Remember Me!

COVID-19…

“Remember, when I laid in despair in the hospital?” I asked him. “What did you tell me? ‘Keep telling yourself “I am Fine”, and you will be fine!’ Your advice did wonders for me. It will work for you as well, Daddy.”

I reminded him of the words that he had spoken to me from his wheelchair as I laid helpless in my hospital bed last year with an amoebic liver abscess. I was fighting back my tears. I didn’t need to because he couldn’t see me. Did my words carry the impact? I don’t know. As I couldn’t see him either. He was on the other side of the call, his voice inaudible. Perhaps, he was prioritizing to conserve his breath. I would never know as it was the last I spoke to him. Two days later, he travelled to the other side. `Alone in the final leg of his journey. How I wish I could have held the hand that had blessed me for decades for just a moment before letting go. Unfortunately, that’s not how COVID-19 operates. Fortunately, the virus can only dictate how you die, not how you lived. The closure of Dad’s story was preceded by many beautiful chapters.

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Beginning. I first met him when he was a decade younger than what I am today. I was in my second year of college. His wife’s nephew was my sister’s fiancé. He had come for some official work to my town and had stopped over at our place. I dutifully touched his feet; perhaps, I had a premonition. It was the first baby step of our relationship.

A decade later. I married his only offspring. A typical arranged matrimony that was enthusiastically championed by my sister. While the wedding was in Ahmedabad, he threw a special reception in Pune for all the blue-collar workers of his employer, Sandvik. A few months later, I relocated to Pune. My social life needed a boost and his societal circles proved useful. Dinners at his place became a weekend ritual. Of course, the invitees and context of these dinners differed each time. For instance, dining with an overseas customer was all about displaying the Indian hospitality while having a boss over was about showing the hierarchical respect. Someday, a colleague would stop over to bond while on another day, a subordinate would be welcomed for an encouraging pep talk. Every now and then, an aged, distant relative would be invited out of a sense of duty whereas a far-flung nephew would be summoned to dispatch the local guardian responsibilities.

And somewhere in between the laughter and cheer of our whiskey pegs, our relationship grew and I made a transition from Son-in-law to Son.

After another decade. Years flew by until one fine day he discovered that he had reached retirement age. Scary ripples spread through the family—what will a person with wheels beneath his feet sit at home and do? The fears were ill-founded. It was academia this time around; he became a professor at Sinhgad Institute of Management. The transition from the corporate rat race to educational institutions was seamless. Associate professors took over the role of corporate colleagues while the blue-collar workers were replaced by management students. The students didn’t just attend his classes, but they were often found in his living room for a variety of counselling sessions. Once a young couple even came to him for “eloping” assistance in defiance of their unreasonable parents!

His professional escapades didn’t come at the cost of his loved ones. Birthdays, anniversaries, and get-togethers on every side of the family were incomplete without his humour. The last prayer in each festival was reserved for his hymns. He doted over his grandkids, swelled with pride over Cybage’s ascend, and lent me his shoulder when I lost my own dad.

Yet another decade. Years kept sweeping by. Then arrived the age of the Mayan prophecy the year our planet was expected to come to a grinding halt. But, 2012 came and went and fortunately, the world didn’t stop. Unfortunately, one of its inhabitants did. For the person who ran all the time could, suddenly, no longer walk. Vasculitic Peripheral Neuropathy, they called it. Something you won’t hear in conversations over a coffee table. It is the rarest of rare diseases that leads to a gradual degeneration of nerves. There is no solution to it. Only exemplary medical attention to mitigate the pain and delay the onslaught of disease coupled with tons of emotional support for positivity.

Mom became the caregiver, no degree of words or salutations can capture her commitment. But, when it came to positivity, he didn’t need any help. In no time he joined Ruby Hall’s physiotherapy department and was back to his zestful best with his new morning circle. He was a star celebrating all special occasions where he would bring cakes, samosas, wada pavs—everything unimaginably sinful for the staff members. “I will come here till the last day of my life,” he often declared.

The curtains. His health kept deteriorating with each passing year. Hospital visits increased in frequency every few weeks—immunosuppressant drips to stop nerve degeneration, to control sepsis or pneumonia or diabetes, and zillion bacterial fevers.

Then came the lockdown. We strongly admonished him to stay put at home. He tried to follow it regimentally. Since house visits by his daughter’s family converted into FaceTime calls and no physiotherapy outings—as a person who spent 20 hours on bed daily, it was natural for him to feel suffocated. So, he made only two exceptions. 1) His part-time caretaker whom he was completely dependent on for the last eight years continued coming every morning to help him with his morning chores; and 2) His driver took him out every morning for a 30-minute rejuvenating drive that left him stimulated for the rest of the day despite not stepping out of the car. And somewhere in those tiny windows of exposure, the virus found its way to him. Ironically, everyone close to him, including mom, tested negative.

