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Saturday, January 5, 2013


Prasad died.

He left on his final journey on Vruschikam1, just when the Shabarimala pilgrims had started on their annual trek. Not that the time of the year would have  really mattered to him. .Prasad was not a very religious person; at least he was not an ostentatiously, demonstratively  religious person. He may not have particularly cared whether the sun had started on its northern travel or not. But certainly he would have been happy to spend some more time here on familiar terra firma.

Death has been  stalking him for some years. It finaly got close enough to reach forward and tap him on the shoulder. The ultimate cause of death as pronounced by the doctors was complications from  pulmonary fibrosis. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis to give it's full name.. Idiopathic means 'arising spontaneously or from an obscure or unknown cause". Or it could mean that   the' allopath' has no idea what could be the reason for it.

For all one knows, it could have been an iatrogenic disease  He had undergone kidney transplantation just over a year ago and was on 'immuno -suppressants' besides other drugs. Now a days doctors are not that confidant what butterfly effect any powerful drug might produce. Nevertheless, they go on prescribing all kinds of 'wonder' drugs. Anyway , when it comes to saying finis and goodbye, you do not really need a reason , do you. Any old reason will suffice. The ancient reaper with the scythe or that fat, mustachioed guy on the back of a buffalo is as good a reason as any.

' poorva janma krutham paapam
 vyadhi roopena jayathe'.
Merely a matter of detail

The stark reality is that he is no longer around. It would have been nice to have him around for some more time. He was a good man. And a good friend too. I did not want to write about him anytime soon, lest it might sound like an obituary. I thought I should wait and perhaps write nothing at all. But the urge to reminisce about the good times we had together and all the little, considerate, helpful gestures of his was ever present in the back of the mind. 

I knew him slightly when he was Branch Manager of Ottapalam Branch; a little more closely when he was mending the damage his predecessor had caused at Aleppey branch, without fuss and very efficiently. We had closer contacts when he was the Development Manager (Personal Banking ) at Chennai. But I would not have counted him as a close friend even at that time. To me he was just an amiable, efficient officer I knew.

A few years later, I was on mobile duty and staying in Sea Palace hotel. That was in 1995, towards the fag end of the year. That was when I contracted Plasmodium falsiparum. I did not want to go back home to recuperate and expose my wife and children to the infection. I stayed on in the hotel and continued to attend office. British Planters in India, I am told, used to drink quinine dissolved in water to ward off malaria. As the concoction was quite bitter, they used to lace it with gin to make it palatable. And thus was born the famous cocktail , gin and tonic. Gin and tonic with chloroquine became my comrades at arms in my fight with plasmodium coursing through my veins. It was also some sort of  an antidote for the loneliness of the  evenings. Luckily for me, gin and tonic water with chloroquine prevailed. Who took the vanguard in the epic battle, I am not able to say with certainity.There were none but the room boys to witness the struggle. I had a visitor though. That was Prasad. 

He dropped in  casually one evening. Didn't ask too many questions about my illness; just sat around and talked. Took me to his flat for dinner. (He was staying alone at that time and a maid servant was cooking for him.). The visits continued for the next few days until the malaria subsided. No fuss, no over solicitousness, no irritating  intrusion into your privacy but quietly being  helpful to the extent possible. 

A couple of year's later we again met, this time  at Staff College, Hyderabad for an orientation programme for India Based Officers. He was going to Nigeria as Managing Director of the joint venture Indo- Nigerian Merchant Bank and I was going to Chicago as CEO. He was coming after a successful stint at SBICAPS, piloting such successful issues like Konkan Railway, BOB. BOI etc. That was when the promotion list to the General Manager cadre was announced and one of the faculty read out the names. from a faxed message. Prasad's name was not there. That was quite unexpected and every one was surprised except perhaps Prasad. Again the monumental calmness.and quiet  confidence. Five minutes later an attender rushed in with the second page of the Fax which contained only a single name. His. 

I learned while at the training center that he belonged to the first batch of students of NSS Engineering College, Palakkad. I was in Victoria more or less at that time but we never met. He had a successful stint at Nigeria too. INMB opened many branches and increased its profits significantly. My branch also profited in some small measure through discounting of Foreign Currency bills routed to me from his Bank. He visited Chicago and stayed with us a couple of days. On his return from Nigeria he took over as Managing Director of SBI Asset Management Co. Predictably that Company too prospered. He used to stay at Kinellan in Malabar Hills, most of the time alone. He was on restricted food because of gout. Either failing kidneys brought about the gout or the gout damaged the kidneys. 

He never really retired. He was in the Board of Trustees of Morgan Trust, was CEO of a software co in Bangalore, moved over as CEO of a Wind energy Co, became the Chairman of the Board of Directors of V-Guard, Advisor to Mini Muthoot, the list goes on. And he contributed handsomely in which ever role he found himself in. In between, he brought up two daughters, an Engineer and a Doctor, and ensured that they are well  settled in life.

Even when he had become dependent on dialysis for survival, he travelled from one meeting to another alone, undergoing dialysis wherever he was when the need arose, staying in hotels overnight. And yet he did not talk about his illness. Many did not know he had a health problem. . He needed a transplant urgently and was looking out for a donor. Even then he was reticent about his illness. I got an email from him .  'A friend of  ours need to have a kidney transplant urgently. Can you get me the telephone number of Kidney Foundation at Trichur'. The 'friend' did not exixt ; he needed the kidney.He recovered completely after the transplant. A few months after that we had  lunch together at Aleppey. I say lunch because it was a midday meal consisting mainly of vegetable salads.. He said with a wry smile; 'these days I do not know what I can eat and what I cannot.'. 

