Salute, my friend (Sanjeev Sahai)

When Debu asked me to write a few lines about Guru, I most happily agreed. After all Guru was amongst my very close friends. I opened my laptop but my mind became still, quiet with sadness. I just could not type. I have kept dithering and avoiding writing until today.

‘Was’ is a word with different shades. If difficult times have passed it becomes a word of relief. When you lose someone close, it is a word that sears you. How do you refer to a very dear friend who should have been here, laughing , joking or in serious discussion in the past tense?

I remember meeting Guru the first time in 1986 at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration where newly recruited IAS trainee officers (we were called probationers then) are sent to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for their calling. Guru was from JNU, a university known to have its faculty and students with left leaning. I asked Guru if he was a leftist. He proudly said that he was Free Thinker. Free thinking was Guru’s hallmark. He was untrammelled by dogma, schools of thought, and esoteric theories- for he was essentially a practitioner of the possible. He looked for a solution to problems unlike many of his peers who found problems to every solution.

I have seen Guru at work. He was open and accessible. I have heard his clients praise him. A common refrain was that he solved their problems. That he was quick to grasp, quick to resolve, and quick to see that an assurance was indeed carried out. He could make complex issues simple. This was possible not only because he was clear in thought but also because at core he was a simple and an uncomplicated man. The simplicity came from his upbringing and deep spiritualism.

Guru is ( I use IS because his connection with the immanent and the supreme consciousness makes it beyond time) with the Mother, whom he revered. He bought a house in Ramgarh so that he could be close to the Aurobindo Ashram. His calm and benign personality came from this deep faith. Guru was also very empathetic and sensitive. His father, whom he called Nana, better known as Mohapatra Nilamani Sahoo, a revered Odia literary personality, sharpened Guru’s understanding and feeling of subtle aspects of life

Guru had a very simple marriage with Anjali, whom he had courted in JNU. Together they had two loving children Deeptiman and Jimbut Baran. Both the sons are lawyers and beginning their professional careers. Guru was a very proud father and a complete family person. At home he was fully focused on his family. He was, at the same time, a devoted son, son-in-law, a loving brother, and a deeply caring master to his dog Jango.

At a personal level, I cannot forget the way Guru stood by me during my travails. My wife had cancer and during her treatment and after she passed on, Guru gave me immense support.

Guru like all of us and he had his shortcomings. He hated taking directions to reach a place. I recall that I tried in vain to give him directions to my house ( before Google Maps became ubiquitous). He preferred to rely completely on the good sense of the driver. Guru had a zest for life- he loved his drink, occasionally much too much.

I will always remember Guru for many of his qualities: in particular, his simplicity, high empathy, pragmatism, and a loving nature. I will miss our almost daily phone calls. I will miss your warm dinners and lunches. I will miss his love for rice and mutton. I will miss many things about Guru.

Guru’s last message to me from the hospital was a simple “ Sanjiv my friend”. I salute Guru my friend.

Sanjeev Sahai

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