(This image is courtesy Viva books)
I met JS while I was the training head (customer contact) for a major Indian bank. We wanted our customer service representatives to write better. Clear English India, was then a fledgling institution and we had our doubts. All those doubts cleared away during our first interaction.
I have never seen so much passion in a 20-year old. The enthusiasm he has is very contagious and in five minutes flat, I was a convert. Me and another colleague pleaded, persuaded, and premeditated the top management for a training program by JS and Ajoy. We were allowed two programs, one each in Mumbai and Hyderabad.
I usually used to spend at-least 2-3 weeks going through the program details, interviewing the facilitator at days on length before launching a new program. With JS, the next time we met was for the session in Mumbai. Over the next two days, JS changed the way we looked at writing English. The program, according to every one participant, was the best they attended. But some of them couldn’t handle JS’ firebrand enthusiasm and temper. Ajoy would step in from time-to-time but he was also not spared. A few women were offended by his language, some offended by his ‘non-veg’ jokes, but most wanted JS to come back at-least once a year. That was typical JS. You can not be a fence-sitter when it comes to your views on JS. You can either love him or hate him. I adored him.
The next program in Hyderabad was a tremendous success. He became (of-course behind his back) our ‘chicha’ – a term of endearment used for an uncle. I still remember Vidya, Abhishek, Avinash, and a few more trailing him every minute he was on premises. And for these kids with zeal, you could see the love in his eyes. His advice: ‘Write as you would speak’ still rings in my ears. And each time I sit down to write anything more than one sentence, I ask myself if JS would’ve approved.
(Unfortunately some complaints from the session in Mumbai did not go well with the senior management and the program could not take off.)
That evening, we went for a drink and my wife came along. It felt almost like family! We chatted up till late at night, and on a wide range of subjects from English to Dog-food! That was the last time I saw JS.
We were in touch regularly till about a year ago. Then the frequency of our e-mails to each other dropped to about once or twice a month. And then this morning, Ajoy’s mail with the sad news.
I write today in gratitude to JS for enriching our lives in such a short acquaintance. I can not begin to imagine his daughter’s grief. The only other time I saw the glint in his eyes was when he was talking about her. The void left by him will be huge. I pray for his family.
I also grieve for his colleagues. Especially Ajoy, to whom he was a friend, philosopher, and guide. Some others who will miss him dearly will be Janet, Abhishek, Vidya, Deepali, Joyita, Avinash, Sirisha and a whole group of us to whom he was our ‘Chicha’. Also my wife, who in the course of one evening became a huge fan.
For all those who knew him, whether they loved him or otherwise, his demise is a huge loss. Because whenever we write, we secretly ask ourselves if JS would’ve liked what we wrote. I’m asking this to myself as I write this post. Pardon me this time, JS. I can’t seem to write with a heavy heart.
Update: I chanced upon Reshma Sanyal’s (JS’ daughter) blog and a few goodbyes.
An angry young man called Jyoti