Gautham and I went way back. It was probably in our 5th or 6th lass at St Gabriel's High School in Kazipet that we first met circa 1975. He was as he always remained later - earnest, simple and full of energy and ideas. Then I moved to Hyderabad in 1977 perhaps and joined All Saints, and so did he. We lost touch during our Intermediate years when he went to Little Flower Junior College along with our mutual friend Choudary. He was academically oriented, his father being a Chemistry Professor at Nizam College, and so was Choudary. I veered off into cricket meanwhile. I remember however that Gautham loved playing cricket and other sports - for a brief while he and Choudary went to the Asif Tennis Club at Nampally to play the elite sport while we normal mortals played cricket!
Choudary tells me yesterday a secret that he never shared with anyone - that he and Gautham were fortunately placed next to one another in the EAMCET exam and they helped each other - Gautham was strong in Chemistry and Choudary in Math so they helped one another with a few questions which Choudary feels made a dfference! Anyway we all landed up at the Osmania campus - me and Choudary in Civil, while Gautham joined Chemical Engineering - in 1984. His classmates were Ramaraju, who was also my classmate at St Alphonso Junior College and Nagesh Kukunoor who needs no intros (maybe even Satish Reddy of Reddy Labs). Gautham was keen as ever on his cricket and I remember he would play with all seriousness in the Osmania B team. I was by then playing first class cricket and he was always genuinely happy to see my progress - it would show in his eyes, his smile. Whenever we met he would meet with the same affection 'Enti ra Hari?' he would ask, with that familiarity that only a few assume and which is so nice to hear when it comes tinged with genuine affection. He would tell me about the politics in his team and laugh it off - he always had this ability to laugh off stuff in the end and move on philosophically - whether the issues are made of his own imagination or not. But move on, was his credo in life and he continued to do that cheerfully, his big toothy smile, the unmistakable glint in his eyes.
But before this Engineering saga was a period when he would meet Choudary and Vardha and the academic types and it was in that period that he would visit us at home. Here's an incident I will always remember in my life. After Intermediate in 1984, I lost my father suddenly due to a road accident. Being an 18 year old I was coping with the suddenness when Gautham came with the others to visit me. And then true to his self, Gautham sat on the bed and started crying, emotional that he was, not knowing how to help me or make me feel better. In the end I ended up consoling him. But then that was Gautham, all soul and emotion.
Post our college days we would bump into each other here and there - he being in Vengal Rao Nagar close to my house created many such opportunities. He worked in Bakelite Hylam and as usual racked up many stories there with his bosses and colleagues. He went into some gifting business at one stage which he told me about. Another thing he told me was how his tenant gave him a short lift from home and they had an accident and that guy died - Gautham held that bleeding body and endured a traumatic incident pretty early in life. I remember that incident vaguely and how honestly Gautham spoke about his state of mind. But then he put that incident behind him and as always, looked on positively at life and went ahead bashing on with great optimism and confidence. Now that was never short in him - confidence.
A few years further on and he and Ramaraju started Gap Miners and they both trusted me enough to train and coach their staff. We all met with great hopes and dreams in a coffee shop when they began their venture. I would meet them both very often in their office and we'd share our thoughts on many things. Gautham was the Marketing Director and he ran the marketing effort in his own way - getting his team together, taking them out for bonding sessions (which included a bit of a drink), travelling and all that. And then he and Ramaraju fell apart and he left. We met many times after that where we spoke of having sessions together with me coaching him but that never happened.
One other time he called me when he was working with some other company and got me a content delivery job - one which was quite a big task. I managed a team of three - Miskil and Malay being part of it and we would give all sorts of content every week. Malay and Miskil were still studying then so they probably could use the extra pocket money. Gautham that way, would always keep an eye out for me, knowing that I was on an unconventional path with my writing. Of course he would read my books and give ma lot of feedback - all positive and in the same affectionate tone.
When Ashu, his son (daughter Arpitha was older) was about 10 or so (he must be 22 now I am guessing), Gautham brought him and another cousin to ML Jaisimha Cricket Academy for coaching under Baig sir. Ashu was a diligent and hard working student, polite and well mannered, and it was a pleasure to coach him. Gautham would it restlessly, smoke, come back and quietly coach Ashu from behind the nets (you could not keep him quiet). He made a lot of marketing plans for the academy and said we will do it in a certain way to make it profitable and a big brand. Of course he met Vidyuth and shared his vision with him too. One other time he had some other big plan for something to do with cricket and the HCA and he asked me for some help - I cannot remember what - but I don't think that went through either. Once he took me home and told me he was into arranging loans.
When Anjali was born he was very happy. I think he was very affectionate towards children that way. He had a nice relationship with Shobha on some insurance matters I think, but what I can never forget was that every time I met him after Anjali was born he would stop everything and say - 'Arrey, first cheppu, Anjali ela undi ra?' (Tell me how Anjali is) And he would listen with a lot of love and amusement when I told him what she was up to. That was the biggest point of our conversation ever since. He would advise me how to handle her - gently and lovingly and would seem wonder struck. Of course he would tell me in return about Arpitha and Ashu and what they were up to.
Then, a decade ago or less perhaps, he suffered a heart attack and we visited him in hospital, our faces ashen. He was cheerful as usual and told us all we needed to know about heart attacks - Gautham always had a firm opinion on everything that nothing could shake. He said he was taking care of his health, drinking less, smoking less. He would call me every now and then late at night and I could sense he had a couple of drinks. He became friends with my old mate from St Alphonso's -Srinivas Reddy and in typical style would give him the phone without introducing him to me.
For Gautham the whole world was school friends or old buddies and he had no distinction among them - everyone was his close friend and he would talk to them like that. He also expected them to be like that with him.