When he was in the hospital for the transplant, V-Guard board passed a resolution to pay an amount not exceeding 1% of the net profit of the Company to their Chairman P,G.R.Prasad for the next five years for his valuable services. I came to know about it from the Annual report of the Company. Such was the regard and admiration he could invoke from his colleagues and friends.

I knew he was seriously ill a few months ago. I spoke with him on telephone. I did not ask about his health. He didn't say anything about it either. From his voice you could not make out any sign of the distress which certainly he must have been experiencing. As usual he was reticent about his personal troubles.. He didn't allow anyone to pity him nor intrude into his privacy. A frequent internet surfer, he must have known that he was close to the end. It needed a special kind of courage to maintain such composure . The end came when he was in Appollo Hospital, Chennai .

He was cremated at Trivandrum. I thought for a long time whether I should go and pay my last respects to him or keep away and cherish his memory. I did not go. Looking back I think that was wise. I can still picture him ambling in with a slight stoop and a half humorous smile;like a person who has seen a lot of the foibles of men and women, big and small and learned to accept them with amused tolerance. 

A really great guy.

One of the best.



  1. My association with him had not been very close but enough for him to impress me as an efficient banker with good man management skills;a no nonsense executive who can give and take. May his soul rest in peace.

  2. Ram Mohan
    10:26 AM (3 hours ago)

    to me

    A touching farewell & remembrance for PGR
    Rgds, Ram Mohan

  3. PGR had a close encounter with the fat moustachioed guy way back in 1985 when he was in Ottapalam. He and another officer were on their way to Palakkad. Prasad Sir was at the wheels .It was drizzling and while negotiating a curve in Thenur he lost control of the vehicle. The car turned turtle and landed on its hood on to the watery paddy fields. Luckily one of the doors opened and both the occupants crawled out into the fields. Both had for a brief moment lost their senses. The locals extricated them from the slushy field, gave them a good wash in the nearby canal and put them on a taxi to Ottapalam. Dr Kesava Menon ruled out any major injury. The next day both the officers were at their desk. The other officer is Mr Velayudhan. Both had a miraculous escape.
    Prasad Sir’s tenure at Ottapalam was not without interesting events. He handled those with utmost skill and understanding. I used to meet him during weekends . He was a very warm person and never stood on formalities. RIP Sir.

  4. "Prasad Sir’s tenure at Ottapalam was not without interesting events."

    Indeed :)

  5. Dear Ramu,
    Many tks for forwarding this well written farewell for PGR.

    Sent from my iPad

  6. K. Ramachandran
    11:48 AM (1 hour ago)

    to me

    Though I have not had the opportunity to work with him, I have heard a lot about him and had admired him. Now you have drawn a bright and clear picture of him in your lucid style, giving him a unique space in my heart. Thank you.


  7. For me Mr. Prasad (may his soul Rest In peace) is totally a stranger. I have never known him leave alone meeting. Nevertheless when I read the obituary I felt as if some one very close, whom I had known for years, had departed leaving a great void behind. That powerful was your writing. So touching.

    My heartfelt condolences

  8. To
    Rajagopalan K
    A fabulous tribute

    Sent from my iPad

  9. Even though I had not worked with him, I had some interactions with him on personal front... A very nice man to talk to and interact, was my opinion about him. May his soul rest in peace

  10. Beautiful written piece, right from the heart.. I knew him and his family since 1979 when I was heading Surat Branch while he was BM Udhna Industrial Estate. He was highly regarded in Ahemedabad Circle. Later he was my neighbour in Harbour Heights, Colaba. I met him last when he was heading SBIMF. Always polite and softspoken, he had a great sense of humour and a simple straight approach to issues.His wife Jaya was an ever-smiling host and I had the pleasure of having several dinners at their house. His demise is a great loss to all of us who knew him well.May his soul rest in peace.

  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  12. Thanks for this extremely sensitive portrayal of PGR. I had the opportunity of working with him when he was the BM of Udhna Branch in Surat during 1979-80 and there after at SBIMF in 2005-06. So I can claim to know him as a person and a boss. He was a fine boss and a finer human being. SBIMF had its best period during his time. Though he entered as a novice he ended up being one of the most respected persons in the MF industry. He is missed by all his colleagues and friends.

  13. Janaradhanan Menon
    5:18 PM (1 hour ago)

    to me
    nice to read about a great person - a great officer, much levelheaded and an unassuming gentleman, rare to see among state bank fraternity. yours is a grand draft of an epitaph- I was engrossed in reading it when I read it a second time. pl. keep the flair in tact and keep going. By the by I never knew that you were inflicted by a Bout of Malaria long back- it is immaterial even if I KNEW ABOUT IT Then., to share with you. I TOO had a very bad phase of health immediately after my retirement in1999- an attack of Hepatatis-B RUNNING almost an year- a torrid period indeed- a wholetime rest as regimented by the Phyisicians with a holistic range of medicines- allopathic, ayurveda and homeopathic followed by our own Nttuvydhiam- intake of two small balls of grinded and smashed Kizharnelli every morning and evening for 11months --till the bilirubin and SGOT numbers came to tolerance levels. howevever the resting period could be utilised by me to acquire some basic learning points in astrology and homeopathy through books written by different authors in the respective fields When I look back- THESE patchy learning curves do help me now to keep .me fairly healthy -both physically and me3ntally Now a days- your mails are rare- T rust that you are hale and healthy and as usual -active and dynanic wish you and all the other.
    members of your family all the best in 2013.

    with regards,
    Sent: Sunday, 6 January 2013, 12:23
    Subject: [swapnalokam] Reminiscence

  14. a solemn tribute to a profound personality.