SOMETIMES, I sensed he was a bit annoyed with me. Sometimes, his staff glared at me when I stepped into his office.
Those were the days when I was then a young and callow reporter, quick with my pen and hasty with my judgement.
Punch Gunalan, pompadour haircut and all, would scowl at me, the way Elvis Presley did when he got irritated.
Probably, Punch wasn't pleased with my reports, usually a swipe at the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM).
That would happen when sometimes, someone in the badminton circle threw me a juicy bone of a story, and the news hound in me snapped it up.
But the very next day, Punch, the BAM secretary then, would be back to his usual jovial self.
"You want a scoop? (a newspaper term for exclusive news) I buy you a scoop of ice cream," he said with a laugh, while punching my shoulder with his fist.
That's Punch for you, a man who never held a grudge, a great man with humour and who made others enjoy his company without feeling small.
A former All England and Asian Games champion, Punch balanced his greatness with humility, much in the dexterous way he wielded his racquet in his heyday.
When I was badly injured in a car accident in Canada in 1994, Punch gave a veritable sum of money to my family.
The cruel hand of fate took away Punch's life when he died on Wednesday of liver cancer at the age of 68, leaving us mourning his untimely demise. My world is now gloomier and quieter without his laughter.
Punch left behind an iconic image -- his boyish smile, his pompadour haircut, his badminton triumphs, both as a player and an official.
Even aunties, who don't really follow badminton, know of Punch's fame.
A Chinese lady, who is a school bus driver, told me: "It's sad. That handsome Indian man with the curry puff hairdo who played badminton, has died."
I never got used to calling Gunalan "Datuk", for it would take the punch out of his persona.
Punch wasn't born Punch Gunalan. The man who gave birth to the, by now immortalised name, was the late Norman Siebel, then the sports editor of the New Straits Times.
In his earlier years, Punch's name was Gunalan Panchacharan but because of his powerful smashes, he was nicknamed Punch.
A mechanical engineer with the then National Electricity Board, now known as TNB, Punch reignited the dimming fortunes of Malaysian badminton in the 1980s when he became the secretary of BAM.
He faced ups and downs in his mission.
He took everything in his stride, and rolled with the punches when his critics attacked with caustic smashes.
Yet, he remained a badminton gentleman who never spoke bad of his adversaries.
Punch preferred to let his deeds speak for him. As chief coach and manager, he guided Malaysia to the Thomas Cup crown in 1992. Since then, no other BAM officials have been able to match his achievements.
Punch... we will miss you but we will never forget you.
- This week's column will be my last. I would like to thank readers with whom I have shared my thoughts for the past four years.