A wrong start!

Philip John

As I wrote in my earlier blog Jani had travelled all the way from Calcutta by train to Tiruvella in Kerala to attend my wedding.

The evening before a wedding is usually a solemn occasion when a minister (Christian priest) joins the bride or bridegroom’s family for the evening meal and says a prayer of blessing. My parents and brother were there, as well as, aunts, uncles, and cousins. And a few family friends. It was a very well attended wedding!

The house was packed out so Jani shared my room. Since he had undertaken a 48 hour journey for my sake I felt obliged to entertain him and instead of joining the family prayer, Jani and I had our own spiritual time with a bottle of Johnny Walker. After several knocks on the door and calls for dinner, we emerged to eat. I am not sure what the remarks were from those assembled but we hurriedly ate our dinner and went back to our room!

The wedding was next morning and so we went to sleep, which was not too difficult after our spiritual session! However, I slept fitfully, waking up several times to look at my watch. Around 4 am I got up to look out of the window. I heard Jani’s irritated voice. “What’s the matter?”, he asked.
“Nothing, I just got up to check if it was morning”, I replied trying to sound nonchalant.
“Lie down*&%×@$! You are making me nervous”, was Jani’s comforting response!

After the wedding on 29th December Jani left for Kottayam to meet his folks. He returned on the 31st to ride with us to Cochin. He was to catch his train the following day.

Well, what does one do on New Year’s Eve? My favourite New Year’s Eve bash was at the High Range Club in Munnar. Those guys knew how to throw a party. Since Munnar was over four hours of driving, that option was out of the question.

The second choice was the USO Club at the Cochin Naval Base, where Commander Hugh and Coleen Gantzer would hold court.  I asked my bride to get ready for the New Year’s Eve Party, but she was tired from travel and the hustle and bustle of the wedding and wanted to retire early. “Ok, don’t wait up for us”, I said and drove off with Jani for a night of merry making.

That was clearly a mistake, and it took many years for my wife to get over the shock of being abandoned on New Years Eve two days after the wedding, while her brand new husband was out partying with his friends! She wondered what life had in store for her?

A perfect gentleman…. Letters to the Editor
What I wrote on Jani Uthup was received with great warmth and affection for the man. Here are a few random responses…

Hamid Ashraf, Ex Managing Director, Tata Coffee
Philji, you have described Jani to a T. One of the finest genuine and affectionate people I have met and yes, a thorough gentleman!

Ray Kurian, Coonoor
One of my dearest friends …… Jani Uthup! The Quintessential Gentleman and a wonderful, loving human being! Absolutely love the guy!!

Shaun Uthup, Creative Director, Zozo UK, Nephew
Thank you for sharing these stories of my Uncle Janiba. I enjoyed hearing about his younger days before I knew him. I can only imagine what he was like by the reaction of old friends when they see him. He’s always been a very special person in my life too. My fondest memories are simply lying on the bed watching cricket with him in Kerala…. bliss

Aiesha Bonneau, France

Such a lovely story. I remember her (Usha) well and admired her voice and presence on stage. I regarded her as a modern, westernised Indian then. She lived opposite us in Cochin.
(Lived in ‘Victory Dawn’ in Fort Cochin)

Anil Mukerji, Calcutta
Jani was my Boss in JT and a great Leader. He stood by his team even if it upset the Third Floor!

A.K. Atal, Ex Managing Director, J Thomas & Co
Thanks Philji for the lovely “Portrait of a Tea Man and Gentleman “. You’ve aptly written about Jani. Truly the finest. Great memories of Calcutta in the 60s and 70s. Here’s a story….
Jani and I ‘cracked’ the Calcutta Derby. Dressed in our Blazers which had flaming red linings, we bought our Rs. 2/- entry tickets and after much studying of the form books very cautiously placed our bets  for a Place on the then season’s hot favourite Mica Empress – a Filly from the MAM Ramaswamy stables. We placed the princely sum of Rs. 5/- and of course the filly romped home by 7 lengths!
For our investment of Rs.5/- we got back ₹5.50p. A profit of 50 paise! We celebrated by buying 2 Cokes. Those were the days when a Coke cost 25p ! We had just won the Derby!!! 

The story doesn’t end there. ….Next morning Natwar the peon came to the Junior Room at 9 am and said that Liddle saheb wanted us down in his room…pronto! Tony Liddle was a senior Steward at the RCTC. He had spied 2 very well togged young men in the ordinary ‘Janata’ stands.
We were put to the sword. Tony’s colourful expletives would put Shashi Tharoor to shame !!! “No JT executive is to be seen %&^#@$%*&%×@$ !!

Net result was we got passes to the Members Stand thereafter. Great memories and nostalgia!

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