[Kaushik and I have culled together excerpts from the numerous messages of condolence we received in the days following Sunder’s passing, sent to us by Raji’s students and colleagues, Kaushik’s teachers and friends, Sunder’s school friends and colleagues—from many places and different eras of our life…]
It was with shock and disbelief I received the news about your father’s demise. Sunder was a dear friend of mine and I treated more like my younger brother than an official colleague. Knew him from the time he joined service. We had a wonderful time in Hyderabad way back in 1967-68. Subsequently our paths crossed during posting in the service. He was very dedicated and perfectionist. While we all did our work to satisfy the bosses, Sunder did his job to satisfy himself. It put a great strain on him as the standards he set for himself was very high. He was stickler for details and English which many a time was not insisted by his other colleagues. He was passionate about his work. I have a lost a very good friend and human being.
The news of your father’s sad and untimely demise was a great shock that brought deep sadness to me. I was away and returned to India only the day before when I learnt of the sad news. Your father and I were Service colleagues and good friends. Though your father was my senior by five years the very fact that I could call him my friend speaks volumes about his affable and self-effacing nature. He was also a great colleague and at heart very simple and loving. I haven’t been in touch with him for more than a year. I miss him.
Niranjan Pant (IA&AS):
One remembers Mr Sunder Rajan for his print-like lovely handwriting (someone should really develop a commemorative font on him), and for being a stickler for a high degree of order and detail. A workaholic, he was often a terror to his subordinates. But I was fortunate to be recipient of his affection and consideration, despite my somewhat offbeat ways.
Please allow me to say that Mr Sunder Rajan was very proud of you. With your erudite repose you provided the right balance to his ebullient intellect.
It is indeed very sad news that you have conveyed. Sunder Rajan was senior to me but we were for some time in the same house in RVS. He was looked up by us younger guys as the one with answers to all unknowns. We were 10- 11 yrs old at that time and he may have been a couple of years more. But I remember him well and was very happy to meet him at the RVS “Golden Decaders” get together at Lonavla in 2008. It is a shame that he did not attend any further reunions.
I was saddened to hear about your dear father. He was my classmate and we last met at the Lonavla Reunion where he teased me of being such a formal person always calling him Sunder Rajan and not Schundale what his friends called him. Do you know, the first time I ever used his pet name was when I called Hema to give her this sad news and I said, ‘Schundale is no more’. Life!!! He had a great sense of humour and was a brilliant person.
Sunder Rajan was a good friend in RVS. In fact we acted together in “Christmas Carol” play in RVS and were together in one scene. My memory may be at fault, but I think I was the charwoman and Sunder was a bootboy or something like that! Sunder was most annoyed with me because in typical aditi pant style I was trying to boss everyone around until Sunder told me that I was the ONLY one who did not know her lines!! I am glad we met up in Lonavla all those years ago.
… After someone leaves us, there is a tendency to romanticize the person and our relationships with him. But putting him on a pedestal just makes them more inaccessible and that is not what Shundal would have liked. After all we were “langoti yaars”. So I remember my old association with dear Shundal just as it really was. Unvarnished. Therefore with a ring of truth, certainly a few tears and lots of smiles and affection.
There are a lot of complimentary things I can say about Sunder, but these can wait. All I will say for now is the biggest compliment I think I can offer anyone. Sunder was a fine friend and a good human being; loving, loyal, considerate, fine sense of humor, and never ever hurting anyone’s feelings. To me that is the biggest achievement any human being can aspire to; beyond, fame, power, money, academic excellence etc..
Mike (Professor Michael Fischer):
Dear dear Kaushik,
I am so sorry. He was such a good man. I always looked forward to being with him, and was hoping to be able to do that some more. I treasure the support he gave you for coming to work with me (and that early phone call), and the bond we established every after. And his real pleasure in your accomplishments. A scotch in his honor for sure and with you when we can. I’m glad he did not have to suffer any longer than necessary: that is a gift. But a life too short.
I have such fond memories of him when we used to while our time away at your house in Delhi. The last time I saw him was in New York City when Kaushiki and I visited your parents. He was exactly the same, his jovial self, cracking jokes and giving me a hard time. We picked it up where we had left off. Such a wonderful man with a big heart. The loss feels very personal.
Dev and Nikhita:
We spoke of Sunder last night – looked at the wall hanging he’d chosen for us, spoke of walks to a pub in Oxford or dinner at Raji’s in Wolfson and laughed when remembering the way in which he’d made xxx ‘bless’ us as a newly married couple. We will remember him with much warmth and love. (Dev)
Dev and I are so saddened and shocked to hear about Sunder’s passing. We remember him fondly from your time here at Oxford. He was the avuncular person who cracked jokes, made us feel at home at your dinner parties, and even got xxx to bless our marriage! We got your and his news from Kaushik on his visits to the UK, and it is really hard to believe that he is no more. I cannot imagine how you and Kaushik must feel. You are in our thoughts. (Nikhita)
He was absolutely one of my favourite people, and I was stunned to hear about this. I will miss his laughter and his gentle teasing, his wonderful stories, and his great warmth.
