A year ago, on the evening of October 24 in the US, when a friend’s call from New Jersey informed me about Jaspal Bhatti’s death, I was hit by the flashback of my lively introduction to him in that electrical engineering design class of July 1974 when the professor had turned 10 of us out to get our drawing sheets from the market.
As others were asked to lay their sheets on the drawing board, one of the students took his paper out of the pocket and started to unfold it. The professor grabbed it and said: “Go get another one.” So, he also joined us to the market. This was Jaspal.
From 1974, till the day he left us, we were friends for more than 38 years. Even in college, he had comic talent but most fans are unaware that he was a serious electrical engineer, too. His first job was in the Sector 17 Regional Computer Centre in Chandigarh. Excited, he asked me if I could write a program to find the square root of 2. The brain workout fascinated us. If Jaspal had continued in that profession, he would have been famous in that too.
The rise to fame in the television and film world never spoiled him. He was still the old Jaspal to friends, the glue that bound our electrical engineering batch. His work took him around the world, and he would seek out his friends in any city. “Success da maza tan dostan naal celebrate kar ke aunda hai (Success is best enjoyed celebrating with friends),” he told me.
He wished for greater success and bigger homes to his friends so that he could go there and enjoy their achievements. The world knows about his comedy, but we friends were privy to his serious side. “Neeraj,” he would say, “now that we have children, everything we see is from their eyes.” The love for family and roots stopped him from moving to Mumbai to further his entertainment career.
“How could he die?” I said within my heart when the friend called me in Dallas from New Jersey. “We made a pact a few days ago to speak again after the premier of his new film (Power Cut).” A year has passed without talking to him. Every time I see a white Honda Accord car, I try to look inside, hoping I see Jaspal, funny actor to the world, and to me, my most serious friend.
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