All of us may have learnt scientific inquiry as part of our school education. Most of us give up this spirit of inquiry as we transcend from childhood to adulthood. Very few of us have this spirit as a way of life. My sister’s husband was one such being. One can understand this spirit since he was a scientist in the Indian space research organisation for almost four decades.
Today I started my workday with a meeting as usual. I had kept my mobile phone in the silent mode. However I realised that some of my close relatives were continuously trying to reach me. When I sensed there could be an emergency, I interrupted the meeting and picked up the phone. It was indeed one of the saddest day of my life. I was informed that my brother in law had passed away. His name was K Natarajan and had served the Indian Space Research Organisation as a scientist.
He had got up in the morning and had gone to the rest room. When he did not return in reasonable time, his family members knocked the bathroom door. When he still did not respond, they broke open the door and called the doctor. The doctor examined and gave the sad news within minutes. He had died out of a massive heart attack while he was in the rest room.
This may be a very peaceful way to leave Mother Earth for himself. But, I could not imagine the fate of my sister, who was waiting outside with a cup of hot coffee for him to return. I could not imagine how one could wipe the tears of his mother, who is 94 and was staying with him. Life has its way of shocking us. We are rattled out of our normal being. We realise that life can change for any of us within minutes or even seconds.
I would say I was lucky. I had been to Trivandrum only last week for our leadership offsite. I spent a night with my sister and her family. I had spent hours discussing with him on various issues from politics, sports to spirituality. I have seen him from my childhood and have always admired his spirit of inquiry. He always explored knowledge and knowing about life and living.
He was a brilliant student and had an illustrious career in the Indian space research organisation in the field of electro optics. One could spend hours with him discussing on any subject. Apart from being well read, he was open to respect alternate view points and always stood by his views on all issues. I always admired his hand writing. It was almost like engraving in gold. I wish could I could have inherited his beautiful handwriting.
Another invaluable learning from him was his respect for elders and service to them. I still remember how he used to stay with my grandmother and take care of her when he was a student and took all opportunities to learn from her wisdom. He was very comfortable in interacting with people of all ages and used all mediums to interact. Today my son told me how he used to be the first to comment on his facebook posts and even wished him in German whenever he visited Germany for official work.
He took care of his mother right through his life. I had recently visited them and realised how blessed he was to be able to take care of his mother in her nineties. I did not know that today I would write his obituary in front of his mother, who is 94. Life teaches you many lessons the hard way. I cannot imagine how a mother in her nineties will feel losing her son in front her own eyes. I dread to think how my sister will lead the rest of her life without her life partner.
The photo above is symbolic of his family bonding and care.
I commit to live the spirit of inquiry and take care of elders to the best of my ability in life . This can be the only way I can pass on my tribute to him.
S Ramesh Shankar
22nd November 2017