June 3, 2020, 12:30pm. Dad breathed his last. It was a cheerless last breath. The man who spent a lifetime loving and interacting with everyone around, spent his last week in solitude. What’s more, he was not allowed to come home for a proper farewell. So, Ritu and I went to the Ruby Hall mortuary. We had no ritualistic role to play other than waiting for the PMC ambulance.

Then something divine transpired. As fate would have it, the mortuary was right next to the physiotherapy department. The staff seated us and together we waited for the PMC van. Those 30 minutes were precious, we learnt of beautiful tiny incidents that Dad never narrated to us. Tears were flowing down. The few steady ones hastily arranged Agarbatis and Pooja ki Thali. Geeta bhajans resonated on someone’s mobile. The PMC ambulance finally arrived and he came out of the morgue. Everyone, including us, bid farewell from 10 feet away. Dad had his closure—a final goodbye straight from the Physiotherapy department that he so loved.

Obituary. I lost someone treasured to COVID-19. But, I am not holding any grudge. For I know the virus that the whole world fears was only an excuse. The truth is that Dad was living a borrowed life for many years. He was 77 and overweight because of heavy steroids that had led to water retention, wheelchair bound, had a plethora of severe comorbidity issues, the main one being his severely compromised immunity. God just needed a pretext to welcome him, for his circle of life was complete. COVID or no COVID, it was never a question of “if”, it was always a question of “when”.

I believe unless someone close to us has serious comorbid issues, we all need to do our bit to put a stop to this mass hysteria. Social distancing and adequate caution no doubt we must exercise. But, when are we going to cease living in this constant panic? It’s not logical. At least on the Indian subcontinent. It’s simple math. Take Dharavi for instance, the virus entered India’s densest slum on 2nd March 2020 where social distancing is impossible. The slum is 10 times denser than Manhattan. Going by global trends, mortality rates in Dharavi should be peaking now. Yet, today, Asia’s largest slum doesn’t even have 1/100th of per capita mortality rate compared to what Manhattan had at its peak back in early April!

All of us need to make our own choices. I choose not to live in fear. Yes, COVID-19 snatched away someone that I loved from my core in the most heartrending way. But, if I live in constant fear, I would be undermining the indomitable spirit of his unconquered soul. He deserves to be remembered for how he lived and not how he moved on!



Attitude, Fearless, Original, Style

88 Comments

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  1. RIP Shyam Uncle…May your family get strength to cope up with your loss…remember you passing by our cubicles in Cybage and always stopping by to know how we doing🙏

  2. Dear Arun Nathaniji

    Your post is soaked in your love for your father. Please take care and may HE give you strength in these traumatic times.

  3. Dear Sir,
    Our heart felt condolences, words are a poor substitute in this moment of grief. Inspired to read your Dad’s life. Om Shanti

  4. Dear Arun,

    Very sorry to hear about the loss to the family…remember his cheerful presence when he used to visit Cybage office.

    Please take care and God give you and your family all strength to go through this tough time.

  5. My heartfelt condolences and it is very sad to know about the demise of such wonderful person. Om Shanti🙏

  6. Dear Sir,
    Our Sincere condolences. Saw him many times during Cybage Events, Really Inspired to read and know about him. God Rest His Soul in Peace!

  7. So beautifully written, Arun. I had tears flowing..Whenever I met Shyam, he would say “I have your namesake in my life” referring to Mrs Kavita Keswani. May his soul Rest In Peace. And God give you all the strength to bear this loss.

  8. A lovely eulogy befitting both the writer and the departed. A work of art, poetry, an ode. Brilliant, Arun!

  9. Very well articulated Arun. I had a lump in my throat whilst reading this.

    Uncleji’s loving soul now rests in eternal peace. I admire you MORE now than before for your positive approach to all the challenges life throws at you.

