Warning: This has been as part of a writing theme.
The widely respected sports writer G. Rajaraman died in his sleep in the early hours of March 7, 2033, three days short of his 72nd birthday, realising his fond wish of not putting his near and ones through pain and trauma. Sudha, his wife of 43 years said that he was not ailing and that death was as sudden as he had been wishing for in his prayers. The funeral, held later in the day, was a solemn affair with some of India’s best sportspersons in attendance. Needless to say, his insightful writing will be missed but he had done much to ensure that a whole generation of sports writers would not lose focus of their primary task of observing and analysing Indian sport.
As one with experience as a print journalist, a web writer and a guest analyst on radio and television, he was considered an authority on a variety of Indian sport. He was among the consultants for Earth Communications when it conceptualised and launched interactive multimedia systems in India, allowing viewers to choose TV camera angles through internet and telephony. His biggest contribution was in provoking India to become a sports conscious nation.
It was, however, as a sensitive writer that he really made his mark. He was one of the earliest newspaper journalists who risked venturing into world of internet writing and was considered an authority on the subject of convergence. He always stood up for what be believed was right and was never afraid to speak his heart out. As his friends – and even those who did not agree with him – will vouch, he pursued logic in his arguments and was quite fierce in expressing himself.
As someone who had played basketball in his youth – and he kept talking fondly of his days at the YMCA in Hyderabad – he learnt to emapthise with sportspersons and was rarely ever critical of their failures. Instead, he celebrated their successes with unbridled, and in his own words, a rather shameless, joy. As a relentless campaigner for clean sport, he was heartbroken everytime an Indian sportsperson failed the stringent dope tests around the world.
He did not study either sociology or psychology formally but showed a great penchant to bring both streams into his writing. When discussing sporting excellence, for example, he would always talk of how the key difference between champions and also-rans was in their minds. He constantly goaded sportspersons to getting stronger mentally and played a helping hand in 15 of the 64 Olympic Games medals that India picked up between 2020 and 2032.
At the turn of the century, when Indian cricket was rocked by the betting and bribery scandal, he wrote a book called Match-fixing: The Enemy Within, fixing the blame on cricket administrators across the world – from Australia to India, from England to Pakistan, South Africa to Sharjah. They promptly marked him down as one to be dealt with caution. But that did not deter him from saying things as they were. The book did not do well in the market but the experience gave him the confidence to write more.
“Life is but a bundle of experience – first hand and acquired by reading, observing and listening,” Rajaraman used to say. And he drew on all such experience to create his most defining work, Stolen Moments. He will be recognised for demystifying relationships by using the example of an athlete and her coach as the protagonists of the book that critics of the time called ‘faction’ since it was a combination of fact and fiction. Coming at a critical time in Indian history when relationships were breaking with alarming frequency, he got people to understand how a relationship needed to evolve just as individuals did.
His other memorable literary work included a trans-continental effort with co-author Pragya Mishra-Thakur who he met on an online business networking platform called Ryze. From his perch in New Delhi and her in New York, they scripted a book that studied the cultural melting pots that India and the United States were – India was a bold tapestry of many homegrown cultures with the US was a collage of international cultures. The book did really well in both markets.
From a personal point of view, Rajaraman was a warm and caring human. He never forgot his roots and kept recalling how his parents had given and his brothers the chance to find their own calling. He would often joke how the Maker crossed some wires and made his younger brother, who actually wanted to be a sports writer, an engineer. Rajaraman himself never regretted not actualising his childhood dreams of either becoming a steam locomotive driver or a mechanical engineer.
Rajaraman often spent time with the young, sharing his learnings from his profession and life at large. For, he imbibed his grandfather’s belief that knowledge was of no use if it was not shared. He ensured that his daughter Priya and her children would continue to keep the belief alive. He drew great satisfaction from the fact that flame of the hand-me-down school of life will be burning bright.
His family said that even on the evening before he passed away, Rajaraman had kept the children of the neighbourhood engaged with his story-telling skills. And many of those children were at hand to bid their favourite Raj-uncle a final farewell. When the pall-bearers carried his mortal remains away from his home in Delhi, the most popular sentiment being expressed was that Rajaraman was a good, helpful man who had no malice to anyone.