Tarunya (Siddharth Kumar):
I have very fond memories of Sundar mama – always cheerful, a great conversationalist, a fantastic sense of humour and, most importantly, an ability to make my dad laugh with very little effort.
I’m really glad we had dinner together a few weeks ago. It was a lovely evening and we saw Sundar mama in his element.
He was someone I had a lot of respect for and I truly enjoyed all the times we spent together – I will miss him.. .
I don’t have words to express the shock and grief I am going through right now. There are so many memories of Sunder that I’ll always cherish—from Oxford, during our stay in Scotland, and even the last time I saw him in our Mukherjee Nagar flat. They are all coming back to me right now. I still remember the long discussion I had with him on Ray’s film “The Music Chamber” which he greatly admired, or the animated conversation on food and drinks in Scotland of which he was a great connoisseur, or even the evening we spent at your place when Spivak came for your valedictory conference—so many memories, and so many happy ones at that!
Mallarika (Sinha Roy):
I am deeply shocked and saddened by the terrible news. I am remembering all the conversations with Sunder, so many of them are full of humour and care, especially in Oxford and in our Mukherjinagar flat a couple of years back. . .
I was always thankful for Sunder’s good cheer and bonhomie during my student years at Oxford. I enjoyed playing the sitar for him, and I remember when he affectionately called me out for listing his name on my website without asking him and, in the same breath, sharing stories of his work in South America. His distinguished career was, and continues to be, an inspiring example. He brought another dimension of India alive for me, with the happy memories being particularly strong as I write this from Oxford. Sunder was a benign presence for all us students–thank you for giving us the opportunity to meet and interact with him.
I was always extremely fond of Sunder from the Oxford days and was shocked and sad to hear that he passed away. He was always very full of life and it’s hard to believe that he is gone. . .
. . . Sunder, the jewel of a man. . . . I fondly remember the many dinners we had at your place enlivened by Sunder’s good humour and wit. I also recall you mentioning him in one of your books as a rock in your itinerant life. Last time I met him at Oxford in 2009 he was down with a flu, but despite that he had not lost any of his usual joviality. You and Kaushik must be devastated by his passing away, but please know that you have a companion in your mourning for Sunder.
I was touched by Mr Sunder Rajan’s thoughtfulness on many occasions. When I met him last, he inquired about my health, having heard from you. The many times you had us over for dinner, he was such a caring host — he was always quick to spot if I had skipped dessert. I found him to be warm and kind, and that is how I will remember him always. . .
I was very sad to hear about Sunder’s recent passing. I only met him a few times, but our conversations were always memorable. I greatly enjoyed meeting and chatting with him when you both invited the postcolonial graduate students for dinner at your apartment; I will always remember him as an exceedingly warm and gracious host, and indeed, a friendly face to see around campus.
The very sad news reached me today via Supriya about Sunder and I just wanted to reach out to let you know I am thinking so much of your kind and brilliant Sunder, and sending many loving thoughts to you. Only the other day I was reminiscing about that wonderful day we spent with Alison at and around Tintern Abbey, and how much we smiled together and enjoyed the scenery and each other’s company. I so appreciated Sunder’s wry sense of humour and taste for fun. He had such joy in life and in retirement, it radiated from him.
I am thinking right now of the convivial and charming Sunder and what light his smile brought to every room.
It was always such a pleasure and delight to see Sunder when he was here. He was always ready with a funny remark on New York life, delivered with a grin and a twinkle in his eye. I am so glad I got to see him, albeit briefly, in May at our little gathering. I will remember him with much fondness.
. . . In my all too short acquaintance with him Sunder struck me as an extraordinary person, gentle, caring, wise and wonderfully courteous. I will cherish these memories — poor recompense for the loss of the human being himself.
. . . I met Sunder only once — in a cafe in Chicago, remember, just after your son moved there? — but I have such warm memories of our conversation, as though we had known each other for a long time. Supriya, of course, met him more, and speaks of him with rare appreciation.
. . . He was a wonderful human being, a rock..
Jo (Josephine McDonagh):
I was really devastated to hear about Sunder. It has been difficult to absorb. Colin and I both have such fond memories of him — he was so kind to me when I came to stay with you in Bangalore — and he has always been such a courteous and warm person. . . .
. . . I met Sundar only once and was greatly impressed by his warmth and generosity. It was a magical night. He will be tremendously missed. . .