    Stay blessed my dear.
    Warm regards,
    Harish

  10. Dear Arun,
    Such beautiful emotions, so beautifully expressed …. I just knew Uncle as Ritu’s Dad, you have introduced me to his personality!
    God Strength to you all to go through, and get through this time … 🙏🏽

  11. I faintly remember him from my childhood in Mira Society, always smiling…
    Heartfelt condolences with you and your family for the tragic loss,
    May God bless his soul,
    His blessings will always be upon your family,
    Warm regards,
    Dipen Loomba and family

  12. Sorry to hear about the loss of your father. May his soul rest in peace. Take care.

  13. Dear Arun, Heartfelt condolences to your family. May the departed soul RIP!

  14. Our Sincere condolences. Noticed him during Cybage Events, Really Inspired to read and know about him. May the departed soul rest in peace

  15. So beautifully written, Arun. I had tears flowing from my eyes.
    My heartfelt condolences and it is very sad to know about the demise of such wonderful person – Shyam uncle.
    Om Shanti 🙏

  16. Sorry to hear about the loss. My heartfelt condolences. May his soul rest in peace.

  17. Hi Arun,
    Sorry to hear about the loss of your father during this difficult time. May his soul rest in piece.

  18. Such a mixed bag of emotions!!
    That is my state reading this page, Arun.
    I was smiling reading all the good times you spent together and had more than a lump in my throat while reading about his farewell.
    We remember he would always be cheerful before and after his visits to the hospital and would make it a point to meet all of us.
    One of the toughest moments for any family to go through…. Stay strong, take care and God bless.

  19. Dear Arun, Heartfelt condolences to the family. May his soul RIP. Your message about not living in fear, really struck a chord with me. Although, I did not know him personally, he came alive through your post. His zest will serve as an inspiration to me during these times.

  20. Respect to Shyam uncle, may his soul rest is peace. Over last 19 years spent with Cybage could connect to many moments as written.

  21. Sorry to hear about your loss. May his soul rest in peace. Take care. ओम् शांती!

  22. Arun, you have written about Shyam from depth of your heart, a person who was so near and dear to our family. We will always miss him . May his soul rest in peace.

  23. Dear Sir,
    Very sorry to hear this sad news.
    May God give you enough strength to bear the irreparable loss. ॐ. Shanti !

  24. So many people in Sandvik still remember him fondly. Last time I met him, he was very happy to recollect his days in Sandvik and some of our common acquaintances there. Like someone said, there is no art of dying, only the art of living. Ars moriendi is ars vivendi. The grace of the last weeks, years and decades is what is the true measure of life. He had already mastered the art of life and will always be remembered for it. My deepest condolences to you, Ritu and everyone in the family. He is surely missed.

  25. We are deeply sorry for your loss. I hope you Dear Ritu and Dear Arun
    Our heartfelt condolences and praying for your healing, comfort, strength and peace during this painful time.
    Love to Darling Misha and Aneesh

  26. Despite going through this personal loss, you showing a positive approach makes me feel proud of associating with you all again.

    Though this is true, “Fortunately, the virus can only dictate how you die, not how you lived.”, I would rephrase it little differently “Leaving this world is not in your hands but living is”. Those who knew Shyam uncle personally would surely agree that he lived his life to the fullest making him truly a wonderful man.
    Recalling his presence with Cybage family since my CyberAge journey from Clover Cascade, his ever smiling and content face comes to mind. His kind selfless nature, encouraging spirit will always motivate us. He left a permanent imprint on our hearts.

    May his soul get Mukti!

    ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः सर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः।
    सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु मा कश्चिद्दुःखभाग्भवेत् ।
    ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥

    May all be happy! May all be free from all diseases! And none be in misery of any sort!
    May peace, peace and peace be everywhere!!

  27. Om Shanti 🙏

  28. Dear Arun,
    Our heartfelt condolences to your family. Shyam uncle was indeed a gem of a person. May his soul rest in peace!

  29. We are deeply distressed to know about the sad demise of Shri Shyam Keswani on 3red of this month.Being close friends of Banerjees,
    we knew Dear Shyam for more than five decennims.He was a very humble person and a great human being. He enjoyed the life to the brim and lived like a king.Waxing nostalgia, we recollect the precious little time we spent with him at Bhopal. We found him always very jovial and full of humour. Last time we met a couple of years back at Indore and found him high spirits even with certain infirmities.
    We pray for eternal peace to the departed soul and courage to the bereaved family to bear this irreparable loss.
    OM SHANTI

    PS..Dear Arun ..that was a superlative obituary mixed with very sincere emotions.
    God bless you

  30. Dear Sir,

    My heartfelt condolences to you and your family.Rightfully said, we cannot stop living. We can’t live in fear. Who would know best than the one who has lost a loved one to the pandemic. Your post is very inspiring.

    May God give you and your family the strength during your grievance.

  31. Heartfelt condolences, I am missing his good morning mesages that I use to generously reply every morning at 5.00 am. Very well written

  32. May his soul rest in peace.
    He was really a nice human being. I would like to share one of my experience. I visited his house couple of times to resolve his computer issues, when I was working in IS department of Cybage. Both the time he and madam offered me tea and snacks before I start my work. It shows how he treat to everyone.

