Friday, 22 February 2013

A Missed Opportunity

This post has nothing to do with disability. The reason for the diversion is that I am just coming out of a really horrific phase of my life and my mind cannot grapple with anything too disconnected from my trauma. Although I hinted about his ill-health, the day after I wrote my arguably - and understandably - most read post, viz. my tribute to Rahul, was also the day I lost my brother. (And this double loss, of first Rahul, and then Mahi, after a week of regular and gloomy visits to the hospital when he was in the ICU and one never got to see and talk to him, and waiting for the bad news at any moment,  is this trauma I am talking about.) Here was a guy barely 5 years older than me (although he was more than 25 years older than Rahul!), in the pink of his health in November, and suddenly things started going wrong and the way the state of his health nose-dived after that was almost like a free fall and equally frightening to see.

His was a most unconventional professional trajectory. After having joined the IIT (just because he wrote the entrance exam and did well enough to be offered a seat the possibility of refusal of which was decried by various uncles and elders in the family). After barely a year of the kind of boot camp that a first year student of the IITs faces, he had the guts to say `enough is enough' and to join a B.Sc. programme in physics, after having been seduced to the subject by the three volumes of Feynman's lectures (which I still possess as a prized bequest from him). He completed a bachelors and masters in physics, and found his soul-mate during his masters' programme and soon thereafter maded two life-changing decidions: (a) he got married because her family was moving to the US en masse, and (b) he gave up physics to get a job as a lowly sub-editor in a newspaper. Before long, at somebody's suggestion, he applied for, and was selected by the Tata Administrative Services. He worked with Telco in Pune for some years, and became something of an expert in Human Relations, following which he moved on to the Taj group of hotels. After a few years, he moved to Wipro for a brief spell before he made an inspired switch from a business-driven world to the peaceful environs of academia in a private University in a small town in England, where he built a credible school for service management.

I still remember the first time I saw him after he had had a whiff of the romance and lure of the academic world, whose praises he was singing with the fervour of a recent convert, forgetting that I had been in academia for close to twenty years by then! But from everything I have been hearing and reading about him since his cruelly early demise, this numerical senioriy I had was rapidly overcome to the stage where he enjoys almost a guru status in his line of work.

Not just academic proficiency, he seems to have touched so many people's lives in such meaningful and deep ways that I feel like kicking myself for having wasted 60 years of my life arguing with him with the contempt and brashness of the younger towards anything older. I, who have been teaching people for most of my life, and have been generally considered one of the better math teachers, will feel infinitely content if I can receive a tithe of the encomiums heaped on him, when my time comes to cross the great divide.

Reading some of these messages from the heart of the many people whose lives Mahi touched, I look back at all the silly arguments we had and can't but think of such phrases as familiarity breeds contempt and casting pearls before swine. Even if it is a mite late,  let me salute you, Mahi, for an exemplary life which I was too brash and cocky to suficiently learn from!

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