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While the world and fans mourn the loss of a charismatic personality, flashes of vivid memory come back to me from my more than ‘chance’ encounters with Patrick Swazye. This was during his seven months stay in Calcutta (Kolkata), India in 1990, while filming for Dominic Lappierre’s ‘City of Joy’, directed by Roland Joffe. It was a full unit of more than 100 people that made Calcutta’s grand ole dame The Oberoi Grand, their home for more than seven months.

A Scene from 'The City of Joy'

A Scene from 'The City of Joy'

A fresh graduate from the Oberoi School of Hotel Management, The Oberoi Grand was my first assignment in 1990 and one of my charges was the rather rudderless night-club ‘Pink Elephant’, the only one in the city for a long time. At that time there were 900 odd staff working for the hotel, so what makes my time so special?

My initial encounters with Patrick were at the night club. The whole unit would have Thursdays off, so Wednesday would be their night out! Those days he was known to wearing a torn off T with tattered jeans and pair of ‘Kolhapuri’ sandals which he had picked up from nearby New Market. Nights at the ‘Pink Elephant’ would roll on with many a Dry Martinis, and it is Patrick who taught me to make one ‘extra dry’, his way! In the course of seven months, we would have conversations about his childhood, how he would watch his mother choreograph shows, and how he picked up his interest in ballet. Today I remember his stories about graduation from high school in Houston, TX and his subsequent gymnastics scholarship to college. How he dropped off from college to tour Disney on Ice as ‘Prince Charming’. Then on were the stories about his knee injury from a football match in school, which stayed on with him and forced him out of gymnastics and ballet, his tryst with martial arts, riding etc etc.

This is where we met - The Oberoi Grand

This is where we met - The Oberoi Grand

It was my first exposure to an international personality and his humbleness won me over. Ever since, I have come across many a star but has never been ‘star struck’. Patrick did it for me – I was initially in awe of him but eventually he made me feel equal! He told me and a few others about his love for Lisa (his childhood sweetheart from the ballet days) and how she would still count his drinks and disliked his smoking. One Wednesday night Patrick wasn’t drinking much, just because Lisa would be arriving the next morning, he didn’t want to be ‘shit faced’ to meet her at the airport! That was him! Infact, many may not know, that at that time the only person he trusted to be driven around by, was Lisa’s brother, and Alex was travelling with him in Calcutta as his chauffeur cum Jeeves.

City of Joy, Poster

City of Joy, Poster

There is a lot of memory coming back to me, but nothing to match the night when he asked me if the DJ could play ‘Time of My Life’ for Lisa and him – ‘ofcourse’ and there was nothing stopping it. The floor was theirs, no one dared to shake a leg while they romanced the floor – and Calcutta had a treat. For me, it was more than a treat – an experience difficult to replicate!

Rest In peace – Patrick Swayze.

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