  33. Om Shanti.. i pray for the departed soul and peace for the family..

  34. Dear Arun and Ritu
    My heartfelt condolences to you and your family(Ritu-please convey to aunty as I remember her a lot with some amazing memories of both uncle and aunty)
    Arun – a very well written narrative.
    Hope your and your families get all the strength to cope with this tremendous loss .
    Love to Misha and Aneesh
    Take good care of yourselves

  35. My heartfelt condolences go out to you and your family. May his soul rest in peace.
    This is an emotional, yet a very inspiring post.

  36. ओम शांती ..!!

  37. Such a beautifully written blog. I could actually picture the beautiful relationship you had with your father in law. I had a lump in my throat while reading it. May the departed soul rest in peace.
    And ofcourse, totally agree with the ‘living without fear’ part. These trying times have taught us to live with our heads held high. COVID-19 can only dictate how you die, not how you live! Very inspiring words!

  38. Heartfelt condolences to Ritu and you.

  39. I have the opportunity to teach some exercise to Shyam keswaniji , he was a great person , always inspiring, & helpful, inquire about my family, He is loved by all , on Teaches day & his Birthday he use to received hundreds of SMS & phone calls, more over he used all latest technology to connect with people, Use to do exercise regularly to keep Fit, U will be missed.. RIP

  40. Dear Arun,
    First of all pls accept my deepest condolences.
    I have only met him once in our alumni meet in Poona club and barely had 5 minutes interaction with Boss(as we call our seniors), but I still remember those 5 minutes so vividly

  41. Arun so well written. Reflects your deep love for him.
    …..A father is neither an anchor to hold you back nor a sail to take you there, but He is a guiding light whose love shows you the way…..
    Arun He will continue to show you the way…
    My heartfelt condolences…Om Shanti…

  42. RIP

  43. Heartfelt Condolences to the family and prayers for the strength to the family in these hours of grief and pain , and as Arun words express so deep , caring pure from his heart for him
    seems he shared a bonding of a son more then a son in law , 🙏🙏🙏May his soul Rest In Peace

  44. Heartfelt condolences to the family. May his soul RIP 🙏🙏🙏

  45. My heartfelt condolences to you and family The loss is irreplaceable,May his soul rest in peace 🙏🏻

  46. Blog written with heart..
    My heartiest condolences to you and family,
    May his soul RIP.. Om Shanti

  47. Arun my heart felt condolences to you and your family. May God give you strength to bear this loss. Reading your blog was just like seeing your life in front of my eyes and your love for him.

  48. My heartfelt condolences to you and family for the big loss. You said it right, its not the Covid, actually its the fear which will is now a bigger threat for us. This fear will stop us from moving forward. We all should learn to overcome this fear.

  49. Heartfelt condolences.
    May the LORD give you all strength during these difficult times 🙏
    An amazing association and unique relationship though well written, goes much beyond actual words can express!

  50. Heartfelt condolences to your family. May his soul rest in peace 🙏.

  51. Dear Arun and Ritu, I was shocked to know this sad news and I pray for his heavenly journey and may god give you all strength to overcome this difficult times in the family. Few years while working with you all at Cybage, I have seen Rutu’s dad several times during various functions and knew the bonding Arun also had with him. Take care!

  52. Our condolences, I had known him for 40 years, from being a competitor to great friend,
    Om Shanti ,

  53. My heartfelt condolences to you and your family, may God give strength to bear the loss. May his soul rest in peace Om Shanti.

  54. Dear Arun and Ritu..Heartfelt Condolences.
    We have lost the most respected and loved person.. Someone with a golden heart. May God rest his soul in peace.

  55. I have never met him but could feel the emotions while reading through.
    My heartiest condolences to you and family,
    May his soul RIP.

  56. Sir, aapake pitaji ke baare mein sunke bahot dukh hua. This is the unbearable loss of your life. RIP.

  57. My Heartfelt condolences to you and your family.
    May his soul Rest In Peace.

  58. Condolences Ritu and Arun May his soul RIP. Sad that COVID had affected someone close to you.

  59. Sincere condolences. Om Shanti!!

  60. Hi Arun,

    Sorry to hear about the loss of the person who was so close to you. May his soul rest in peace. My heartiest condolences to you and family.

