Monday, April 2, 2012

Remembering Our Dear Friend Commodore Kadur Sitaramiah Krishna Prasad

More than 50 years of close friendship came to a sudden end on 22 Mar 2012 as my dearest friend, guide, mentor and philosopher passed away in Bangalore. He was known by many names - Krishna, Prasad, Kris, Prasu, KSK, Gudda, Gulpavte



Figure 1 - At a farm house party - 08 Jan 2012

Friends from South Bangalore remember him as ‘Gudda’ (as in dada). In fact all his very old friends called him ‘Gudda’ and that is how I knew him for a very long time. In the college cricketing fraternity he was called ‘Gulpavpte’. At home he was ‘Krishna’ and later on in the navy it became Krishna Prasad, Prasad, Prasu, Kris and KSK. By whichever name one called him – he always remained a special character – intelligent, handsome, charming, full of sharp wit, bubbling with optimism, caring in his own way – a very lovable character. Very rarely did one find Prassu sad or gloomy – left to himself he often displayed a certain happy-go-lucky attitude. He was a compulsive mischief maker in a harmless way. From the very early days, he was a prankster, always waiting to play mischievous tricks on people.

Gudda was a very talented person. In his college days he excelled as a cricketer. Some of his contemporaries like the legendary ‘BS Chandrasekhar,’ recognizing his bowling prowess, often told him to take up the game seriously. He had a very melodious voice – rich and deep. His rendition of ‘Dost Dost Na Raha,’ a Mukesh song, got him the prestigious Inter Collegiate Best Singer Award in 1965. In the month of December 2011, we had a get-together of the ‘coffee decoction friends’ ( http://samundarbaba.blogspot.in/2010/09/coffee-decoction-friends.html ) in Prassu’s house, where he sang ‘Koi sagar dil ko behlata nahin’ – it was an excellent rendition. He was also a part of the theatre scene at college. He acted in a play 'Veera Yoga' as a convict in jail, waiting to be hanged and his sensitive rendering of his interaction with his sister drew immense appreciation. His acting won great accolades and he won the Inter Collegiate Best Actor Award. The principal of the college was so thrilled with his ability; he let him direct a play. Gudda hit upon a novel theme – the plot he selected had a very loose story line and the audience could walk in any time on to the stage and say their bit and go. It was outrageously hilarious but the principal stopped it mid way. He also broached the idea of an orchestra wherein each instrumentalist was free to play whatever he wanted- by which time the principal, Late Dr HN, was seeing red and was ready to tear his hair out...

School and college days were filled with interesting events. We went on a cycle trip to Hogenakkallu in 1964. ( http://samundarbaba.blogspot.in/2010/08/bengaluru-days-trip-to-hogenakkal-falls.html ) It was a great adventure and we had lots of fun with Gudda around. He and Sunder went to the Republic Day Parade at New Delhi representing the Karnataka Naval NCC unit. He also went to an Advance Mountaineering Camp at Manali and Rothang Pass and had many interesting stories to narrate. We attended a number of NCC camps together in KG Bangalore, Mangalore etc – we were always in the midst of some ‘Gudda- engineered mischief’.

In the navy he became an ‘Anti Submarine Warfare’ specialist, trained in the erstwhile Soviet Union. He held a number of important posts both ashore and afloat. He commanded INS Amini and INS Gomati with distinction. He was responsible for inducting ‘Computer Aided Action Information System’ IPN 10 from Italy into the Indian Navy. Recognizing this meritorious act, the ‘President of India’ conferred ‘Vishisht Seva Medal’ on him. He also held important operational appointments such as ‘Fleet ASW Officer’ and Director of Staff Requirement. He was a very professional officer.

