‘You touched people deeply and left your mark’

Pramath Raj Sinha pays tribute to Kanak Ghosh

by Pramath Raj Sinha
Published - Oct 21, 2019 5:14 PM Updated: Oct 21, 2019 5:14 PM
Kanak Ghosh

Dear Kanak,

We are flying together yet again. But, for the last time. I am trying to avoid thinking about you lying cold in the cargo hold. But now that you are truly free, you are probably out in the morning sky flying alongside us. I can see you sneaking up on me outside the airplane window with a “Kaise chal raha hai?” in your signature Bengali-Hindi and half smile-half laugh. Except, this time, my friend, you are having the last laugh.

We met 15 years ago, at BSES Bombay. You were the most unusual client. “I am a consultant on how to select a consultant,” you would pronounce, punctuated by a series of snorts and pauses for effect, and followed by a chuckle. Classic Kanak. Charming Kanak.

You connected instantly. And, people loved you. You went out of your way. To reach out. To stay in touch. To make time. To coach, to mentor, to be there. To help. You got into other people’s business. Never minding your business! But they didn’t mind. Because as an old friend said at the cremation, “there was no malice”. Malice-less Kanak. Writes a former colleague. You touched people deeply and left your mark. And, they are grateful. Someone even thanked me for introducing you to them.

You never said no. To any kind of work. To moving wherever work took you. To be the go-to guy, the troubleshooter. The problem-solver. Trust-worthy Kanak. When I put my hand on your back, it would feel like a steel armour. You were proud of that quirk in your physique. Especially because the hardness belied the person beneath.

And, soft you were. Especially when it came to food. You made me gorge at the seafood festival just the other night. You wouldn’t listen and got the chef to grill and fry every fish or crustacean on offer. When I decided to sample the coffee ice-cream you resisted but gave in, yet again, and attacked the dessert buffet. You were having fun that people were beating up on me for allowing you to eat the way you were. But, when you ate, you did so with the delight and abandon of a little child. Foodie Kanak. Doesn’t quite capture it. All I know is that seafood will never taste the same. Laphroaig & Kanak will no longer be peaty.

There is so much to say, to write. But words get stuck in the numbness. The memories help. Mumbai. The smoke-filled stairwell in BSES Mumbai. Ghajalee. Kuala Lumpur. At the Shang Palace over your first-ever Peking Duck, getting the better of Rudrangshu in knowing that Robert Clive attended the Merchant Taylors’ School in London! London. Your being blown away by the Phantom of the Opera. Paris. Walking the streets to study Metro’s newspaper distribution and feeling the buzz of a great city coming awake. Helsinki. Your pride in your rapid mastery of Finnish names. Delhi. Your love for our home. Full-of-joy Kanak. There’s a little less joy in the world today, somebody said. Aptly.

I couldn’t bear to complete writing this letter over the past week. But, today is your birthday. And, I was torn. Whether to celebrate your birth or mourn your passing. But, then I saw this in a Tagore quote from his "Farewell, My Friends", and I know you are saying:

“When you live in the hearts
Of those you love
Remember then
You never die.”

Indeed. Happy Birthday, my friend. Thank you and I miss you.

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