I love the life I live. And I’m gonna live the life I love
For most of his life, cricket writer Rajan Bala, who passed away on Friday, must have believed in the above lines from the song, Road Runner.
Rajan was at his happiest when he was covering a match or being in the company of cricketers. Words flowed like a pleasant stream when he worked on his keyboard and anecdotes were more than forthcoming in a group, however, small, medium or large.
Rajan was 63 too young to die, too old and ‘been around’ not to be respected. His kidney failure knocked him out, but even while on the mat, he vowed to be back on his feet. "I’ll fight this illness" he told K. Satyamurthy, his best friend in Mumbai recently. And in an email to a few journalists, less than a month ago, he wrote: "I am battling and living."
Rajan was on life support at a Bangalore hospital. His latest book Days Well Spent was to be released this month in Bangalore and Mumbai. He was looking forward to meet his old friends at both functions, but all we got was terrible news Friday morning.
He was one of the kindest souls you could come across. Professionally, he would be very opinionated and not known to please everybody in his writings. He clashed with some of the biggest names in Indian cricket. He was an institution and very few in the sport would not take him seriously. Off the field as it were he would be awake for a good part of the night with rum for company. How could he manage to write a book with his health not getting any better is beyond belief. It will not be wrong to say that Days Well Spent is a potential hit.
Days spent with Rajan in the press box can only be treasured. His wisecracks could distract the most focussed of journalists. His laugh was a hiss you couldn’t help taking notice of. He indulged in leg-pulling too. In 1994 at Nagpur, he fooled a perennially nervous writer by organising for a fake fax to be sent to him signed by his editor, who insisted on a Brian Lara interview by the end of the day.
Not that Rajan didn’t have jokes played on him. On the 1982-83 tour of Pakistan, Sandeep Patil "stole" his typewriter and kept it in his care for a few days.
He could take punditry too far. When Baroda were reeling under a caning from Mumbai’s Sachin Tendulkar (175) in their Ranji encounter in 1995, he summoned a Baroda bowler at night to offer him a few tips on how to conquer Tendulkar. It is believed he even attempted to tell Viv Richards a few things about batting technique in 1983.
Often, he would break into song and Harry Belafonte’s Jamaica Farewell was a favourite. He has gone to his very own Island in the Sun.
On September 25, before slipping into a coma, he wrote to me: "I have been spending time with myself eliminating every trace of bitterness and rancour as I would like to make my journey into the sunset as a liked and respected individual who was never uncaring of his fellow beings."
Rajan witnessed many a fighting innings as a cricket writer. Wonder whether he knew that he would have to play one himself.