Sunday, January 12, 2014

Rest in Peace - Sanjeev Kumar Aggarwal

I had visited BITS Pilani Goa campus for the first time just a month ago. I had received another invitation yesterday morning to come back for a meeting in February, and I was going to call up Sanjeev in the afternoon to finalize the plans. So when I finished my meetings in the afternoon, and sat in the car to take me to Ahmedabad airport, I took out my phone to call him. The phone had been on the silent mode for 2 hours. And I noticed an unusually large number of missed calls, mostly from people in IITK. Fearing that something really bad had happened at IITK, I thought I will call Sanjeev later, and first called a friend in IITK. The call ended in my telling the driver to stop, take me back to the guest house, so that I figure the best way to reach Goa at the earliest.

I reached the beautiful guest house of BITS Goa early in the morning. The sun was trying to come out. I could sense a hesitation. How would it see Vinita in her eyes. How would it justify or even explain that one of his colleagues, the Yama, had taken her husband away. What could Sanjeev have done wrong to deserve this. The birds outside my room were chirping, perhaps unaware that they will never see the face of one of the nicest persons on campus in future parties in the guest house lawn. Zuari river in the distance continues to flow. But the river can hide its sorrow easily. You can't differentiate between water and tears visually. The entire campus was quiet. But it wasn't the calm before the storm. It was the calm after the storm. Everything had changed in the last 24 hours.

After dumping the bag in the guest house, we went to meet Vinita. And the memories of the last two decades started coming live. I could see clearly the day I had joined IIT Kanpur, and met Sanjeev. He had immediately asked me to come home for dinner. Vinita, during the dinner time, told me in no uncertain terms that I wasn't going to cook at home. Cooking and eating alone is boring. I should just visit them every evening. I wasn't sure. But just a few days later, Sanjeev asked me if I was upset or something. Why hadn't I visited them again. And this became the routine. If I did not visit them for a week, I better have some good explanation. Vinita treated me like a younger brother, and Sanjeev would jokingly say, "You will understand after you get married. No husband can afford to not treat his brother-in-law well." That was my initiation to IIT Kanpur. Sanjeev and Vinita were just made for each other, and HE who has broken this alliance will have to repent one day. I am sure Yama too is answerable to the trinity.

Vinita was unconsolable. Sanjeev was the perfect husband, and not just a perfect husband, but a perfect father, a perfect son, a perfect friend, a perfect colleague. You could question Ram for letting go of Sita, but you couldn't find any such aberration in Sanjeev's character. That it happened so suddenly, was leaving too many questions unanswered. Just yesterday, he was there, with his fantastic sense of humor, and skills that went far beyond teaching Compilers. He was an Engineer in the truest sense, though he started his education to become a scientist. He could fix anything and everything, whether it needed just the screw driver or needed more complex tools. He was a cook par excellence, and I had the fortune of being a witness of his culinary skills on a large number of occasions. The only explanation, though completely unsatisfactory, one could come up with was that he was so efficient that he could achieve for what he was sent to this earth in the shorter time span than most of us would have taken.

Vinita reminded me that Sanjeev, after treating me as his brother-in-law for many years, had declared one day that henceforth he will treat me as his adopted son. He felt that the earlier relationship did not allow him enough freedom to be tough with me. But this turned out to be just a change in nomenclature. As Keshav and Anupama would surely testify, he never needed to be tough with anyone. The way he explained his ideas, there was absolute clarity. You couldn't disagree with him on many occasions. And on occasions where you did have a counter point, he listened to you patiently, with an open mind, and would be happy to revisit his ideas and opinions.

He had been at BITS Goa for less than six months, but he had won all the hearts on the campus, like he did at IIT Kanpur earlier.

I personally seem to be going through a very tough period of my  life. I have been to more cremations in the last 12 months, then in my entire life before that. Why the Gods have to pick up the nicest guys when there are enough of the other kind, I do not understand. But for now, I can only pray that the same God who has been so unfair to the Aggarwal family would now at least give them the strength to withstand this unbearable loss

Rest in Peace, Sanjeev. We will miss you.

Added on March 22, 2014:
Obituary by CSE Department, IIT Kanpur
Article by a student in BITS Goa