
Feel blessed to have shared a lot of rich experience and to be by his bedside when he breathed his last.
In fact Venu's family members with their extended families are our family also.
There was no restlessness, no suffering and he looked peaceful when he took his last breath.
Only beautiful memories remain and the last stage experience.
I am grateful to the almighty for giving me strength to face everything. As an astrologer said, it was an auspicious time to have departed and even no karmam (last rites) need to be done. He had gone straight to Kailash to entertain Lord Shiva. He attained
moksha.

Most importantly, he was a true Rotarian. Having joined Rotary in 1991 in Hyderabad, he became a Rotarian in 2004 and remained in Rotary till his end. Was the president of his club, 2012-13 and it was a wonderful year with PETS (President Elect Training Seminar) in Singapore.
The crowd that collected from all over as well as Rotary clubs to pay their homage was proof of him being a great Rotarian, service oriented and fun to be with. Children loved him. A very close Rotary associate had gone out of her way to visit temples, collect vibhuthi and bring it home for Venu.
His great grand niece, when she was around 4 used to introduce him to her friends as her best friend. His own grandson, his other grandson, meena's sis son fondly called Munchie were his great fans. For both, he was their most favorite daddy as they called him. Then it was chachacha for Amartya Pravin's son. He looks at his chachacha's photo and says chachacha has become ambati (God). If told, he will go and bow down in front of the lamp kept in front of his grandpa's photo. He is only 2 years and 3 months old. Such was his charishma.

Remember some MBA students coming home in Hyderabad to get Venu's advice.
Venu used to be among the panel of judges for interviewing IIM aspirants when in Delhi and the pay given was always given in charity especially to Saint Teresa Charitable Trust..

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