  61. My heartfelt condolences to you and your family, 🙏🙏🙏🙏May his soul Rest In Peace, OM Shanti

  62. My heartfelt condolences to you and your family.

  63. I knew Keswani Sir long before I met Arun. I was fortunate enough to be guided by him. He was a guest lecturer in my B-school. What we fondly remember of him was a person with an indomitable zest for life. He was cheerful, intellect and loaded with positive vibes. There were days when I use to feel low in that B-school campus and Keswani Sir was just the right person one would need to talk to. Back then I didn’t know I was going to be a part of Cybage family, but glad he was the first member I came in touch with. Every time we interacted he will brighten up me with a smile. I walked up to him a couple of times when he visited Cybage and my gifts remained pretty much the same.
    Deeply saddened by his demise. My heart goes out to Mrs.Keswani, Arun, Ritu, Misha and Aneesh. Having interacted and learned from both Keswani Sir and Ritu, I could say ‘the apple never falls far from the tree’. Ritu has certainly inherited some spectacular traits from him. He touched many lives and I was one of the few blessed ones. He may be away but his positivity is lingering with each one of his students and admirers. May his soul rest in eternal peace.

  64. Dear Arun, Ritu,

    As someone rightly said, “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” – Lenin

    My heartfelt condolences to you and family May his eternal soul rest in peace. May God give you strength to overcome the great loss.

  65. Heartfelt condolences to everyone in the family. May God give you courage and strength to go through this difficult times. May his divine peace be there with everyone in the family. God bless. Amen.

  66. May the Noble Soul Rest in peace. May God bestow the strength on entire family to overcome this grievous moment.

  67. Deepest Condolences to you and your family! May his soul Rest in Peace.

  68. Dear Sir,

    It is very hard to accept that this happened. My heartfelt condolences to you and family May his eternal soul rest in peace. You will overcome from this .

  69. Dear Arun,
    Sorry to hear about the loss. My heartfelt condolences to you and your family. May his soul rest in peace.

  70. May his soul rest in peace. Please accept my deepest condolences for your family’s loss.

  71. Dear Sir,
    Expressed so so beautifully. Can feel your very emotions over everything you wrote. My heart felt condolences to you and your family. God bless you all.

  72. Condolences to the family, may his soul rest in peace

  73. Dear Arun,
    My heartfelt condolences to you and your family. May his soul rest in peace. Om Shanti.

  74. We really feel sad and sorry for the loss of our favourite cheerful person of our ruby physiotherapy department
    He was very humble, a grandpa on who shoulder we would lean our head hugg me when we happy celebrated our comeback,birthdays. Missing his good morning messages. Still rembering his simling face puts a smile on our face today and this is the way we will love to remember the most cheerful, positive motivated person
    Heartfelt Condolences..May his soul rest in peace

  75. I was fortunate enough to meet a man with immense positivity within and around him. Each morning in Ruby physio department was never boring because of the presence of Keswani uncle.. He had that amazing aura.. Inspite that we had interacted 4 years ago I can still remember him making us laugh all the time.. RIP uncle🙏🏻

  76. Dear Arun,
    My Heartfelt condolences to you and your family.
    May the departed soul Rest In Peace.

  77. Sorry to hear about your loss Sir. Take Care.

  78. Arun and Ritu, my deepest condolences to you. May God give you and your family all the strength required during these trying circumstances.

    Through out my interactions with uncle, he was always cheerful. A very caring person who often stopped by to speak with me – he will surely be missed. My prayers for the departed soul to attain moksha.

  79. Dear Arun Sir,
    Sorry to hear this. My heartfelt condolence to you and your family. May god give you more strength. RIP

  80. My condolences Arun sir to you and your family..may his soul rest in peace Om Shanti

  81. My heartfelt condolences to you and your family, Arun. He will always be alive in your memories.

  82. Sorry for your loss. please accept my deepest condolences to you and your family.

  83. Dear arun ritu.shyam bhaiya was a wonderful cousin of mine.always laughing n joking.may God rest his soul in peace.really miss him.🙏🙏🙏

  84. I was working with Sir, at Drillco Hetel then Seco Tools more than a decade. We use to go together to the office every day. He was very kind and supportive.
    My heartfelt condolence to Mrs keswani, you and your family. May his soul rest in peace.

  85. Arun, agree with every word you have penned, having known and associated with him for over 50 years. He was handed over our charge by my father when on his death bed in 1983. Since then, he’s been a father to us, having arranged marriages for me and my three sisters. The last I met him, he wished to have a drink with me and three other Academician colleagues at his residence; but alas, that was not to be. Anita too will miss him and his oft visits to SBI in KP. RIP Uncle.

  86. Dear Arun and Ritu, I am so sorry for your loss. May his soul Rest In Peace.

  87. Dear Arun,

    Very sorry to hear about the loss to the family. My heartfelt condolences & May God give you and your family all strength to go through this tough time….

  88. Dear Arun,
    My heartfelt condolences and it is very sad to know about the demise of such wonderful person

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