Neeraj Chandra: A Tribute to a Mentor and a Guiding Star

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Neeraj Chandra with Manorama Choudhury (Photo by Bhaskar Panigrahi)

By Manorama Choudhury

(Editor’s note: The following is a tribute by Boston poetess Manorama Choudhury to Neeraj Chandra, a TiE Boston board member and leader of its ScaleUp Accelerator program, an angel investor and a seasoned technology executive with a long career in the corporate world across the world. Mr. Chandra passed away unexpectedly last week.)
I wish someone can find me the mailing address for my letter..
Dear Neeraj ji,
Past few days have been extremely difficult and emotional. It took few hours or rather few days to believe and accept the reality. For many of us the shocking news was so sudden that it didn’t even register. It really took us time to believe what we heard was correct. Neeraj ji, you left us just in a blink that it still doesn’t sound right in my head.
जातस्य हि ध्रुवो मृत्युर्ध्रुवं जन्म मृतस्य च | Our scripture says if we are born, death is only inevitable. And everything else in between is an illusion. Souls change bodies just like changing garments.
वासांसि जीर्णानि यथा विहाय नवानि गृह्णाति नरोऽपराणि ।
तथा शरीराणि विहाय जीर्णान्यन्यानि संयाति नवानि देही ॥ 2.22॥
(Just as a man casts off his worn out clothes and puts on new ones, so also the embodied-self casts off its worn bodies and enters others which are new.)
Maybe that is true but in this life we are granted limited memories only to remember what is believed to be the illusion. Our so called illusionary bodies experience the emotions and develop attachments. We often forget and get lost with the pleasures of this illusionary life that when death comes we are not prepared to accept the only known reality. Grief is the price we pay for love.
Neeraj ji, my words will fail me if I have to express your role in my life. Many of your friends are from corporate world. But being a homemaker I was poles apart from that world. Your association with Bhaskar allowed me to meet you more often. Each time you got to know me a little more, you started to praise my simple skills. It didn’t stop you there but you kept reiterating that I have an untapped talent. You made me to believe that I am an artist and a born poet.
It sounded flattering to my ears and I must have laughed many a times over it. But with your gentle approach one day you made me to believe that to some extent. Though I don’t write as well as the literary world would expect, you never failed to praise my writings.
Being a seasoned mentor to many executives, you knew, more than criticism a little praise goes a long way to build one’s confidence. You were a mentor and a guiding star for me with most caring and compassionate heart. You were the go-to person for me when I wished to behave like a child and missed my late parents so dearly. So I always shared my arts and writings with you expecting a pat on my back. You touched many lives not only with your sharp intelligence but even with your gentle smile, warm hugs with saying ‘God bless you’ wishes.
Neeraj ji, you often said about Bhaskar Panigrahi (my husband) and I that two of your best friends got married. Bhaskar gives exercise to your brain with crunching numbers and I keep you engaged with art, culture, poetry, music, language and philosophy; basically everything other than numbers. Even both our daughters, Megha and Neha, looked forward to those special dinners during their holiday visits from college. You valued their views on politics, gender inequality, racism, investment and many such topics that often took place at our dinner table conversations. You used to share your memories charming friends with your moonwalk dance and your looks with long hair during your days in Paris. We will cherish those memories and celebrate your life.
Neeraj ji, you believed in the teachings of Bhagavad Gita and often encouraged us to read the verses. I am sure in your heart you had practiced them too. Even I do firmly believe in them. So I understand whatever karmic debts your eternal soul carried performed it’s worldly duties in this life and moved on to the next. I am sure our souls might have crossed their path in past lives and that is why we bonded so beautifully in this life too.
Many philosophers have compared how life is like a train journey. In each station new passengers may join and share part of the journey with us. But each one is bound to leave the train upon reaching his or her destination. And I guess Bhaskar, I and both of our girls shared some unforgettable moments with you during our life journey. I would like to quote here Eleanor Roosevelt – “Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints on your heart.”
I would also like to share a quote by George Sand, a French novelist, whose philosophy you believed- “There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.” Neeraj ji, you often said and tried your best not to be the cause of anyone’s pain. Our scripture says and time and again it is proven that neither happiness nor sadness lasts longer. To all of us, your near and dear ones, whose lives were touched by your caring soul, I am sure time will heal our sorrows and will give us strength to move on. So we pray for your soul to Rest In Peace as well.
Neeraj ji, though I mourned along with others while struggling to accept the reality that you are no more in your mortal body, I would still like to remember our last conversation that you are going on a long vacation. For some reason there is a delay in your return. All of us will go one day but God had really reserved the best exit plan for you. Trust me many of us will feel jealous later. No doubt we will feel your absence but please do not forget to enjoy your journey in the astral world.
In close, Bhaskar and I always enjoyed your company over unlimited wine and stimulating discussions. Being a wine connoisseur, you often charmed us with your spoken French. Of course it was all French to us. Whenever we will have a glass of wine for sure we will fondly remember those moments. Since we are celebrating your life one last thing, I would like to warn you that they may not serve you wine up there. But since you had experienced the pleasure and the pain of all Navrasas on the earth, I hope they treat you with the best of Somras. It better be better than all those expensive wines you had tasted here. So cheers!
We will miss you!
So long!
Manu
Here is one of my poem that Neeraj Ji always loved and today after hearing so many heartwarming stories I understand why!
रिश्ते!!
हर रिश्ते की बुनियाद ख़ून से हो, ये ज़रूरी नहीं
हर रिश्ते का कोई नाम हो, ये भी ज़रूरी नहीं
हर रिश्ता मुकम्मल हो, ये मुमकिन तो नहीं
हर रिश्ते में प्यार हो, तो नफ़रत किस से करें
हर रिश्ता दोस्ती में तब्दील हो, तो दुश्मनी किस से निभाएँ ..
ज़िंदगी के हर मुक़ाम पर,
कौन, कब, कहाँ, किस हाल में मिले
ये किसी के बस में नहीं
मेरा तो एक ही उसूल है,
दिल के सारे दरवाज़े खिड़की खुला रखूँ
अपनी स्नेह की चादर दूर तक फैला दूँ
जो कोई अंदर आये उनको प्यार की भेंट दूँ
और थोड़ा सा मुस्कुरा दूँ
फिर आराम से सोचूँ उस रिश्ते का क्या नाम दूँ..
© मनोरमा

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