Naveen – at our wedding time December 19th, 1995

 

What can you say about a guy who lived?

That he made me chuckle like nobody else? That his whims and eccentricities irked me like nobody else?  That he was the fulcrum of my domestic existence, having introduced me to my life partner? Or simply, that he was one of my best friends.

This was a guy who lived. And breathed life into us all.  But today he leaves me lifeless, in a way I find hard to articulate.

There are epic moments that hold fast in your memory bank, regardless of the grey matter you lose through the trauma of living. Like that night we combed the streets of Bombay, three of us desperately trying to convince Naveen to woo back his lost love. Thankfully, his feisty stubbornness prevailed and he chose to ignore us. Or those Saturday night rendezvous at his Tudor City Place home. It was like being a character in the TV show — Melrose Place. If you didn’t reside there, you’d be part of the congregation at Nav’s, where the music was always playing. And that night of his 40th birthday when he sipped champagne out of a boob-shaped cake. To say Naveen was the life of the party would be wholeheartedly inaccurate. He was the party, whenever a party was to be had. Yes, these epic moments stay with you through life.

When I picture him, I see a nimbus of happiness —  his goofy grin emerging at silly statements like Nav, you’re such hot shit, the girls are going nuts. His obvious joy at Dinky’s hilarious life anecdotes. His proud euphoria over Neale’s success. And his unending humor in the presence of his buddies, any day of the week, any time of the day.

I texted him last December —

Nav, just heard you are back in hospital. Can we come by to see you tomorrow?

Yes, come at 4.

Okay cool. Anything I can bring, or is that not allowed?

What did you have in mind? Russian stripper is okay. Daal-chawal not allowed.

Alas, we didn’t end up exploring either option, stripper or daal-chawal, but we did talk heart fully about his mum, who had passed ten days earlier. The conversation took me back to one of the first I’d had with him, about the passing of his brother Nikhil, many years before. And though I won’t physically be at Banganga to say goodbye, I will stop by Tudor City Place to pay my respects. There was a reason I needed to be in New York today.

Life is a strange place. We spend our days counting pennies, some of us our nights counting sheep. For Naveen, it was ultimately about counting platelets. Biological minutia that none of us think about but to him each one was critical. All I can count today are my blessings, each of them measured by the extra moments we had with him.

A strong will served him well. Even in his waning months, he was a model of sheer determination right up until the end of his journey. His pain though enormous, paled in comparison to that of watching Dinky and Neale feel it daily as they lovingly cared for him.

It’s hard to measure just how special a person can be or place a value on the gifts they bring. Naveen gave me the world as I know it. My life partner, the home and family we have built together all stem from that initial introduction by him. So how do you say goodbye to someone who has been such an integral part of your life infrastructure for the last 25 years?

I can’t help thinking about the timing of it all. Naveen was due to turn 53 on January 1st. Was this all part of an elaborate plan to get out of hosting another birthday party?

Can’t be.

When you are the party, you probably have a crafty plan in the works to make it even bigger and better.

I can see him now, organizing our next gathering in the Land Beyond the Rainbow. Beckoning us with his celebrated words — “Come, come, come, give it to Smoothie.”

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