Prakash made his presence felt. Whether it was in a classroom, on a cricket field, on a quiz stage, at a reunion with friends, or really just anywhere. He had that presence. A booming voice, sparkling wit, and an infectious laugh.
My earliest memories of Prakash are from Sophia’s. He stood out with his mop of curly hair. He was not known for his cricketing prowess then (there was no cricket in Sophia’s in primary school) but I remember that when requested by the PT teacher, he would sing the Carpenters’ version of “Top of the World” in class. His self-confidence and his ability to draw people to him were evident even then.
When we moved to St Joseph’s in 1978, there was a fairly large contingent from Sophia’s and a larger one from St Anthony’s. It is fair to say that Prakash was the most popular and best-known student from Sophia’s in this mix.
We were in different sections initially but we stayed in touch when we ran into each other on the playground. His exploits on the cricket field would make the rounds. I got to know him better when our shared interest in trivia found us on the same quiz team. Prakash, Krishnan, and I formed our school’s “B” quiz team.
While we were always second best to our “A” team (Ben, Pai, and Ashok), we had fun. We did not prepare for quizzes as some of the other schools did. We missed some of the common questions that were found in the Bournvita quiz books or the Limca book of records. We, however, got the odd ones right. The audio rounds were our specialty. Krishnan had Carnatic music covered. Prakash was great with Pop and Rock and Roll and I held the fort when it came to old Hindi film songs. We consistently ranked second in the state during the years that we competed.
There are a few incidents involving Prakash that stand out in my mind. The hockey house game in 7th grade when Prakash was defending as a full back for St George’s. A cracking shot from one of the St Patrick’s forwards came at the right height and Prakash executed a fantastic cover drive. He held the pose in his follow-through. As far as the defense was concerned, it had achieved its objective and as a cricketing shot it was par excellence but coach MacBride was unimpressed. He gave him a withering look and shook his head.
Next was the quiz competition in Sophia’s in 1984. One of the quiz masters had just competed on Quiz Time (telecast on prime time by Doordarshan) and was quite full of himself. When it was our direct question, he asked us “What is the meaning of Faux Pas” or at least that’s what he meant to ask us. He ended up asking “What is the meaning of Fox Pass?” Pat came Prakash’s reply “You just committed one!”
Then there were the sixes that sailed in through the arches and crashed into the wall next to the school chapel in the “Old Boys vs Students” game during the OBA day, just after we had graduated from High School. His batting was good enough to earn him a cap for the Under 19 State team.
There was a period of time in the mid-eighties when I would cycle over to his house in RT Nagar with a couple of blank TDKs or Meltrack cassettes and Prakash would record songs for me on his twin cassette deck. He also introduced me to a few music groups that I listened to for the first time at his house.
I lost touch with Prakash after I moved to Mysore and then to the US. We were reacquainted years later when we set up our class mailing group and it was good to see that his sense of humor had not diminished over the years. He was still the same Prakash, generous to a fault and now immensely proud of his family.
I got to collaborate with him on the video that I compiled for the 2015 reunion in Goa. He was busy at work and he asked me to write a script for him so he could do the voice-over. I sent him a draft, it was fairly formal and we went back and forth exchanging ideas to improve it. I didn’t hear from him for a few days and I was getting a little antsy since we were running short on time. And then one morning, I received an email from him with a recording of his portion of the voice-over. He had spoken extempore and it was brilliant! The video when screened at the reunion was a resounding success and as the picture of Fr Shenoy, our principal, appeared on the screen with Prakash’s rich baritone in the background, there were a few moist eyes in the audience.
I stayed in touch with Prakash over the years, on WhatsApp mainly but also through occasional phone calls. He was thrilled when I sent him a newspaper clipping from Deccan Herald covering a century he had scored for the UVCE cricket team in the late 1980s. My dad, recognizing his name had saved the clipping and given it to me on one of my trips home.
When I visited Bangalore in 2018, Prakash said he was not keeping well and would not be able to meet me. A few of us were meeting for lunch and he surprised me by dropping in for a little while. He was a little gaunt but his sense of humor and his wicked wit had not diminished a wee bit. Over the last year, Prakash went silent for spells of time but these were punctuated by occasional flashes of his wit. His observations on life as articulated in his “Pillaisophy” posts on Facebook were incisive and humorous.
His passing was a shock but regrettably, there was also a sense of inevitability. An Aristotelian hero, noble but ultimately undone by his own flaws. Prakash had that kind of personality that drew people to him. He had the ability to make people laugh. His repartees and puns are legendary. And with his passing, he makes his absence felt.
Rest in peace, Prakash. Your stay at the crease was relatively short but your innings promised so much leaving us to wonder what could have been. But knowing you, somewhere out there you will chuckle and remind me of one of your Pillaisophical gems “Unfortunately, between our Arrival & Departure, we forget to enjoy the Journey!” I hope you enjoyed your journey. And true to your name*, your wit and generous nature brightened the journey of several others who knew you.
I penned these thoughts a day or so after Prakash passed away on April 19, 2021. Prakash touched many lives and I thought I would polish this appreciation and share it on the first anniversary of his untimely demise. The featured picture is from Prakash’s Facebook wall.
*Prakash is the Sanskrit word for “light”