Prakash Karat is the General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
He and I went to the same school in Chennai for several years — he was known as K.Prakash then. During that time, our houses were also within a few hundred yards of each other. I cannot remember us walking to school together ever but for several years we played tennis ball cricket in the evenings with another boy Mani whose dad owned the house in which Prakash’s apartment was located. Prakash supplied the bat. A tamarind tree was the stumps. I have fond memories of those times. I loved sweeping the ball to the leg side behind the wicket and Prakash always made appreciative comments of how well I connected the ball, which endeared me to him.
I also have the following memory of his first year in our school which he joined when his family came to Chennai from Burma (now Myanmar). He was quite ahead of us in academics which caused me quite some concern — my parents didn’t like it if I got anything but the top grades. However, much to my comfort, he slowly came down to the level of the rest of us, and I could beat him easily. He never talked about any of this during our evening play. We were not close but in whatever dealings we had, he was nothing but a perfect gentleman.
We had stopped playing cricket sometime before the final year of high school and I had no interaction with Prakash after that, except for reading one of his essays published in The Hindu, for which he had won a trip to the Tokyo Olympics. (This was in an essay competition called The Hindu-Hitachi essay competition.)
A few years ago, I accidentally saw a reference to Prakash on the Web, and came to know what all he has been doing after high school. (He goes by the name Prakash Karat now.) Here is more information about him:
I have fond memories of the time we spent as lads playing cricket together. [It was quite perceptive of him to admire my leg side strokes :-)] He was also nothing but a gentleman in all our dealings. Further, Prakash was on the right side of the tracks while we were growing up and could have settled into a comfortable and easy life. Instead, he has followed his heart and taken up what must be a difficult life. (It is not uncommon to find him being vilified in press and on the net.) My hat is off to him for this also.