Goodbye, Arun Bhatia

The voice on the other side is singing a popular Bengali number from Satyajit Ray's film Charulata. "Is there any language you do not know Arun?" we exclaim, only to hear a hearty laugh on the other side.

Our legacy member Arun Bhatia (February 2, 1935-November 14, 2023) led an information and action-packed life that had the makings of a great memoir. An excellent writer and raconteur, we were lucky to have glimpsed parts of his life through some of the articles he voluntarily wrote for us, with trademark touches of humour.

We discovered he had been a little boy who participated in the Quit India Movement in Mumbai (then Bombay). Of course, he was only 7. His best memory of it? The burning of an effigy of Winston Churchill. At 7 years old, Bhatia didn't know who Churchill was. But the chance to play with matches, with grown-ups watching, was irresistible.

<b><i>Arun with his daughter Sonali at our event Samvaad </i></b>
Arun with his daughter Sonali at our event Samvaad 

Arun was a young at heart octogenarian. A University of California graduate in 1956, he had some fascinating stories about his brush with Hollywood. Like many students, Arun did a multitude of odd jobs to pay for college, which included being an extra on film sets or working part-time at restaurants.

He wrote about seeing Jerry Lewis make everyone laugh at a Hollywood party that had famous actors like Rock Hudson, Doris Day, Gary Cooper, and Robert Mitchum. Arun was present there as a bus boy and years later the memory was a fun story for our pages.

Arun was an expert swimmer and it led to more Hollywood adventures of the oddest kind, including playing a shark (yes) in a film in 1953. You can read it here for a dose of laugh: A Shark Attack.

Our favourite remains a story about the missing Toblerone, showing his humour and love for Gita, his wife who passed away in 2006.

There was a lot of creativity behind all the self-deprecating humour. Arun was a popular ad film model and also an accomplished artist. He once shared the painting of a diver, done by him sometime in 1957, when he returned to India from college.


In his later days, as he got sick, he would email us to share his struggles. One of them was especially poignant:

At the age of 12 in 1947, I underwent my first surgery, a six-hour operation in the operating theatre for an ear ailment (mastoid operation). Fast forward to now, at the age of 88, and I've experienced multiple surgeries involving my ankle, heart, spine, prostate, knees, eyes, and teeth. Many of these surgeries led to post-op ICU stays, where I would regain consciousness from anaesthesia and undergo the process of recovery.

Technology has contributed to increased longevity, so I am still around, almost a robot. I am grateful for the ability to venture out in my adult diaper and enjoy simple pleasures like panipuri but the concept of ICU, designed for "complete rest," has me baffled. Each ICU visit has proven more demanding than the actual surgical procedure. Medical professionals emphasize the need for total bodily rest but often overlook the psychological toll of isolation on the mind.

Lack of human contact does not equate to true rest. The absence of information regarding the duration of my stay in the ICU feels harmful. A regular touch or conversation with a nurse, doctor, or paramedic every quarter hour could make a significant difference. Some ICUs even seem pitch dark, intensifying the emotional strain, which, in turn, influences the healing process.

Yes, medicare is a business. Yes, the surgeon has done his/her job in the OT and said 'rest" He/she did not say 'torture'. However, there seems to be a gap in emotional support during the recovery process. Overworked staff may struggle to provide this support, but volunteers, NGOs, or college students can be recruited to offer much-needed companionship.

It ended with his trademark humour:

Upon gaining consciousness at some ICU once, I thought I was dead! I tried to find out by touching my nose. Did I have it? Does it prove anything?

Goodbye, Arun. Thank you for sharing aspects of your varied life with us. We hope the heavens are echoing with laughter, anecdotes and songs with you there.

About the author

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Silver Talkies

Silver Talkies is a pioneering social enterprise on a mission since 2014 to make healthy and active ageing a desirable and viable goal for older adults. Their belief is that active ageing is the most promising and economical form of preventive healthcare and with an empowering and enabling environment, older adults can age gracefully and with dignity.

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22 Nov, 2023

we will always miss Arunji! He has left with all of us , a first hand impression of how to make sure we enjoy our later years no matter what the odds are and to enjoy and share our experiences of this journey we call life ! RIP Arunji I am so glad I had the privilege of knowing you , interacting with you and enjoying your singing and humor ! 🙏🏼

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21 Nov, 2023

I also found his article on ICU ,thought provoking. His suggestion that some people be around in the ICU for emotional succour of the patient is something the hospitals should take note of..

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21 Nov, 2023

Enjoyed reading this honey moon story of Arun Bhatia. May his soul rest in peace.

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