Renowned comedian Raju Srivastava breathed his last on September 21, leaving the entire nation shocked.
The 58-year-old standup comic was admitted at AIIMS, Delhi, on August 10 after he had collapsed while working out on the treadmill at a gym. He had then undergone an angioplasty but since then, he had been on the ventilator until the time of his demise.
As soon as the news of the comedian's passing away broke, several actors, comedians and ministers expressed their anguish and extended their heartfelt condolences while thanking Raju for his contribution to comedy in India.
In an exclusive conversation with The Free Press Journal, comedians Sunil Pal and Ahsaan Qureshi, who had worked closely with Raju for several years, along with playback singer Kailash Kher, who was the comedian's family friend, shared their fond memories of him and recalled his final moments.
An emotional Sunil Pal said that the news of Raju Srivastava's demise has still not settled in. "It feels like some kind of sick joke or a rumour. I cannot believe he is no longer with us. Throughout his life, his main goal had been to make people laugh and to make his audience happy. He used to go by the funda 'Khana, gaana aur hasaana', and until the very end, he stuck to that. We all used to call him the 'youngest senior' in the comedy fraternity, because even though he was the oldest among us, he was the most energetic and full of life person."
He added, "Even though Raju Srivastava has left for his heavenly abode, his legacy will remain immortal and he will continue to exist amongst us till the day standup comedy is practiced and appreciated."
Reminiscing the first time he met Raju Srivastava and their friendship over the years, Ahsaan Qureshi shared, "Raju bhai was a great artist. He will always be with us through his work. We met for the first time on the show 'The Great Indian Laughter Show' in the year 2005. We have been friends for the last 17 years. Before I met Raju bhai, I used to admire his work a lot. I clearly remember I was elated when he spoke to me for the first time. Raju will be missed not only by us but by the entire nation. I pray to God that his wife gets the strength to live and fulfill her responsibilities towards her children."
He mentioned that he will be travelling to Delhi with his family to attend Raju's last rites on September 22.
A few days ago, singer Kailash Kher had organised Mahamrityunjaya Mantra chanting by 21 saints for the comedian's speedy recovery. Getting teary-eyed, he shared, "Raju Srivastava's demise is a huge loss to the entire nation. At a time when standup comedy was not so popular in India, Raju worked hard, made people laugh and carved a niche for himself, and earned his identity without any support from anyone. Even after being so popular, he was a very humble and down-to-earth person and had no airs of being a celebrity."
He also revealed that Raju's son Ayushmaan is a student at the singer's academy KKALA. "Raju's family is like our family, and now it is our responsibility to look after his children. I and my family are making sure that they get all the support that they need. We all are just praying to God now for his departed soul and may his afterlife be as peaceful and blessed as his time among us," he averred.
Actress Priya Ahuja Rajda, who worked with Raju in the show 'Aisi Ki Taisi' shared, "I had worked with him in 'Aisi Ki Taisi' back in 2007. It was a very initial phase of my career and Raju ji was at the peak of his career, yet he was humble and compassionate. He also appeared in Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah for a brief track. Unfortunately, I wasn't there but Malav (director of TMKOC) got that opportunity to work with him and he also was left mesmerised by his humble behaviour."
Priya added, "I remember meeting him at various occasions, despite the long gap in between, he never acted as if he has forgotten me. He always made an effort to talk to me and we always cherished our good old days."
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