There are certain individuals who leave a large impact on my life.
Rajan Rishyakarn was one such individual.
For such an influential individual in my life, it is surprising to me that I cannot remember when the first time I met him. All I knew was that I met him through a close friend, Jason Ong, who went to the same university with him. The first time I met him was probably sometime in mid-2007. Even after I met him, we rarely kept in touch (after all, he was only Jason’s friend at that time) and it was only in 2008 when I met up with him more frequently and slowly developed a friendship with him.
I will be frank here. I did not have a very good first impression of Rajan. First, he behaved awkwardly, as if he was unsure about what to say and how to behave within our group. I don’t blame him because Brian (Jason’s younger brother), Zack (my twin) and I were behaving quite boisterously and stuck to ourselves. So I could say that his awkwardness at that time boiled down to his testing of our group dynamics.
I remember the subsequent time I met up with him at a party in Jason’s house. Some people say that first impression plays a large part. But for Rajan, it was different. I remembered he turned up at Jason’s place with a six pack and I saw for the first time how brilliant a conversationist he was. This time the tables turned. Rajan was at ease as the majority of the people were from the university while Brian, Zack and I were unfamiliar with some of the people and mostly stuck to ourselves.
I would say that Brian and Zack were more familiar with Rajan at that time compared to me. Both had more chances to meet up with Rajan while I did not as I was still in the army and did not had much free time. But that night at the party, I started talking to Rajan (the beer he brought helped) and we soon were engrossed in some fascinating conversation. Its a pity I can’t remember what exactly we were talking about.
At that point, our friendship truly began. We exchanged numbers, added each other on Facebook and started long wall-to-wall conversations on Facebook about the most random thing. I would say that at that time, our friendship was mainly based on mundane things like having fun, partying and other things that young men would talk about.
Yet even with those conversations, Rajan came across as a very sharp observer on people and life in general. Many times I find myself at the losing end of the conversation. He was not mean and didn’t meant to be. Neither did he meant to insult. But he did know how to put his points across very convincingly that I can’t help agreeing with him when only a few minutes ago I was disagreeing with him.
Our friendship deepened when I left for Sydney University in mid-2009. At that point, Rajan had just left for India for his internship and I remembered having many conversations with him on MSN. In those MSN conversations, it was when I truly learned about his brilliant personality and sharp mind. The topics ranged from men talk to politics to university life and finally to religion.
At this point of time in my life, I started looking up to Rajan as my mentor. Not because of his great conversational skills (something that he always downplay) but because of what I considered as his wisdom, genius and brilliance.
What stuck with me was one particular MSN conversation I had with him in November 2009. Somehow we started talking about family relations and it was when Rajan really spilled his guts to me about his relations with his family. He didn’t really say anything bad about his family except about the usual frustration he felt, the typical frustration that everyone feels, including me. It was then I learned that even mentors, such as Rajan, do have a vulnerable side to themselves.
Of course, not all conversations with Rajan were on serious matter. Many, in fact almost all conversations I had with him were always humourous and filled with his witty anecdotes and quotes. Conversations with Rajan were not a one-way affairs, they were always two-way affairs, each partner contributing and building up the relationship.
I remembered his excitement when he emailed me about visiting Australia in June/July 2010. I was actually looking forward to his coming visit to Sydney and discussed with him at length about the places he should see when he was around Sydney. Unfortunately, that would never happen.
Rajan was also the influence in my joining the debate team at Sydney Uni. He used to joked that I had to do it so that he could live through vicariously through me. Although I told him about my subsequent failure and how I was never going to embarrass myself again (i.e. not join the Debating team), Rajan didn’t criticize me. Yes, he did joked and teased me but he also offer advice and encouragement. See the earlier post here.
By the time of November 2009, I treated Rajan as a mentor, and I admit, treated him as a personal hero. Here was a person who was not afraid to speak his views on politics, push peoples’ buttons on religious matters and explore issues that no one give a damn too. Here was some one that was not afraid to come across as an intellectual. Yes, Rajan was an intellectual, but he was always a humble and very down-to-earth individual. In fact, if there was one fault of his, it was his tendency to play down his strengths.
I remembered my last meeting up with Rajan two weeks ago. I had a few drinks and borrowed the novel “Slumdog Millionaire” (Or known as “Q & A”). Actually, to be more accurate, I met up with him for drinks and to get some episodes of the series “Bones”. It was Rajan who remembered that I wanted to read the novel and loaned it to me. I still have the book with me. At that point of time, Rajan was undergoing great stress as he was facing unfair eviction from the hostel by the university board. Yet, he extended an invitation to me knowing that I just got back from Sydney.
Lastly, I wrote a short story that I wanted to show Rajan. Many people know my aspirations to be a writer but it was Rajan who shaped my outlook on political and intellectual matters. Furthermore, the story contained many snippets of our conversation we had together. It is a great sense of loss I feel that I would not be able to present my stories to Rajan.
Rajan was an person who left a large impact in my life, and no doubt in other peoples lives. I will miss him dearly.
Rest in peace, Rajan. The world has just lost a great person in you.