Prasu married very young. INS Delhi went on a cruise to Australia in 1970. Along the way he met a very young, beautiful and vivacious girl from Fiji – Preet. He fell for her – hook line and sinker! I happened to attend their wedding in Chennai in April 1971. A short time later a son was born – Siddharth, who is an architect of repute in Bangalore today. Many decades later, in 2011, we all went to China and had a wonderful experience. During the trip Kris and Preet celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary with all of us in Xian. It was a very nostalgic event for me. ( http://samundarbaba.blogspot.in/2011/05/we-visited-china-xian.html )



Figure 2 – Kris and Preet - 40th Wedding Anniversary in Xian, China

We served together in the navy on a number of occasions and I thoroughly enjoyed his company. Admiral Subimal Mookerjee, the Fleet Commander, used to call me ‘fatso’ to which Prassu would say, ‘You are wrong sir, he is under height.’ Once, the admiral decided to host a party for all the Commanding Officers and the Staff in Goa. The cocktails were in INS Talwar, commanded by Cdr. A Dabir, and later all of us went out for a spot of dinner at a restaurant in Dona Paula. Some of the supernumerary staff who had sailed on INS Rajput was not aware of the details. Lt Cdr Vasan wanted to know the details and Prassu told him that the party would start at 1945 hours and the dress code was a suit – I nodded in agreement. Poor Vasan went all over town to borrow a suit. The admiral arrived in a bright blue shirt with red polka dots; the captain was in kurta pyjama and so on. Much to the amusement of all present, ‘our man Flint’ arrived in an ill fitting and crumpled green suit with some silvery embellishment. It was truly ‘Humour out of Uniform’. Vasan did not speak to Kris and me for over a decade.

It was already 1235 hours on a make and mend Wednesday and Subimal was getting restless as he was being kept from his tryst with G and T by my course mate Lt Cdr S Neogi. The admiral tried to explain the nuances of Anti Missile Defence to Surojit who just did not ‘get it’. The admiral was getting exasperated – that’s when a very helpful Prasad suggested,’ Sir, try and explain it to him in Bengali - he may understand it faster.’

After inspection of INS Nilgiri under Kaka Sharma, we had gathered in the Captain’s cabin for a debrief session. During the course of the inspection I had very meticulously noted down all my gunnery observations in a note book and rehearsed what to say when the time came. For some reason I had to leave the cabin momentarily to get an extra chair. On my return, the admiral said “Well gentlemen, let us begin with individual departmental briefs -we will start with the youngest – Pubs”. I very confidently put my hand below the chair to retrieve the brief case which carried the note book. To my utter shock and dismay, I found the briefcase missing. It was my first public exposure as a ‘Fleet Gunnery Officer,’ that too in front of so many staff officers – I panicked and didn’t know what to do. Others started staring at me and wanting to know why was I waiting. Just when I thought all was lost, Kris pushed the hidden briefcase towards me.

Middle watch was split between KSK and me. He was required to relieve me on the bridge at 0200 hours. I would send the side boy at 0130 to give him a shake up. KSK would come out of his deep slumber and say, ‘OK. I‘ll be there’. Come 0200 h, no sign of Kris on the bridge. I would send the side boy again to call him. This time around the side boy would come back to say, ‘Sir, he is not in his bunk’. Thinking he was on his way up, I would keep quiet. It would be almost 0230 and no sign of Kris yet. The side boy would go again to look for Prasu and find him fast asleep in some other bunk.

He would often ring home and pretend to be the admiral and give strange instructions to Jai. His impersonation was so perfect, on a number of occasions I would go to the admiral and say ‘Did you send for me, sir?’ only to be greeted with a blank, bewildered look. This prank took quite a serious turn when the admiral wanted to know if something was seriously wrong with Pubs.





Figure 3 - With Mrs. Indira Gandhi on board INS Rajput. Prassu with a thick beard standing right of admiral. Yours truly next to him.

Three of us shared the same phone in the fleet office. Once again ‘our man Flint’ Vasan, would ring up INS Talwar and ask to be connected to the officer of the day (OOD). Across the glass cubicle, Kris would pick up the phone and tell Vasan, ‘I am busy. Ring up later.’ – an unheard of reply from the quarter master – especially to a Fleet Staff Officer. Through the glass I could see Vasan all red hot about the ears and terribly agitated, shouting and wildly gesticulating. Prassu would continue to pretend to be the QM until Vasan stormed out of the office.

After a major war game ‘East Wind’, we all had gathered in the auditorium in Vizag for the debrief. Admiral Nadkarni set the tone by bringing a basket full of oranges and commenced his part of the narrative for the Orange Force. A little later it was Prasu’s turn to present ASW details. After finishing his narrative he said, ‘I now hand over the stage to the Submarine Commander for all the fiction.’

