RIP, Mr Borgaonkar

RIP, Mr Borgaonkar

Famous people get their obits written while they are still alive, especially if they are old, sick or have met with a serious accident. Mr Borgaonkar was only famous “as the old man with the hearing aid” in our locality. He was healthy almost till the end and hadn’t met with any accident. Why, then, did his obit get written in my head when he was alive?

Because although he was not famous, his was an interesting story; because a man who bid a final farewell to his wife of 50 years with a letter would appreciate a written farewell himself; and also because the written word had been his raison d’etre for most of his adult life.

At 96, Borgaonkar was one of the most active persons I have ever come across. Running a household, writing in Marathi, English and Kannada, visiting friends and relatives, learning to sketch — his day was a beehive of pursuits, both creative and mundane.

He parasailed at 85, trekked to the Himalayas when he was 90 and was even game for bungee jumping. The organisers refused of course. Yes, his old age adventures are interesting but the story of his younger days is equally fascinating.

Despite profound hearing loss in both ears since childhood and no formal rehabilitation, he learnt to speak by his sheer grit and hard work. The same industrious nature saw him secure a job and raise a family. He gained mastery over speech and language, big challenges for the deaf, over time. He went on to write several books and even won prizes for his short stories.

In the 25 years that I knew him, we met now and then. Despite his hearing aid, conversation was not easy. I had to shout, repeat and sometimes write. He would ask me for news and tell me about what he had done. He would also announce what his plans were.

The focus was, however, on the here and now. I had, of late, wondered how he could plan for his future this late in life. I had even asked him if he was afraid of dying. He was not.

So when I heard from his son that he was ill, I wondered whether the old man would pull through. He didn’t. At his explicit wish, his body was donated to a hospital.

While his grandson opened his email account to key in the death announcement to friends and family, I thought that the obit would finally be out of my head. This “middle” is for you, Mr Borgaonkar; you lived well.