I didn’t take a selfie with you….
By Sudhakar Raja

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SPB Uncle is no more with us. After so many prayers by thousands of people and his own recital of the prayers which can be heard in every temple, our faith in God is shaken today.

To know and digest that he passed away due to COVID and not old age just bothers me a lot. I asked his wife (Aunty to me), how can you let him to go Hyderabad during these times and she said “When people say 300 families are suffering and don’t have income and him going can help them, how can I say No? After a lot of deliberation, I reluctantly agreed and they promised to take care of him.” A man who put the needs of others before himself and serves people the best way he knows has left us doing exactly that.

My dad AVS Raja with SPB Uncle in 1970

Everyone knows SPB Uncle and many are even close to him and I am just yet another person who knows him well and this is my version based on our relationship. Who am I? Well, my name is Sudhakar and I am his son Charan’s friend from school and both our dads knew each other since late 1960s, long before he became a legend. My brother Giridhar is married to his daughter Pallavi.

I grew up knowing SPB Uncle, for my father and him were friends. His son Charan and I were good friends as we studied in Don Bosco together. Maybe it is this bond that I shared with his son that made Uncle and Aunty treat me like their own or at least made me feel like it.

When I moved to the US, our bond grew stronger. Every year Uncle and Aunty would come to the Bay Area in CA to perform concerts and guess who they would call…me. I was their go-to person in the Bay Area. Why? Maybe it was the bond we built earlier or maybe because I was someone who never treated him like a celebrity. I would never ask to take pictures with him or speak to him like a celebrity. I would treat him like any of my other relatives. OK, maybe a “fav” relative. I always thought that celebrities shouldn’t be harassed and I was so fixed on this “idea” that I never once asked to be a taken a picture with him alone or what we now call Selfie now. I always wanted to but never once asked for it. In this time and age when people would show off pictures with celebrities, not once have I taken a picture nor posted any with him on social media.

When Uncle visited Bay Area, he would be sure to call me. I was the person to drive them around either to concerts or for any other thing locally. People would tell him, “Sir I have a Ferrari or a Lamborghini please come, I will drive you”. His answer would be “Sudhakar is there, he will take care of us”. I had a Honda SUV incase you were wondering what I drove. I had front row seats to his concert but giving company to aunty backstage was a my favorite thing to do. Watching the crowd from up there and seeing how people were fanatic about him was just something one can only experience. Girls shouting “I love you sir”. I joked with Uncle that I was single (At that time. Sorry, I am taken now) and I can’t get one girl to shout like that for me.

Anything I asked for was done. He has never said no to me. Can you believe I did marketing for my company in the middle of his concert in US. On my return to India, he inaugurated my company. All because I asked and he saw me as like his son. He used to say, I couldn’t do much for others in the family but he was able to do this for me and he did lovingly.

In any gathering, he would find me and sit next to me and thats the love he had for me or at least made me feel that way. Whether it was the family gatherings or a wedding in which we just ran into each other. We would talk for hours and music was not one of them usually. He would say, “Sudhakar I get to know a lot of information when I am with you, things I otherwise am not exposed to”. While others ask him to sing or talk about music, we would talk about Politics, Technology, Religion, and what not.

I learnt my humility from him. Not once have I seen him get angry. Not when a fan disturbed us in the middle of our meal in a restaurant or when people throng him after his concert when he was super tired. Ask him how he can pose and be nice when he is so tired and he would say “People come to see me from far and wide, I can take rest later”. There is one time no one should disturb him and that is before the concert. Thats one time he was always tensed and would get angry so it was our job to make sure no one breaks the cordon in the US. I asked him, “Uncle you have, by now, done so many concerts and yet you get worked up before the concert and you are always practicing…why?”. The answer was baffling. He said “Sudhakar, people are paying money, leaving their jobs and coming long distance to watch the concert. It is my job to make sure they get my best every time and thats why I spend time rehearsing many days and even minutes before each concert. Moreover many a times, the bands change and songs change. I need to make sure all things go well so that people don’t go back disappointed”. Yes he said that. Who would have thought?

Well, did you know some of the things he does is because of me? Talking about songs, the behind scene story of the song etc. that he does …well thats me. He used to sing and go away. I used to tell him, people come to concerts to get a new experience. Listening to a song, people can do that at home so give them a story is what I suggested. He was of the opinion people come to listen to him sing and in that time of “talking”, he can sing a song or two extra so he wouldn’t do it. He started to do it one time and soon he did much more of it. He would not have remembered where and why he started but that idea was seeded by me in the US.

Uncle and Aunty’s love for my son Arnav was as much as their own grand children. I don’t think they looked at him any differently. In all the pictures with family that I have, he is with either Uncle or Aunty.

In all this time I have spent with you Uncle. I don’t have a single picture with just you and me. I miss you Uncle. What will I tell Arnav who listens to your songs every day and says he wants to become a singer like you…….

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