Dr Ramesh Gurunathan has just received a set of Japanese porcelain plates from London, and they are things that he will treasure forever.
The Subang Jaya, Selangor-based surgeon secured these plates that once belonged to the late singer Freddie Mercury at the prestigious Sotheby's auction, Freddie Mercury: A World Of His Own, which was held in London recently.
He may very well be the only Malaysian to possess items directly linked to the legendary frontman of the iconic rock band Queen.
"It really feels great to own a piece of him. I plan to have a special showcase to keep these plates, probably in my music room where I have the complete records of Queen," said Dr Ramesh, 57, during an interview in Subang Jaya, Selangor recently.
The auctions commenced on Sept 6 and concluded a week later, resulting in a total of 41,800 bids placed on 1,406 lots across six auctions. Sotheby's achieved a full 'white-glove' sales – with all lots sold, and almost 99% selling above their high estimates – totalling £40mil (RM229mil), as reported in Sotheby's official website.
A total of 2,000 bidders from 61 countries participated in the event.
Dr Ramesh acquired a set of five Japanese Shoki Imari style dishes and another set of five dishes from the 20th century Showa era.
Other items sold off at the auction were furniture, clothing (including Mercury's iconic Adidas hi-top trainers which was a much-photographed piece of music and fashion history), art works and knick-knacks.
The entire collection was made available for sale by Mary Austin, a close friend and one-time fiancee of Mercury who inherited half of the singer's estate. Part of the proceeds will be donated to the Mercury Phoenix Trust and the Elton John AIDS Foundation, both organisations actively engaged in the fight against AIDS.
Mercury, born Farrokh Bulsara, was celebrated for his extraordinary vocal range, flamboyant stage presence and charismatic personality. As the lead vocalist of rock band Queen, he played an instrumental role in shaping the rock music landscape of the 1970s and 1980s.
His powerful performances and songwriting prowess resulted in timeless hits like Bohemian Rhapsody, We Will Rock You and Somebody To Love. Sadly, his life was cut short when he succumbed to complications from AIDS in 1991 at the age of 45.
Dr Ramesh, a lifelong fan of Queen and Mercury, was inspired to participate in the auction after discovering it online.
"I have always loved everything about Queen and Freddie, probably since I was in high school. I enjoy their music and I regularly read about them. When I heard about the auction, I decided to try my luck and bid for a piece of Freddie's life," said the upper gastrointestinal tract surgeon who works in a private hospital in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
The father of two placed bids on various items, including clothing once worn by Mercury, on the Sotheby's app.
"It was initially a game for me to get into bidding, just for fun, as I felt I would never get anything. I kept putting my bids on lots of items, especially his T-shirts, awards and vases, but I kept being outbid," said Dr Ramesh, adding that the starting price for the plates were £250 (RM1,433).
However, as the bidding progressed and prices soared, Dr Ramesh found himself facing fierce competition.
"I'd put in bids at night, and when I’d wake up in the morning, I’d receive an email that I had been outbidden. It was frustrating to get outbid each time.
"The kan cheong (anxious) feeling set in, and I'd have to quickly increase my bid. At the same time, the prices were just getting out of reach for certain items, especially his clothing," said Dr Ramesh, who flew to Melbourne in 2020 to attend The Rhapsody Tour, a worldwide concert tour by Queen and singer Adam Lambert.
At one point, he nearly gave up hope of acquiring any of Mercury's items due to the relentless competition and skyrocketing prices.
But his determination to own a piece of the popular rock star spurred him to persevere.
"I thought I might as well keep on going as I badly wanted something from this legend."
As to the amount he paid for the plates, Dr Ramesh prefers to keep that information confidential.
"I shall keep that a secret! It was not what I expected but it's worth every cent. I would not have gone too much beyond my budget but the urge was always there. I had the support of my family but I was initially not serious about winning anything until the very end. We were all so excited when I emerged the winning bidder.
"I have always admired Freddie not only for his great talent in music but also his character as a person. He has lived his life to the fullest, and that's inspiring. He continues to (influence) new generations who love his music even till today," he said.