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Bhau Hariram - my mentor
By Chandroo D.

May 13th 2008 and I and my wife Lavina just get back from a long break in London.  Being totally jetlagged, and without a domestic helper who is on her holiday, we both try to settle down.  Our answering machine has many missed calls some without any messages.  Just as I am about to get into bed, there is a call from brother Narain.  He informs me that our sister Nirmla from Kuala Lumpur is looking for me and that her husband, Hariram is serious and in Intensive Care Unit in a hospital.  Worried, I immediately call up my sister and she sobs and gives me the story of how Bhau Hariram was taken to the hospital reluctantly after his uneasy feeling and was immediately taken to ICU due to his heart attack.   Requiring moral support, she requests me to please visit her.

Going back in time, I remember Bhau Hariram in his younger days, when he used to visit us frequently in Rangoon, Burma.   The first time I met him, I must have been around 10 years of age and he had just got married to my sister then.  He arrived from Penang looking smart in his trade-mark white sharkskin trousers and a white shirt.  His impeccable friendly smile would outshine everyone near him and attract immediate attention.  He would always have time for us, the younger generation and loved to tell jokes.  He was the apple of my mother’s eye, as he enjoyed playing rummy with her and allowing her to win most of the time.

I remember the time when we would sit on the dining table and he would teach me how to set the cutlery next to my plate correctly and how to eat like a gentleman with the spoon on the right hand and the fork on the left and making sure we do not drop anything on the floor or table.  With him food was never to be wasted.  I had to finish everything on my plate otherwise I should have thought carefully and taken a small helping beforehand.  He also taught me to chew and eat very slowly.  This is one thing I did not pick up although I see him still observing this method himself till today.  He would also insist on us to learn to say ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ as often as possible.  These two polite words are the basic etiquette in life and would get us anywhere.

He is very economical and knows his maths well.   He would mail out his letters by second class mail (half price).  He would count every penny on everything he bought.  He had value for his hard earned money.  Some would say he is a miser but for me the correct word should be ‘economical’.  After all it is his money and he was spending wisely and correctly.  He earned it with a lot of hard work!

One day in Rangoon, during a rainy day, he sat with me and taught me how to create a complicated signature, so that no one could easily copy it.  It took some time and effort and today, if anyone has seen my signature…thanks to him!

Fast forward, after regular calls to my sister and her family, I understand that Bhau is still under sedation for two straight days and that his lungs are flooded with water.  He was functioning with only 2% heart beat and was plugged into monitors to keep him alive.  On 16th May, I fly down to Kuala Lumpur and take a taxi straight to the hospital with one my close friends living in KL.  I walked into the ICU and find him very frail and sitting up in his bed and having tea.  He is surprised but very happy to see me.  The first thing he does is apologize for not being able to offer me a chair and to entertain me.  Entertain me?  Who needs that, I offered to sing and dance for him and to entertain him instead as I was so happy to see him out of immediate danger.  He was full of apologies and appreciation for visiting him. With still a humor and a smile on him, I realize that he is a fighter and on his way to recovery.

I have always known him to be a health freak.  It has been his constant habit to wake up very early in the morning before everyone and exercise.  He would huff and puff away and perspire profusely.   In the evening, after dinner he walks for at least an hour on the street that he lives.  If I happen to be there, he would take me along also and discuss the international news with me.  He loves his newspaper and would go through the whole paper thoroughly.  TV news too is important to him.  He is well versed with international news and can pick up a conversation with anyone anytime.

Once out of danger, the doctors finally give him an angioplasty and insert four stents into his blocked arteries.  He recovers rapidly and is released with a clean bill of health.  He is very lucky and I believe his strong will power and previous good health record has brought him back to normal.

I guess his age (79 years) has caught up with him now and hopefully he can learn to relax more than work.  Retirement is not an easy thing for anyone and he dislikes it.  He still loves to involve himself in day to day family activity and bring upon himself some tension.  My recommendation to him would be to take up a hobby, like learning how to use a computer.  Besides keeping him occupied by going online and connecting with international family members, he can also discover new happenings in this world-wide-web.  He should also make new friends of his age and meet them often for tea in the afternoon in the park or a mall.  Lastly, the best companion for him would be a puppy.   Dogs are the best tension relievers today for elderly persons.  A dog will be the first one who will greet him daily with a lot of love and attention.

​Lastly, if you ever see me smile a lot and very helpful to others; it is because of my mentor Bhau Hariram. ‘Thank you’ for reading this article and ‘sorry ‘if I have offended anyone.

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