A last waltz with OldMonk

December 25, 2012

Some people are just larger than life, and sometimes “larger” in multiple senses of the word. Raj “OldMonk” Mathur has left all of us who loved him unutterably bereaved. However, he would think it remiss of us if we did not use this opportunity to engage in the puns and black humour that he loved. Here is to you, Raju! A small paean of affection, friendship, love, and respect, but also an irreverent look at what I knew of you. I believe that you would want nothing less.

So many memories come flooding back from the few days that I knew him, but one among them is when someone brought up that formulaic self-help book: “Who will cry when you die”. Raj’s immediate answer was “I hope nobody! Why would I want to make anyone sad?”. There is a depth in that apparently-flippant remark that characterised many of Raj’s words. So, to take his own words at their value, we should choose to laugh at the joy that he did bring us, rather than mourn the immediate sorrow of his passing. Lifting him on to the pyre on his last voyage was one of the toughest loads that I have ever shouldered, but at the same time I could not help but grin at the sudden madcap thought that were Raju able to speak he would probably have chimed in with “अबे ! गिरा मत देना !”.

Where does one start remembering a wizard of his times? Many of us have already paid homage to his technical prowess, but he went much beyond that in his uncompromising attitude towards promoting the free and open sharing of knowledge and ideas. This was not something that he just espoused, but what he lived and breathed. I have never heard him waver from his fundamental stance that not sharing knowledge was unethical. We stand not just on the shoulders of such giants, but on their very flesh and bones.

Personal anecdotes could fill entire volumes about his basic orneriness^W kindness. While he could be a real pain in the posterior at times, there are very few people in this world that I came to trust more than him. Trips to Manali will now forever need a seat to be left empty, just in case Raj decides to suddenly show up, complete with leather jacket, cigarette, and laptop loaded with an eclectic music collection. Whenever we next have a ILUG-D party, I will need to remember to cancel that extra case of soda, and honey will gingerly need to get along without lemon teas. Who will now care enough to feed us babushkas now that OldMonk is no longer with us?

So long, Raju. Mine eyes seem to well up in spite of the fact that I can almost hear you laugh at what you would probably term as maudlin sentimentality. If I weep, it is just at the sheer injustice of a world that does not seem to allow one to still be “Permanently out to lunch” from the hereafter. Not all the OldMonk in the world can fill the void that you left in our lives.

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2 Responses to “A last waltz with OldMonk”

  1. I had not interacted with Raj much except a few emails asking for some suggestions, and also in the general ilugd mailing list. However, in that brief interaction, I did form the same opinion as yours of him. At least he has managed to have a tremendous impact in my life, and also was a showcase that competent people exist in India too.

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