On Tuesday, February 14, my dear Uncle Gopal passed away. My uncle was was SVR, Srirangam Venkatachary Rajagopal, a corporate leader, the darling in my mother’s family, known to all as the very jolly, deeply generous man who got things done efficiently, thoroughly, and with panache. He was my Gopalmama, who had known me all my life since birth, the one relative I saw more of than anyone in all my years in America. He was the one who snuck a photograph of a film actress from the screen, the one who gave me my first camera and though it was meant for my brother, my first set of toy cars, the one who traveled to Japan, the one who married my beautiful aunt, who fathered my two wonderful cousins, who quit smoking because my mother finally stepped in and sent a newspaper clipping that my aunt still has, who befriended my father, and adored us all.
He was beloved. When he was young, my uncle, and for one year, my mother, went to the Annie Besant Arundale School at Kalakshetra, a visionary school in which the arts were incorporated into the curriculum. There are so many stories about my uncle, about his cheek and bravado, his bravery and generosity. He regularly funded my mother when as a child she made a habbit of treating all her friends at the Basant School canteen; he brought us home singing in the middle of the night after a movie.
When I did a year of studies at Stella Maris College, studying Fine Arts, in Madras, my mother and I lived in his home for a year. My grandmother lived there, too, and the house on Venus Colony was a sanctuary. He found a guitar teacher for me, and later, since I was studying calligraphy at the college, gave me a tiny box filled with his own ink nibs from his engineering design days. I was thrilled, and I still treasure them.
I don’t know how to write about my uncle except to say I loved him. He is more than these sentences. My heart goes out to Jayamami, Subashree, and Shreyas, and their families. My heart goes out to my mother who has lost her brother so soon after my father’s passing. She is the one who remains, the youngest of four devoted siblings. Too many deaths. It is the way of the world, to live and leave it, but it does not make any of it easier. To my Gopalmama, who taught us laughter and fortitude, and the enjoyment of life.