It was so long ago, that I cannot remember when I first met Prakash Thadani. It must have been about music, because that was one of his many passions; most likely jazz. And given the kind of person he was, we made an instant connection. His enthusiasm was infectious, as he jumped from jazz to rock to food to people to art to life and the great experience he had had yesterday and the people he had met day before.
He shared his life and as a result, you shared yours. An interview scheduled for maybe 45 minutes could become hours. Time just slipped past happily as we chatted, and you left feeling happier. That was Prakash. A ball of sunshine and good cheer and extreme generosity. He was so excited about the new products he developed at Silkworks, his clothing and accessory shop at Worli.
From the late 1970s onwards, Prakash was one of the leading lights of the Jazz Yatra, that wonderful music festival that brought jazz greats to India and also gave a platform to Indian musicians. Between the late Niranjan Jhaveri and Prakash, jazz became mainstream in India and especially in Mumbai. Those nights at Rang Bhavan, next to St Xavier’s College, were magical as the air was lit up with Thelonious Monk, Sadao Watanabe, Dizzy Gillespie, Indian greats like Louis Banks, newer Indian talent like Dinsha Sanjana all enthralled audiences. These are only a few names; it was marquee performances year after year.
But as time passed, and with the passing of Niranjan Jhaveri and then the closing of Rang Bhavan, life became more difficult for jazz. Prakash did try at the Bandra amphitheatre. But increasingly, sponsors were reluctant and in this, I also blame Bollywood which became the chief and only music for the neo-India in the early 2000s, flush with money and attitude. There is some change since with the Mahindra Blues Festival and other such events, but too late for the Jazz Yatra and Prakash. However, none of those since could achieve that friendly feel that the Jazz Yatra had. Personality-less, professionally-run, celebrity-driven events have destroyed the melody.
Prakash could well have disagreed with me. Much as he mourned the loss of what was, he threw himself into what could be. He grew a long ponytail and started singing in a rock band at Hard Rock Café. He encouraged and developed his love for cooking and took part in culinary competitions. His son opened a restaurant and Prakash threw himself into that. His bottled chilli sauce was particularly sought after.
Even when he was struck with cancer, he took it on with the same vigour with which he faced life. Yes, there were many down moments, which his family and close friends helped him through. But he always found a way to work through that despair. When I was diagnosed a few years ago, he was one of my strengths. We compared notes and treatments and from the mountains of expendable advice one gets at times like this, I only took what Prakash offered.
Since I moved out of Mumbai, we spoke on the phone and I made it a point to meet him when I visited. We could exchange a chilli sauce for some Dehradun cheese. I cannot even describe how much I will miss him.
Goodbye, my sweet, beautiful, gentle, generous friend. The world has lost a bit of its joy.
About RIP, Prakash Thadani
A prayer meeting to mourn the passing of Prakash Thadani is being held on Monday, September 10 at 6.30pm at the KC College Auditorium, Churchgate, Mumbai
Posted on Sep 09, 2018
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Location: K.C. Mahavidyalaya, Churchgate, Mumbai, Maharashtra