Saturday, November 10, 2012

I miss you, Dr. Godbole . . .



“How do I deal with my grief, immeasurable beyond belief?”

-        Unknown

Sometimes in our lives—if we are lucky enough—we meet someone special who just by being themselves, just by being there, however fleetingly, enrich our lives.

For me that special someone was Dr. Arvind Godbole.

November 1, 2011, was the very dark day when Dr. Godbole passed away. It wasn’t totally unexpected; I had been dreading that news for months. And yet I wasn’t prepared to hear it—one never is.

“No . . .!” my brain had screeched then and is perhaps still screeching it. But there is none more relentless than death. Sometimes I remember him with a smile or a laugh, other times tears roll down my cheeks before I know it . . .

“If tears could build a stairway
And memories a lane,
I'd walk right up to Heaven
And bring you home again.”

Last year I wanted to pour my heart out and write just what he meant to me and couldn’t. It was too painful. But today I can walk down that memory lane—yes, most definitely today I can do it.

It was in August of 2009 that I met Dr. Godbole for the first time. The plan to meet was made months before, but still I had been dithering nervously and not making the appointment. I just so hate making phone calls, especially to people I don’t know! Or perhaps I was nervous because he had been Savarkar’s physician? Anyway, at this point Shreerang (Dr. Godbole’s son whom I have mentioned in previous posts and to whom my novel is dedicated) lost patience with me. With his “stop indulging in irrational fears” ringing in my years, I found myself outside Dr. Godbole’s door on a Sunday morning at 9 a.m. Out here in the U.S. one wouldn’t dream of disturbing anyone at that hour!

I took to Dr. Godbole right away, at first sight. He had this aura of sweetness and gentleness about him—so soft-spoken, so genteel. I felt very loud, bold, and brash by comparison. He was so very, very knowledgeable too. He had so many Savarkar anecdotes to tell, and he could quote passages from books off the top of his head. And here I was—a very, very raw writer (who hadn’t yet reached the stage of calling herself an author,) one who had as yet barely grasped the basics of efficient research, but one who was proudly clutching a very much incomplete manuscript (written as a continuous narration till halfway through the Andaman incidents; no chapters as yet, but I was quite confident all would fall into place by and by.)

I can’t remember the details of our conversation, but one segment went like this:

“So, do you take notes of research?” Dr. Godbole asked.
“No, Dr. Godbole.”
“Have you decided on your chapters?”
          “No, Dr. Godbole.”
          “Have you written anything else, articles and such?”
          “No, Dr. Godbole.”

Mentally I began to wonder how many more times I would be saying “No, Dr. Godbole”! If it wasn’t obvious before, it was now very much evident how really heavily the odds were stacked against my writing and publishing this novel.

Fortunately, I am quite irrepressible when on a roll and almost impossible to embarrass. Plus my sense of humor came to the rescue. And so I was still holding my own, laughing and brimming with confidence of succeeding in my oh-so-impossible dream of writing and publishing my novel.

What, I did wonder though, must he think of me? Normally I don’t much care what people think of me, but what Dr. Godbole thought of me was rather important. Fortunately—since I couldn’t actually ask him outright. That was beyond even my gumption!—I was put out of my suspense very soon.

At the same time as I was dashing off an email to Shreerang (upon reaching my parents’ home) telling him how wonderful I thought his dad was, Dr. Godbole was telling him he was favorably impressed with me! He even said (from the quick scan he had done of my manuscript) I wrote well . . . !! I quite shudder to think about that manuscript now, but at the time I was soooo thrilled.

Such was the beginning of our acquaintance.

Anurupa

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