Plus - Appreciation

Goodbye Thaj, farewell Dad

Thajone Savanghan

As the rugby fraternity gathered to bid farewell to a loyal stalwart of the game, it was my brother and I who lowered the body of the much admired gentleman into a hollow grave at the Jawatte Muslim Burial Grounds on September 11, 2009.

While his admirers and close friends cherish their memories of the charismatic thrill-seeker who wore his heart on his sleeve, let me reflect on the life of my beloved father.

Growing up under the wing of a ruggerite, we were naturally exposed to the game in its every aspect. My fondest memory was travelling with Dad to Twickenham to watch Nick Farr- Jones' Australia trounce England in the 1991 World Cup Final. I also recall braving the rain a few years later as we both queued at Wimbledon to get a glimpse of Pete Sampras on Centre Court.

These were just two of the many experiences that shaped our unconditional friendship. Although I desperately tried to emulate his sporting feats on the rugby pitch, the best I achieved was to represent the Arabian Gulf at the Under-19 Level. Dad sat proudly in the tiers, and despite our heavy defeats against the likes of South Africa and Australia, he remained positive that we had the Springboks on the ropes.

On the home front, I will always be indebted to Dad for his faith and investment in us to ensure we enjoyed the best the world had to offer. He was a gentleman to my mother and a humanitarian intoxicated with emotion. As his affection for his wife propels through eternity, I distinctly remember a world that revolved around his guiding star.

A good-natured and generous human being, our home was always filled with laughter. Dad made it a point to ensure that all his visitors were made welcome. I remember the Sri Lankan Sevens Rugby team bunking in our three-bedroom city apartment, along with the families of some of his closest friends who had travelled to watch the Dubai Sevens.

One of the greatest gifts I could have given my Dad was the arrival of his granddaughter. He was most alive when he was with her. I strongly believe that she was the final piece of his puzzle.

Through the years, as I watched Dad fight diabetes, I also saw a burly man showing the physical scars of ageing. His gradual weight loss and depletion of energy limited his daily activities to a simple existence. However, his humour and personality remained unaffected. Up to the last few days of his stay in the Intensive Care Unit, he continued to enjoy a joke with the hospital attendants. I am sure he has saved a "few good ones" for the folks manning the Pearly Gates.

At the hospital, Dad asked Mum to remove his wedding band, after 30 years of marriage. He feared the ring could be stolen while he was asleep.

As much as I will miss my father, I cannot think of anyone who threw caution to the wind and milked life for all it had to offer. Heaven will be a better place with the likes of him.

So, this one is "for the good times". Crack open your bottle of Chivas, hold your glass in the air and sing with me.

I love you Dad.


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