“Next week ‘pakka’ will arrange your meeting with Saab (KPS Gill)”, affirmed ever-reliable Mukund Pandeyji from residence of KPS Gill, 11 Talkatora Road on May 24th.
Gill Saab was in ICU and was certain to fight back with the dreaded infection and fast deteriorating health. He was like a superman in our family folklore. A cult hero. Remedy to all society problems and insurgency buster. “After all he fought with terrorists without ever keeping a gun”, as my father would often boast at family gatherings.
Gill Saab was clearly my late father’s hero. The only hero he ever had. If there was ever a KPS Gill fan club my father was sure to be unanimously elected as General Secretary of it, we often trolled winking at each other at Sunday family brunches.
My First Interaction with Hockey Chief
My first interaction with Gill Saab was during India’s first sports league, Premiere Hockey League in mid 2000 for a sports company. As a sports management professional, I would often try to influx Hockey Federation with ideas, plans and international sports theories. Like a ‘lion of the pride’, Gill Saab would engage in the discussion only when he wanted to pass the final judgment and cease any further discussion. Creating an atmosphere of ‘being heard’ in the meeting we felt happy in the company of most fearsome man to don the Khakhi uniform. As the meeting thinned, and officials moved out of the spacious hall, Gill Saab at times would quip selective couplets of Mir, Zauq, Ghalib and Iqbal. Once he was reciting, Ghalib, I completed his verse like an overzealous child, he ignored, but took notice. My first “Oops” moment with the SuperCop, I sheepishly felt clumsy.
Snazzy School Hockey Event
My Old Delhi lineage and stories blended with first-hand experience to ‘mushaiyras’ came to my rescue. Surprisingly, he let doors open and started encouraging my interpretation of couplets. He would end up reciting the entire Ghazal and take pains to explain me the meaning. A strange bond developed. My requests for meetings were instantly granted. So Ghalib became my passport and Urdu, my visa to reach the President of Indian Hockey Federation, Mr KPS Gill.
Soon my visits frequented at 11 Talkatora Road and now Saab started paying more attention to my sports ideas. My first win. He allowed me to create India’s first shorter boundary, coloured clothing with snazzy headgear – ‘6-A-Side’ school Hockey Championship for public schools back in the year 2007. He was so kind that he gifted 150 hockey sticks to the participating students and invited star Goalkeeper Adrian DeSouza to motivate kids. His biggest relief was that the school championship was sponsored by a Book Store and not any Cola company.
Happiness is when Harivansh Rai Bachchans ‘MadhuShala’ is in Urdu
I observed him as a voracious reader, with his magnifying glass he would read anything that would fancy his imagination. It was an unwritten pact that he would always be present as chief guest in my book launches or sports exhibitions.
By now, I had well earned his trust and gained confidence of his security ring and huge dogs. Soon I started presenting him Urdu books. Some new and few rare from the collection of my father’s library. On one of my visit, while un-wrapping the gifted books, he commented, “So you’ve got Bachchan Saab for me”, with a mischievous tone.
An expression full of surprise that I had never encountered. I mistook it as a ‘taunt’ or ‘sledge’ for something that would upset an intellectual like him. Without waiting for an answer from me, he quickly ordered tea and caressed his new book with a hidden liking for the rare one.
Bell rings on mobile, as a policy he would answer all his mobile calls, personally. Sensing a personal one I quickly stepped aside to let the privacy sustain but surprisingly what my ears overhead was his exciting voice that shared the fondness of his new addition of iconic collection of “MadhuShala’ by Harivansh Rai to the other caller, whom I barely know but could connect through the chords of Gill Saab. Phew, that day I felt like a superman, to the Super cop. Thank you dad & Thank you Bachchan Saab. I said my silent prayers with a glee.
While his favourite collection of books bespoke his personality, Taj Ambassador Hotel remained personal favorite for his taste buds. By contrast he always had his evening tea in the simplest & most inexpensive tall tea glass “It keeps tea warmer, longer” was his reasoning.
Understood Sons Dilemma & Payback time
At the darker side of the day, a tragedy occurred when my father suffered from brain hemorrhage, memory slightly lapsed & speech slurred. The stubbornness to resist from medications submerged me into unending sea of worries. Standing helpless to dive out of the situation and make everything good, back again, I called Gill Saab and explained the helpless condition of a son fighting stubbornness of elderly. I requested time for my father, hoping some advice from my father’s hero would help me. Next day I reach Talkatora Road at sharp five with my brother and ailing father. Like a hero, Gill Saabs majestic aura brought that light for me that released my pains. This time witnessing different side of Gill Saab, his Shayrana andaz came as a blessing to me and my father who was meeting his star in flesh. For next ninety minutes the environment draped into ‘Mushairas’ and boisterous ‘Punjabiyat’ with throttle exchanges of my father and Gill Saab. My father, engaged in his company couldn’t realise the magical persona of the DGP but was deeply caught by his strange and humorous interpretation of legendary couplets. The drawing room turned into a college canteen with raptures engulfed. A free flowing unscripted ‘Muashaiyra’. But it was all too planned by master strategist. He wanted my father to be at ease and then bargain. At the end of meeting the Super Cop in Gill Saab emerged. He politely yet firmly ordered my father to be punctual with medicines to which my father, now a disciple of Gill Saab’s ‘Mushaira’ happily obliged till his last day. Much to the relief of my brother who looked after him singlehandedly as I continue to chase my professional deadlines. This entire stage of emotional spirits taking over the soul and mind into roads of practicalities engulfed my mind creating a new space of respect and gratefulness towards Gill Saab.
Today, I witness the other dawn in my route to enlightenment as I stand on the crossroad with a sense of personal loss. Today, the man who ceased terrorism in the world is no more. The man who made me realise the importance of literature and finer things in life, is gone. I will miss him. May be cry silently in office pantry as I attempt to chronicle 15 years of association in few words. Tonight is going to be a tough night as I will miss an honourable and kinder soul that very few knew.
But my matured sense of human nature is happy to understand the meeting of two Urdu connoisseurs in heaven. My father will resume his discussion with Gill Saab. Meanwhile Ghalib and Zauk would be initially bemused to find a newer entrant, a Super Cop in their ‘Mushiayara’
Finally, my phone call on May 24th, and Pandeyjis promise to me two days ago will remain unfulfilled till perpetuity.
Go well. Gill Saab.
First Published | 26 May 2017 11:16 PM