I was posted at Gorakhpur in August 1980 as Regional Food Controller. This posting in itself was a turning point in my life. Before this I was at Meerut and was transferred to Lucknow in March 1980. The events turned in such a way that I had to seek a change only after a few months and went to Gorakhpur. My post at Gorakhpur was a regional one under the Divisional Commissioner. My Commissioner was a pious person and I worked with him for three years, in the final year as Collector in the same division. His personality left a deep mark on my life. Our families too came close together and developed a mutual liking. He had three daughters and one son, Amitabh, who was the youngest. The boy was bright and influenced all those who came in close contact with him by his manners, intelligence and courage. I, in particular, developed a great fondness for him which grew with time.
The boy did not enjoy good health right from his childhood. His body suffered from a lack of resistance, and soon it was found to be a kidney defect. At that time he had hardly entered his teens. He was operated upon for a kidney transplant which was donated by his mother. All through he displayed tremendous courage and continued his studies without much disturbance, thus giving hopes to all those who came in touch with him. Unfortunately, after a few years, the problem appeared again
and he had to undergo another kidney transplantation. This time the donor was his sister. The operation was successful, and soon Amitabh was full of courage and hope. He completed his graduation and joined the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) at New Delhi for his MBA course.
I had been in contact with Amitabh all through but the closer contact came in Delhi when he came to join IIFT. I was his local guardian and he used to stay with us frequently. My whole family had a liking for him and our affection grew as we came closer. I was deeply influenced by his courage and nicknamed him “Fighter”. At times we used to get depressed but he never displayed any sign of sadness or self-pity. Despite all his problems he never expected any help from others. Instead, he was a source of inspiration for them. I always felt the depth in him but not to its fullest extent. Occasionally, we used to discuss the philosophy of life but, perhaps, the generation gap was a barrier in reaching to his depths.
Soon after the completion of his MBA, Amitabh joined MMTC at Delhi and I was transferred to Calcutta. Our contact thus reduced to a great extent, though I continued to enquire about him. His body resistance had come down once again and it became difficult for him to continue at Delhi. As a result he had to shift to his parent’s home at Lucknow for a new job. However, things were gradually becoming difficult. I returned to Lucknow in July 1996 after my deputation and once again came close to Amitabh. By this time his condition had become serious. He had to discontinue his job and was confined to bed. I visited him several times and he used to feel very happy when I did. At times we said nothing, though we communicated a lot. Talking of courage and hope had lost its meaning as the outcome was known to him and to those around. Now it was only a question of facing the reality with courage and hope. He left for his unknown destination on 3 January, 1997, destined not to enjoy the new year.
Amitabh had grown very contemplative during his last years. Perhaps, he was always so but gave more expression to his thoughts towards the end of his journey. He used to do it silently and rarely shared his thoughts with anybody. Perhaps, he expected others to measure his depth and did not want to disclose it while he was alive. He left ample proof of his depth in the form of many jottings which are like pebbles on the vast seashore of life. One has to find, collect and understand them. They are the true measures of his depth. One such jotting goes like this: There are things Known, And things Unknown, And in between are the doors. Amitabh has conveyed the whole philosophy of life in these few words. The journey of life is always from known to unknown. Whether it is a mundane or spiritual matter, our goal is to know the unknown. It is only a question of finding the door, which definitely exists but someone has to show it to us. Amitabh has done the same by his physical extinction. He is like a “Guru’ described by Kabir in his ‘doha’. His father paid him a fitting tribute when he said: ‘Till his death he was my son and now I consider him to be my Guru’. Who says Amitabh died? Amitabh never dies. It only sets to rise again.