My family and I, on our way home to India from Nigeria, went to Rome and spent an exciting week with Kris and family. Whenever I was stressed out in my corporate work, I used to take off and spend a few days with the Commodore in INS Agrani in Coimbatore, which he was commanding at that time. I used to drop in to his house often to unwind over a drink. Kris loved his drinks like most of us. Where he would beat us hollow was his exercise in gluttony. This man could tuck in like there was no tomorrow. He loved his chicken very dearly. It was a pleasure to watch him eat and enjoy his food.

His love for dogs, both pedigree and stray bordered on the crazy. From the days of his ‘Bola’ to ‘Rover’ he had an extremely soft corner for dogs. Even today a lame and undernourished stray, which has taken shelter in their house, stands testimony to his love and respect for life.

Nair organized an excellent barbeque party on 08 Jan 2012 at his friend’s farm house on the outskirts of the city. All of us had taken marinated chicken, fish and meat and the party went on merrily with Kris stealing the show. The day belonged to him – he not only relished the G and T and chicken, but entertained us with his own version of ‘Kolaveri Di’- Changing the lyrics to highlight a weakness of each one of us. A thoroughly enjoyable, unforgettable afternoon. That was one of the last few times we got together as a group with Prasu, my old friend.



Figure 4 - Barbeque Nation – Good times

He used to repeatedly advise me to take up golf and would exalt its virtues – walking in the open, lungs full of fresh air – loads of vitamin D – peace of mind and so on. Finally on 28 Jan 2011, I took up golf. “Only this time, my dear friend Prasu gave me his old set and egged me on to ‘tee off’ or whatever. That’s how I landed up in ASC once again and handed over my application for club membership.” (http://samundarbaba.blogspot.in/2011/02/clean-miss-i-have-started-golf.html ). So on 28 Jan 2012, I invited Prasu to join me for a game and thereafter for a spot of Pink G followed by lunch at the RSI to celebrate one year of golfing. Golf was out, as he had developed a hairline crack in the collar bone while playing golf earlier. Finally Kris, Sunder and self met on 01 Feb and played well at the 19th hole.

We met again in Fali’s house on 16th Feb for our monthly get together. In hindsight - he did look worried and a bit subdued – he was not himself. I looked him up again on 4th March, by which time his medical investigations had started. On 8th Mar, Jai and I went again to meet him. Throughout the evening he played the excellent host as usual, served us drinks and restrained himself to a soft drink.

I wished him a very happy birthday and speedy recovery on 16th Mar. It was my turn to host the monthly party on 17th Mar and I requested dear Prasu to join all his good friends. He said, ‘Yes Pubs’. I got a cake to be cut at the party and wish him belatedly. By then he was in deep pain and could not attend the party. At the end of the party we cut the cake and wished him all the very best in absentia.

He suffered severe pain and discomfort on 17th and 18th Mar but endured it with utmost dignity. On 21st Mar he gave all of us a ray of hope – he looked better, talked to his course mates and friends and ate a good lunch. If you looked closely, one could see a faint but distinctively cheeky smile – probably wanting to say, “This is just a prank. I will come out of it.”

However, the Almighty had other plans for him and he passed away very peacefully at 0820 h on 22 Mar 2012.

Thus ended the chapter of a good person, a good husband to Preet, proud father to Sid and unforgettable friend to all of us. He will remain in our memory for a very long time to come, as someone who lived life ‘King Size’ and enjoyed all the bounties that life had to offer.

12 comments:

  1. Dear Pubs,

    Really well written! You have a great style with an easy flow. One can see that you speak from your heart, always -- even when you are talking to all of us.

    As you said, Kris / Prasu was a unique guy who will definitely be missed. Olive and I talk about him every day. He used to tease Olive and tell her that she did not know how to make 'tadka' and insist on some bizzare recepie, which would get Olive all confused, at first; and then he would laugh in his inimitable way.

    We all have lost a good friend and a great Human Being! May his soul rest in peace! But knowing him, I am sure his soul will be perpetually busy doing someting or thinking up some harmless prank!

    Love,
    Olive and Fali

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    Vivek

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