Goodbye dear friend

He was like a wave when he breezed through classrooms at Josephs, with his panache and charisma and his disdain for the norm and ritual. He peddled jokes and poetry with equal finesse. He exuded warmth, cheer and style. He was extremely intelligent with an at-your-face wit. His energies knew no bounds.

I remember the day I saw him first. In the Kannada classroom at St. Josephs. His infectious smile and the joie-de-vivre about him captured my attention. The next two years, he along with three others would become constant fixtures in the back-benches, possibly first time in my student life when I moved from the first bench to these dark and dreary backbenches; the ones I always feared slowly became my new home, thanks to him. Those late nights of study, taking 12th standard exams and the common entrance test much more seriously than they deserved; those late night coffee trips and bajji-bonda visits and the movies….We went on to study medicine together in Mysore and shared a crucial part of our lives. Innumerable hours behind him on bike as he chased love, and the phenomenal trips with him to his favourite hill-station Madikeri, to Hogenkal falls and to zillion other places come to mind. His love for Kipling, his reflections on Bach’s seagulls, his meanderings into zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance and his off-note rendition of Denver’s “you fill up my senses…”. His adventurous Yamaha RxG 8914 on which so many people learnt how to bike, his coca-cola shaped tape player that played dire straits end to end, his mastery over the English language and his fascination with ossification dates…..what can I say about the man?

But, it was not to stay for good. On 8 April, 2015 he breathed his last, leaving us with that infectious smile and those warm memories. What sense can one make of it? What answers can one provide? What questions can one ask? What matters? Is this grief? Is this anger? What should I be angry about? At the life that he lived full when he did? Or at the life that we all thought he would live that he threw away?

He was, who he was. He touched more lives than he allowed himself to be touched by. He was loved much more than he allowed people to love him. His vivacity and energy is fondly remembered by every classmate of his in school, college, university and elsewhere.

He was my friend. He was the man my friend fell in love with. He was a father, a son, a husband, a doctor…he will always be a source of inspiration for me and a source of courage and a source of energy for me. We all loved you. We always will.


You floated through many lives

Touching and leaving a mark,

here and there blooming a flower

and planting a seed


Your laugh, your cheer, your smile, your swagger

You blew us away with your smile


Love found you, friends found you

You etched yourself into many memories

Alas, you left us only these, just memories.


You didn’t choose it, you fought it

Constantly battling, constantly struggling

This final solution, perhaps settling many threads for you

For us you left, nay chose to leave unsaid, unheard and unprepared


Such was your swagger, such was your spirit

That our earthly banter could not settle it


We only see that you aren’t here and ask questions, seek answers

Who knew the battles you faced? Who knew the spirits you chased?

You only gave us a peek, mere glimpses of this misery

Shielding us, and also snatching away from us

A chance to mend your misery.

This post is dedicated to Saketh Marla (Aug 2, 1979 – Apr 8, 2015). A friend, a father, a son, a husband, a doctor and the finest human being I knew. Below is one of his favourite songs, that he loved to play to his wonderful son.


10 responses to “Goodbye dear friend”

  1. Umesh Srinivasan Avatar
    Umesh Srinivasan

    Saketh, you were THE MAN – larger than life and completely unaware of it! There is so much I owe you, and will never be able to repay the debt – my undying loyalty to all things two-stroke and all things Yamaha (and especially the intersection of the two), my love for Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler. 8914 was a legend – I almost destroyed a cycle (and the cyclist) near Bihari Mess on it, and you almost assaulted an entire herd of buffaloes on it in Coorg.

    But that was you – 10 tons of cattle spanning the length and breadth of the narrow road meant nothing to you – that memory of you rushing headlong into the herd and emerging on the other side is seared into my brain as a perfect example of what you were. I guess your anthem would have to be called “I don’t give a bloody damn”.

    I am grinning like a fool as I write this – puppies falling of shoulders (the first time I ever got drunk), dodgy (and ultimately haze-filled) hotel rooms in Virajpet, you telling me very seriously when I bought my own RX, that I was never to “rip” down the road on it (did you really know how you used to ride?), that house in Mercara, and a pregnant woman in an auto!

    Thanks for the most fun (and bloody scary, in retrospect) times I have ever had.

    “I’ve been in the sun, and you’ve been in the rain
    And you’re so far away from me”

    “We be of one blood, ye and I”


  2. Very touching. I am really sorry for you.
    May his soul rest in peace.

  3. Ashwini Natraj Avatar
    Ashwini Natraj

    I have three wishes for Saketh Marla.

