Goodbye, My Friend

A couple of nights ago, Navaneet died in his sleep in California. It was not unexpected. When I dropped him off at Austin airport six months ago, we fully expected not to see each other again.

His beloved wife Praveeta died unexpectedly almost four years ago. At that time Navaneet’s prognosis didn’t look very good either. He had cancer and a few months before that doctors had given him a few months. He was on borrowed time. A year after that Madhunad and I visited him in Baja Norte in Mexico. We called ourselves El Grupo de Amigos. We started each the day with an amazing lazy breakfast and ended it sitting and contemplating the starry sky over the mountains in his backyard. In between, the conversation and laughter came easily and we toured local vineyards and restaurants all day. That became a hallmark of the hours of phone calls and the thousands of whatsapp messages that followed since then.

Navaneet shone like a beacon of life. Vader would have clearly said that the force was strong with this one. Navaneet’s second innings, to borrow a term from cricket, was inspiring. El Grupo continued our phone calls. Not once would you have ever guessed that one of us was dying faster than the other two. We were like a trio of school children. Our conversations were filled with zest and wonder and laughter, and sometimes tasteless humor.

El Grupo got back for a reunion in the middle of Covid when Navaneet blew into Austin from California like a breath of fresh mint in an ice cold mojito. We roamed the cafes and bars of South Congress and raised a ruckus. These photos are from the very last time El Grupo was together.

This spring, Navaneet began to finally slow down. The conversations with El Grupo on the phone continued to flow like good wine and bad dad jokes. After Easter, Navaneet opted for hospice care at home. He recounted his last visit with his doctor gleefully when he joked that because he had his second jab, he wasn’t going to die from Covid. The doctor apparently could not comprehend how someone who was days away from death could be so full of life.

A month ago, El Grupo put our collective heads together to discuss Navaneet’s impending death. Rather than have a memorial after he was gone, Madhunad suggested that we should get friends and family together to celebrate Navaneet’s life now. Navaneet readily agreed that it would be more fun for him if he were still alive. So we organized a zoom call with his friends from all over the world. Navaneet loved it and so did everyone else.

And now he is finally really gone but his laughter and love for life lives on.

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