Dilip Uncle is no more…
Truth be told, his cerebral stroke had left little else to hope for…and the ventilators and second opinions were just delaying what looked inevitable. Ma just got off the phone from Nupur Aunty – it’s over now!
Let us not lament over what happened, rather look back at the happy times…of a king-size personality, who lived life to the fullest, and provided a lot of joy to those around him.
I called him Dilip Uncle not because we were related or anything…just the usual Delhi kid stuff of “Namaste Uncle” and “Hello Aunty”. Dilip Ganguly was with Associated Press from the time I got to know him in October 1987. At that time he was covering the Reliance World Cup in India, and his first gift to me was the Reliance Book of One-Day Cricket Records by Mohandas Menon. Years later, when I met Mohandas on my first live cricket Outdoor Broadcast in Sri Lanka, the master cricket statistician smiled when I reminded him of his earliest attempt at writing a book! Even back then, Dilip Uncle was a person to look upto – tall, gaunt, broad-shouldered, armed with a bushy moustache and an impish sense of humour! He also lived up the archetypal image of a media man…never too far away from a bottle of whiskey or a pack of cigarettes. His house was a great place to visit, not least because of Nupur Aunty’s affection and generosity of spirit…but the fancy books and curios all over the mantelpiece always caught my pre-teen eye. The next major event he was associated with was the Gulf War. Back then cable television was the rage, and that meant most of my friends and peers got to see images of missiles pounding unheard-of places in the Middle East. I only saw the excerpts on The World This Week…until Dilip Uncle returned home one evening – with a bagful of stories that had even the adults spellbound (so how could they spare a nine-year-old?). In years to come, some major sporting events happened in India (the Hero Cup in 1993, the Wills World Series a year later, and then the World Cup in 1996) – and I was always one of the first civilian recipients of an exhaustive Media Guide!
Towards the end of the century, he got transferred to Sri Lanka as Bureau Chief. His two sons – both senior to me by a fair distance – had established themselves in work and education, and so Nupur Aunty also went over to join them. In fact when I went to Colombo for the Asia Cup in 2004, they were the only people I could look up. Dilip Uncle looked a pale shadow of his former self (he’d had some heart trouble)…the moustache was gone…he’d given up smoking and his boozing was down to one drink per day. Where I’d probably once be served wild boar (hunted down by the man himself!) at this place, this time there was a light curry of some locally-procured fish. He was quite unhappy with his work (in no other profession would you find a person complaining about a unilateral ceasefire!) and spent most of his time at work twiddling his thumbs and counting the hours till he could go back home. I visited them a second time on that trip – taking along what I thought appropriate gifts. A multi-flavoured pack of tea bags for Aunty…and a curious cricket bat that doubled up as a wine bottle-holder for Uncle (the physics were such that the weight of the bottle would counterbalance that of the bat, giving it a sense of being suspended in mid-air!). I can still recall Dilip Uncle’s indulgent laughter and general amusement at this odd gift from a person who till this day disclaims any pretensions of being a good buyer!
I’m not sure how many times we’ve met since…but while my career graph has been going up in recent years, so I assume did the pride with which Dilip Uncle saw me. In fact, he was a ready counsel whenever I had something to ask him journalism-related (perhaps a kind of payback for all the times when I’d be perplexed to find him calling me up to ask me what I thought India’s starting eleven for a particular match would be) and a constant source of encouragement. It’s a shame that I would not have that luxury of looking him up for what he thought any longer…
Nevertheless, thanks for the memories Uncle…hope you find the right drinking buddies in the blue yonder. Cheers!
Post by Debayan Sen