The world knew him as Balraj Sahni, the celebrated actor, humanitarian and litterateur. But for me he was always Balraj-ji or Mamaji, my maternal grandmother's younger brother and hence my granduncle.
In many ways, he defined our family and gave the clan its moral fibre and its mythology, its deep unspeakable sadness and its great leaps of sunshine. For me in particular, a bookish child, preternaturally picking up on what occurred in the margins of adult behaviour, he was visible in the sudden sigh that would punctuate the belly-aching laughter of my mother and her sisters while remembering their childish pranks with him, the long sulks of other alpha male creative geniuses when Balraj-ji entered the room, the bottomless well of adoration he invoked in whoever he met - coconut sellers on Juhu beach, members of his beloved Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA), his Christian neighbours, his Punjabi writer friends, his once well-heeled but now Partition-scattered family, for whom he was the pivot, the trailblazer, the great roof under which they would try to recover themselves. I noted it all.