It is not often that you meet a person just once and he leaves a lasting impression on you. But that’s the way it has been with Siddhartha Mishra. Shortly after he took over as sports editor of The New Indian Express I established contact with him and started contributing to the newspaper where I started my career in 1968. Notwithstanding the nearly 25 years age difference between us we got along well even if the contacts were restricted to phone conversations.
When I came to know that he had cancer I used to call him up now and then to enquire about his progress. Polite and soft spoken he made light of his major health problem while answering my queries. The supreme optimist that he always was he was confident of beating the dreaded disease. In the meantime I enjoyed his pieces on various aspects of sport and I thought he did a pretty good job with his lengthy analysis on Viswanathan Anand an article for which he received a lot of praise.
About three months ago I decided to visit the Express office in a bid to catch up with old friends and make new ones. Siddhartha told me over the phone that he would be at the office if I came at a particular time and eager to meet him I went there at the prescribed hour. Fully aware that he was suffering a great deal of pain I expected to see a person who would be overburdened and anything but cheerful. On the contrary he greeted me warmly, spoke at length on the functioning of the sports department and took me around and introduced me to some of the younger staff. I marvelled at his sincerity and courage and the ability to be cheerful even at a time like this.
We took leave of each other and the following day I received a mail saying how nice it was of me to drop in and see him and expressed the feeling that with good wishes from friends like me he was confident of being cured of the Big C. I continued to ring him up periodically to enquire about his health and he remained optimistic. When I told him I was praying for him daily he was deeply touched. But in early September I received a mail from him saying “sorry I haven’t been able to take calls. C spreading. Chances of cure remote now.”
It was clear now that it was only a matter of time but hoping against hope I like all his many well wishers continued to pray for his recovery. Now that he is no more with us we can only pray that his soul rests in peace and comfort ourselves with the well known adage “whom the Gods love die young.”