Six months ago I got a call from Vardha saying Gautham had kidney issues and was on dialysis. I called Gautham and asked and he told me all the details as always. I told him I will take him to my Nephrologist Dr Krishnan for a second opinion and he said he would come. The appointment was at 11 and we were to meet at 10 - he came home at 11. Typical of Gautham - smiling as usual and with a very valid story. I had offered to pick him up at home but even in his weakened state he said he would drive and come. He had slowed down physically but I saw no fear, no backward step in his psyche. We went to the doctor and Gautham listened a little and made the doctor listen to a lot of his own stuff. I told him we could go again if he wanted to and he said he would like to meet Dr Krishna with Vinoothna, his wife.
That was the last I met Gautham. Yesterday I got a call from Ramaraju saying that Gautham had moved on. We went to his house, me, Ram and Vijay. As he lay down, he looked his old cheery self, self introspective and thinking of something to do next perhaps. Still, peaceful and quiet. Been a long partnership and a most interesting journey Gautham my friend and this is where we part - I'll always remember the affection in your voice and your eyes, your almost naive ways at dealing with the world, your love for your family, for your children, your love for Anjali, for people and for life. All who know you, like Rags for example, will agree when I say - with Gautham, you can like him or dislike him, but you can never ignore him. That said, even the people he had differences with could, not dislike him - he was such a soul, simple, in a complicated way. But wherever he is, Gautham will be up to something, making the most of it.
Have a good time Gau. And cheers! I know you would never want a sad face around you.
Here are some thoughts from his friends from college - College of Chemical Technology, Osmania University. I'll keep adding pictures and thoughts as I get them.
He treated me like his younger brother during our Coltech days. He hosted me in his hostel in Mumbai (and then Anil while working in BARC did too) while I was searching for my job. And I got my first job because of him.
I got my first offer from the Peroxides Division of Chemplast Sanmar in Cuddalore, TN. Some IIT guy there was a GM. He had asked me some tough questions in the interview. On most of them, I did not have much clue. But he gave me a good offer in the end. He gave me a week to let them know about the acceptance of the offer. Actually, I was elated with the offer I got.
After I came back to Hyderabad, he was attending an interview in Bakelite Hylam. And that time it is one of the best companies to work for in Hyderabad. He asked me to accompany him. Which I did. After he did his interview, not sure what made him tell the GM - HR, he told him about me and asked whether he would be interested to talk to me as well.
Since I already had an offer in hand, my approach to the interview was totally different. He spoke to me and directed me to go to the factory and meet GM there. I went there the next day. And the GM happened to be the classmate of the person who had interviewed me in Cuddalore. He told me you are not joining there and you are joining me and he will tell his classmate about it. I did accept the offer as I can stay in Hyderabad.
That is how he played a role in shaping my career.
Venkat - Engineering Classmate
When I went to Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1989 for a written test for MBA, he received me and took me by local train (first time entering the Bombay local train). I had a small suitcase and when I was dragged in the train (it happens that way) in 2-3 minutes my four limbs were in different directions (jam packed train) and I was shocked by the way people travel. Gautham took my suitcase and helped me calm down and placed me in a corner and asked me stay put. Even today when I remember that day I can’t believe that it really happened. Without Gautham I would have lost my patience and would not have taken the test. So, without him maybe my career would have taken a different turn.
Also, when we were on our first job, Me, Rama Raju and Gautham used to meet on weekends and we used to party and fight over the payment (since all of us were earning and spending was less – all of us were eager to pay) – lot of meetings and memories that way. Even we had been to vacations with families when the children were small. Lot of memories were rolling when I went to Gautham’s house today. At some point I felt he let go the family and himself from the pain they were all going through. But at the same time, it was too early to leave us. Hope he finds peace wherever he is. During and after college days there was no dearth of strategies on his sleeve at any given point of time even though we liked it or not he had the enthusiasm to put it forward.
Anil - Engineering Classmate
Gautham was a live wire. During college I knew him as a highly energetic sportsman. In only one cricket match I played, he was the captain or the proxy captain, I only got a chance to field. He made fun of my fielding style by imitating me.. after college and back from US we had a small group in Hyd and we all got close...we even had many a booze parties with my school friends in my house...Gautham was very friendly and caring during that period till the end...during my marriage he made sure there was all arrangement for booze during baraat and after... He wouldn't let the baraat pass and held it for 1.5 hr, while people danced under the influence of booze, and delayed the proceedings. In the recent times, he helped me with all the information for my son's college admission process. During my wife's cancer treatment, when I put a message for info regarding certain medicine, he personally went to a dozen shops and got me vital information on the medicine availability...that was really nice of him...He was very proud of his children's achievements...he had the memory of an elephant...overall he was a great character...rest in peace Gautham
Vidya - Engineering Classmate
Gautham is probably one of the most UNiQUE characters any one can come across, I think. His enthusiasm for Life, his eagerness to help any body, his wealth of Knowledge about people and/or situations of life past and present, his interests in politics, his eagerness to strategize about anything is second to none.
The proud way he talks about his kids and wife is most precious.
God knows we all have weaknesses but he let his vices get the better of him. He let some of his demons overcome him.
God bless his soul. He was good man at Heart.
Satish - Engineering Classmate
Well said. Gautham was certainly one of kind. The thing that sticks out for me about him is he knows people, from the local municipality to the PM office or even outside the country. Always amazed me his reach.
Back in the time us too got caught up in the real estate euphoria and bought bunch of properties. I was completely lost with information overload so I turned to the man who knew everything. Gautham and I spent a lot time together running from place to place lookin g at lands in tiny cars in bumpy roads. Gautham was all the way holding my hand as I was trying to make a decision. Good times we had drinking beer and eating junk food at roadside cafes along the way!!