Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lunch With Anjan

Anjan, as we call our old friend Anjaneyulu, invited me for a much-looked -forward-to lunch yesterday. It is one place where one gets to meet so many people one wants to meet - several of them your own friends that you want to meet, but don't get to meet because you are too busy. (These days we are all too busy to even meet ourselves.) There are all kinds of people - from old college chums from the Engineering college, businessmen, lawyers, writers, directors, heads of companies and so on. It is a mixed group but one that is chosen well.

Anjan and I went to the Osmania College of Engineering at the same time - 1984-88. He did his Electronics or ECE as they called it and was a complete nerd, a jholawala, with his bag, a kurta, an intellectual if there was one, as he busily went about attending several cultural and literary festivals in the town and country. He was a brain no doubt and that in itself put him in a league that we did not belong. We, the guys from Civil Engineering, were then at the bottom of the pecking order and were normally not considered elite in any sense. To top it all, me and my group of friends were notorious for our inclinations to spend more time at sports grounds, for all things unacademic, for hanging out at the canteen when we should have been in classrooms and you can see how far removed our worlds were. Anjan was also famously known as 'Engine Oil' then - I know not for what reason, but I know he brought many accolades for the college by participating in and organising cultural and literary competitions in a big way.

Though our interactions during college days were civil and polite, I remember, there were not many, owing to our completely different proclivities. He was someone who, we all assumed, would join the research teams of some big IT major or NASA or something and end up with a nice, cushy job abroad, who'd come back with his millions someday and start a Chair in some elite college or something. I lost touch with everyone after college and only occasionally heard about what others were up to. Sometime I heard that Anjan was one of those who had cleared the Civil Services and joined the IPS. Soon after we heard of the good work he did in the badlands of Rayalaseema, putting down and controlling crime with a tough hand. Since I heard much from completely unbiased sources, I knew that though he seemed to be following a course that might offend a few, he was doing something that would make a difference. Many officers would occupy their chair, do nothing, preserve themselves and come away, doing nothing to improve the situation. But Anjan, they said, would do something, even if it meant going out of the way, even if it meant putting himself in the line of the fire, and do something at the risk of being brought down. There was a big reputation now, of a tough officer, to this gentle, soft and almost painfully diffident ECE student that I knew.

When I first launched my book 'The Men Within', four years ago, I had decided to call almost all the people I knew since it was a big thing for me. VK, or VP (Vijay Kumar, or Vice Prez,, the fun loving promoter of Indus School, who was also in ECE and was the most famous face of ECE in those days) told me that Anjan was posted in Hyderabad and I could invite him as well. I called him and he picked up the phone almost instantly with a "Seetharamanjaneyulu here". He placed me almost instantly despite the two decade gap, was happy to know that I had written and published a book, said he would try and make it for the launch. But it was short notice and he could not make it and that was that. Or so I thought.

Anjan made it a point to read the book. He got it from one of the bookstores. He then called me up and congratulated me on writing it. He called me over to his office and we discussed the book over lunch. Now, discussing my books is my favourite pastime and to do so with someone who read it thoroughly was fascinating. More so in the Police Office. Anjan took me across and introduced me to his superior who he said, had also read the book and enjoyed it, being a former cricketer himself. We had a fine time and I left after a nice lunch. And so we got back in touch and have remained so since.

What pleased me most was the effort he took in getting a copy and reading it critically and taking the trouble to let me know that he appreciated a good job. Now, I know a lot of my friends who are cricketers who have not read the book till date, many others who have and liked it but never told me that they appreciated it. It makes things a lot different when someone reacts because after all all creative work is to elicit a reaction - favourable or unfavourable. And this is where Anjan is brilliant to me because he participates in the process - when he, like so many of his peers and stature, need not.

He saw 'Ashta Chamma' and once again invited Ram the producer, Mohan the Director and Suresh along with me for another fine lunch at his office. Once again with a fine critique of the movie, the process, the business and mostly much needed appreciation. This indicates the way he is - he will go out of the way if he feels the cause is justified. He does not wait for public or popular approval. He kept track of what we were doing and once a year, invited us to a get together of many friends. I never know that he was such a social guy but his networking and his desire to know and meet different people was phenomenal.But in all those melees he keeps his literary and cultural side to him alive by watching movies and reading books in spite of his busy schedule.

For the launch of my second book 'If You Love Someone...' last year he promised to come and he did, well in time, and stayed almost the entire duration of the function. One of my friends who does road contracts came to that function and asked who he was. I told him. He asked me if Anjan had served in Kurnool. I said yes. And then he told me how Anjan had helped them out when they were being troubled by some extortionists. After the issue was settled the company asked Anjan what they could do. "He only asked us to help out in the construction of some police constables house construction work if we could,' said my friend who is a forthright chap himself. "We gladly gave them bags of cement. He never asked anything for himself." I remembered Anjan showing me an sms in one of our meetings - "people will ask favors of you only as long as you are in a position to do favours for them." He believed in helping out to the extent he could - and that was something I could sense. I never asked him any favour but I hear from others that  he is someone who goes out of his way to help. Obviously he would, as someone who believes in that sms. I personally prefer someone like that who does not mind taking that bit of a risk, to explore to someone who sits pretty and does nothing. Plenty of them about as well. I don't think it helps anyone.It is important, I feel, to participate.

"I will write a book," he told me yesterday. "Not fiction though. Not autobiographical also. Something that would interest anyone but more so, students of Political Science." I found the gist interesting. I always found it funny that here I am writing books and our gentle cultural secretary was the tough cop. But I am glad he decided to write the book he means to because I am sure that it is a process that he will enjoy immensely. It is a side to him that he will enjoy revisiting. I can visualise the jholawala intellectual, sitting by himself at the canteen, poring over his manuscript. Looking forward to read that book of yours Anjan, and to many more meetings on our little successes - which we must celebrate with equal fervour as our failures. Because if there is one thing I have learnt, it is that there is no shame in a failure when the effort behind it was wholesome and honest.


Sleep-Walker said...

A heart-warming account. Especially, for those who have known him from days long ago. Thanks Harimohan!

He was briefly my classmate at HCU, studying a semester of Sociology, but he did give us all some memorable moments. Including, some merry forecasts for anyone who offered to show their palms to him :)

I was pleasantly surprised to hear he became a cop, and then delighted to hear that he came to be known as a tough, upright cop. During the 17 plus years I have been in journalism, I have come across few such approachable police officers. And was tickled to hear many lively anecdotes about him from various sources.

Anjaneyulu is a man to be reckoned any field he chooses to dabble in. He is a man worth knowing, remembering and staying in touch with.

Our best wishes are always with him.

Harimohan said...

Oh I forgot that bit about palm reading. Now I remember! But yes, sleepwalker, agree totally with you.

Unknown said...

Very nicely written. I met Anjaneyulu on quite a few occassions when he was pursuing his BE. We were all in the quizzing scene, and he was very active at the K Circle at YMCA Secunderabad. I'm sure he still retains the elephantine memory. I recall that his left thumb used to be angled, and my grand father once mentioned that it is a sign of an honest and upright man!! I completed my CA and left India but my sister who lives in Vijayawada does tell me that PSR was one officer who was always accessible. We need guys like him.. My very best wishes to you Anjaneyulu..

Srinivasa Sastry J

Harimohan said...

Thanks for writing Srinivas. I am sure Anjan would recollect his association with you fondly. Will pass on your wishes to him.