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He was different. Siddhartha Mishra was not the boy next-door, yet so much like one of us. He was an introvert to the outside world, difficult to even strike up a conversation with. But in his select circle of friends he was an extrovert who brimmed with life. He was difficult to keep pace with, thanks to his child-like enthusiasm.

He was like that only. I first met him in 1996 autumn in old Delhi's Daryaganj in the classroom of Times School of Journalism (TSJ). I was brash, unpolished. He was supremely calm, composed and mature. There was nothing in common between us. Absolutely nothing.

Still we became friends in no time, cannot recall how. We came home after our course ended in 1997 summer. We took the same train, Utkal Express, sleeper class, back to Delhi. On May 27, 1997, I sat pillion on his scooter, to reach "The Times of India" building at 7 Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg to start our career in journalism.

He was a bright student of geology and had applied to TSJ for a lark. I remember him telling me that he told his interviewers at TSJ that he only read the sports page and the comic strips in "The Times of India", and didn't bother to go beyond the front page headlines. And he never thought he stood a chance and didn't care.   

But I know how he must have been selected. It's the language test. His style of writing was unmatched. He could amplify a small idea into purple prose. He was a prolific writer, and a gifted one at that.

He was different. His style of writing stood out.

At work, he had two distinct worlds. One that consisted of his colleagues-turned-friends and the other that of only colleagues from whom he usually kept a safe distance. Unintentionally, though. Never felt it was necessary to keep bosses in good humour.

To anyone who says he gives his 100 per cent to his work, I would say, you have not seen him work. To anyone who says he is a workaholic, I would say you have not seen him work. His pursuit for perfection bordered on evoking annoyance.

If you wanted to catch up with him, then the best chance was after 2 am. Obviously, our meetings became infrequent as years went by.

Then, he shifted base to Chennai in 2008. But we did catch up, whenever he came to Delhi on assignments.

I last met him in November, 2011, at a guest house in Sundar Nagar, Delhi. He was in Delhi to cover an India-West Indies. He had come hoping to witness Sachin Tendulkar's century of centuries. That wasn't to be, though India won the match under four days.

And no, it wasn't 2 am. Luckily, India had wrapped the match up by noon. We poured our drinks at around 5 pm and bared our hearts. Two more friends his DU mates joined us around 8 pm. He ordered his favourite brain curry from Karim's which never made to his plate as it was very late. Around 1 am, I sneaked out of the guest house as I had morning duty. Had I told him I was leaving, he would have never let me leave. It was always like that.

Expectedly he called while I was driving back home. "Bas*****, you left? At least, we should have hugged each other."

That was not to be. That was my last meeting.

He was mad about jeans, denims, Delhi, Karim's, Bachchan, Al Pacino, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Tendulkar, Lara, Govinda, but not necessarily in that order. And, cartoons. He mostly read biographies of sportspersons.

Together, we have watched many Govinda movies in single-screen theatres in north Delhi. Night show, front row, all for a princely five-rupee note. It was his way of having fun.

He was a giver. He was non-judgmental. He was irritatingly stubborn, yet humility was his biggest virtue.

He did not show off. Never ever. Street smart, sweet talker, smooth operator he was none of it. He was genuinely smart. He did not seek any favour.

He believed in honesty, integrity and hard work. He stuck to these core beliefs till the very end, irrespective of the outcome.

He was exceptionally talented whose full potential was never realised. He was an outstanding human being beyond comparison.

I feel privileged to have known you, my friend. It's unfair, you are gone without saying goodbye. Really unfair.

But I will still seek your approval every time I write something, just to make sure it's up to the mark. And every time I raise a glass and say cheers, it will be for you.

Rest in peace. And no goodbye.

Cheers!

(Senior sports journalist Siddhartha Mishra, 40, passed away in Chennai on October 30 after a brief illness)



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More about N C Satpathy

N C Satpathy is senior editor at CNN-IBN. He started his career in journalism with Times of India in 1997 and switched to television in 2003.

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