    I don’t exactly remember when I first met my cousin’s friend, the man we were all pretty (and rightly) sure she would marry. I remember where we met: just outside St. John’s. And I remember a misty Bangalore autumn morning, just beginning to lift into a brilliant sunlit afternoon. I remember a handsome young man in a white coat, with a shaved head, very thick eyelashes and a shy smile that started in his eyes.

    Later that afternoon I learnt that the smile would widen and warm his face when he was amused, and that when he was really amused, his nose would wrinkle, his eyes would dance and out would come a joyous, almost startled-sounding laugh. It was as though he’d been turning it over in his head and he’d decided that he had just heard the funniest damn thing in the world. It was a laugh that you felt privileged to witness, and honoured to cause. It was a laugh that you would exert yourself to hear again.

    So here is my first wish for Saketh: wherever you are, I hope that there are people around you who make you laugh- with warmth, with companionship and with joy at an unexpected adventure or thought.

    I don’t want you to think that Saketh laughed grudgingly, or that he made a habit of being hard to please. His laughter was precious precisely because you felt that it meant something. Saketh brought to the business of laughter what he brought to everything: commitment, attentiveness and, yes, seriousness. I remember conversations about all sorts of subjects: item girls, the role of Indian princely rulers in collaborating with the British Raj, UK immigration policy- with a man showing a thoughtfulness and a receptivity to other people’s opinions that I wish we’d see more of from our politicians.

    So here is my second wish for Saketh: wherever you are, I hope that there are people around you with whom you can have long conversations about absolutely anything. I hope that there are people around you who challenge you, who move you, who intrigue you and make you think.

    I also came to realise that this thoughtfulness was of an exceptionally empathetic kind. Saketh thought, but he also cared. He made space for people in his head and heart. I was glad of the head with its very fine doctor’s brain, and in Saketh I was grateful that it was accompanied by his good heart- whether it was posting over to my mother’s side to care for her during a very frightening time, or frowning in concern over the diagnosis and care of a man utterly unknown to him.

    So here is my third wish for Saketh: wherever you are, I hope that there are people around you who appreciate your generosity with yourself: your talents, your time and your care. I hope that there are people who know how to value your kindness.

    Here’s to you, Doctor Marla: to your wit, to your warmth and your compassionate humanity. Know that you are missed.

    Rumi says:
    On the day I die, don’t say he’s gone. Death has nothing to do with going away.
    The sun sets, and the moon sets but they’re not gone.
    Death is a coming together.
    The human seed goes down into the ground like a bucket,
    and comes up with some unimagined beauty.
    Your mouth closes here, and immediately opens
    with a shout of joy there.

    Wherever you are, Saketh, I’m imagining the shout of joy and hoping it sounds like your laugh.

  4. Dear Ashwini, thank you for sharing your thoughts here. As I read your fond recollections of Saketh, I relived his smile, his attentiveness and his empathy. We will all miss him, but we will all cherish his warmth and memories and try to learn and grow stronger from these. That will be his legacy, carried forward by his friends, family and the several people that loved him.

    Thanks again,

  5. Ashwini Natraj Avatar
    Ashwini Natraj

    Dear Prashanth,
    Amen. I would also like to extend my heartfelt thanks for your own beautiful tribute to Saketh, and for creating a space for us to share our own memories.

    Many, many thanks,

  6. Dear Dr. Saketh; in memories we live of you, once at your wedding reception and then at your home with your family! I just remember the simple loving father …husband. why I keep thinking about you. I’m grieving for the memory of someone I never got the chance to talk to later. It’s all free will — Reflecting it hurts so much.
    May God comfort his grieving family and may his memory stay alive with us all.

  7. Hisham Ahamed Avatar
    Hisham Ahamed

    I cannot believe that I just read this. I was with him for a couple of days during our community medicine intership period in Mysore. I was his junior. He shared my interest in J.R.R Tolkien and we spoke at length about everything we could get hold of. I need to know what happened….. A couple of days….but I can never forget him. I have posted my email above. I need to know.

  8. Arul Mani Avatar
    Arul Mani

    Just heard about Saketh’s passing. Very sad news. I remember all you guys hanging out with each other, and giving the poor cuckoo a hard time. I also seem to remember Mr. Marla’s amusement with the Anthony Thwaite poem I read out, as a companion piece. I still remember him as a lad with the cheeriest grin I’ve ever seen, and as an exceptionally fine person.

  9. From your favourite film Sak…

    “That’s when you know you’ve found somebody special. When you can just shut the fuck up for a minute and comfortably enjoy the silence.” -Mia Wallace ,Pulp fiction


  10. Well this is going to be the least relevant comment here…

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