Gopinath Raina in conversation with Arun Koul

I have known Shri Gopinath Raina for a good number of years now, certainly from the beginning of this century. In meetings, he comes across as a tall, elegant man, with pleasing, handsome looks and gracious demeanor. Even in a room full of people, it is his image that first catches one's eye. He is an imposing personality, yet he seems very personable and approachable. Hence people of all ages get drawn into conversation with him. In familiarity, love and admiration many call him Papaji, which is what his children and close family members also call him.

Papaji had a long and glorious career in the Indian Information Services and also worked in media and journalism before and after that. He has contributed some of the most widely read content for magazines and journals including our Shehjar. Such has been his impact as a journalist and writer that I have been wanting to do a biographical interview with him. But then he looked and performed so much as a person still in his prime, both intellectually and physically! One would think that there is a lot of time remaining to do that. Papaji recently turned 93 but it would be impossible for any person not in the know to place him in that quadrant. He easily looked 25 years younger.

Very recently, during conversation with Deepak Ganju, Papaji's son, I came to know that Papaji now has Stage 4 colon cancer, which is also trying to overpower his lungs. This was shocking to say the least. There has been so much tragedy in the family lately that one felt like breaking down. Papaji's youngest son Akshay passed away from cancer at the age of 51 and his young granddaughter (Deepakji's daughter Neha) had passed away just 2 weeks before this tragedy. I asked Deepakji if we could approach Papaji for an interview because there could not be a way that the experiences and advice of such a Karam Yogi should remain undocumented. Deepakji agreed and so I sent Papaji a series of interview questions. Purportedly, the purpose was to find out how Papaji had managed to carry sharp intellect in a robust looking body even at his age. Also to seek answers about how to gracefully and ideally deal with all kinds of ups and downs in life. He wrote back to me soon. "Namaste, Bete. It is your innate goodness and hereditary acquired aptitude that makes you so humble."

"Now, to your questions. You say that many years back, you were surprised to know that I was then in my 80s whereas you would not have thought even 60s. Well, many years ago, my life style and my physical being defied the age concept. By and large people would not place me beyond 65. The reasons seem easily identifiable."

"During my professional career spanning 35 years from March 15, 1948 to July 31, 1983, I could not follow a fixed life-style simply because the duty hours were not normal. It was not a fixed 7-hour daily schedule, from 10 am to 5 pm. It used to be either a 3pm to 10 pm schedule, or from 9 pm to 4 am or from 3 am to 10 am. Rarely would it be 10 am to 5pm."

"I had various assignments, like those of a Monitor, Sub-editor, Editor/cum/Correspondent, In-charge of AIR's prestigious daily Spotlight and weekly Current Affairs Programs. In these, not only media greats and editors of leading newspapers (like Girilal Jain, Inder Malhotra and Devdas Gandhi), but also most government Ministers and well-known analysts and defense experts would take part daily. This led to interaction with leading ideologues from whom I could learn the basics and patterns in various fields; cultural, social and economic."

"Once I retired at the age of 58 on July 31, 1983, I could adopt a regular lifestyle that included early rise from bed but not so early going to bed. Yet, I did ensure at least 6 to 7 hours of sleep. Early rise would give me time for regular morning walk of at least one hour if not more, in addition to time for meditation, followed by timely breakfast."

"At this point I would like to make one thing clear. I feel from your questions that you perhaps are not merely interested in knowing something more about my early life, education etc., but something a lot deeper. When I thought this, I felt that I should interest you in what I have already recorded about my life's journey in a sort of auto-biography. Since it is recorded in a time when memory served me right, you might find it more interesting, throwing light on various aspects of life and my development as a student of life as such. I would appreciate your time in going through details as it might satisfy you and your inquiries."

"I am replying to some of your harder questions later because these deal with the disease that has overtaken my lungs. As you know it is stage 4 Cancer that has travelled from my colon, where it was first found in August 2013. I have decided not to subject myself to any chemo treatment simply because I wish to pass on with the least suffering. More so, I am taking advantage of my astrological skills that I have developed for nearly 65 years. The year of my exit from this planet is surely by 2018."

"This personal affliction itself was compounded by a more serious tragedy in my family when one of my beloved, beautiful and vivacious granddaughter succumbed to a similar disease. Within 12 days, my youngest son was lost to blood cancer at the age of 51."

"Life is a paradox, live our part and depart. As I wrote in one of my articles on Death a few years ago in Shehjar magazine, Death is more certain than life itself."

With his reply, Papaji attached his autobiographical notes, which have never been shared before. As I read these notes, I became further captivated by Papaji's intellect, experiences and art of communicating a story. While reading the notes, visuals would magically float in front of my eyes, of what had transpired. It is tremendous responsibility to share these notes with you in an orderly manner and I hope to do so in the coming days and weeks. Breaking tradition, we will be updating this cover feature, "Shri Gopinath Raina – Papaji" several times during this month itself, in this very issue. Every update will append a new autobiographical note from Papaji. The first one, Note 1 - Hero Of My Dreams is linked below.

What a beautiful expressive writeup? One of the best memoirs I have read. The introduction is superb and one gets glued to read it all. Rainaji, we wish you all the best.
Added By Surinder Raina
This was an excellent read and gives an insight into the life of a human being which is always full of surprises and memorable incidents.
Added By Sushant Kaul
Wonderful interview documented with 94+ experience .
Added By Subhash Razdan
Shri G N Raina,our revered Papaji--the first cousin of Smt Jaya Sibu Ji,is of course, a person of great spiritual integrity and understanding.We wish him well!
Added By chaman lal raina
We Love you Papa ji.
Added By Vijay kaul
I am so proud of you that it makes me proud of me. I hope you know that you are a great Dad.
Added By Aditi Mahajan
Too small as i am to comment on the stature of Respected and dear Papaji, I shall only say that he is a great source of inspiration for all of us.. A living legend I wish him the best of times ahead
Added By Kiran Chaku
Too small as i am to comment on the stature of Respected and dear Papaji, I shall only say that he is a great source of inspiration for all of us.. A living legend I wish him the best of times ahead
Added By Kiran Chaku
This has indeed been a fascinating conversation. I believe that it started from the first time I came in contact with you and is ongoing. All who come in contact with Papaji have a similar experience of proximity and fondness. Wishing to hear so much more from you.
Added By Arun Koul