Rest In Peace, My Dearest Brother!
Let me start with those exciting evenings of the bygone era before Partition at the Government College swimming pool in Lahore. After finishing with your daily practice for the State swimming marathon championship, you would be still fresh enough to show your matchless power in the friendly water polo matches with your winning shots. It was, therefore, no surprise to anyone when you won the Punjab state championship for free-style marathon and helped your team take home the trophy for water-polo. You cannot imagine what an inspiration you gave to all the regulars at the swimming pool, particularly to me and to my school friends, who spent the evenings admiring your stamina and learning a lot from your skills.
“Milk Does Body Good”, the commercial slogan made popular by the milk lobby in USA since late Nineties, was passionately promoted by you decades earlier during your youth years in Lahore, and later throughout your life. Remember the milkman who was always so amused seeing you gulp a couple of bottles of the pasteurized milk, before even the bottles made their way to the kitchen? It sure helped you have a body that made your friends envious and aspire others for such a healthy physique. There is no doubt, your healthy habits and hard regimes resulting in your having a robust health kept you ever young, in fact, providing you ample excuse to proclaim you were only forty-nine on your every birthday beyond that age for many years. It also paid off in providing you enough strength to fight and show remarkably fast recovery whenever you confronted serious age related ailment in recent years. We all have to learn from you how important it is to take necessary steps to safeguard our health well in time, so that we can ward off, as much as possible, the ill effect of old age on our health.
Hats off to you for the exemplary courage and bravery you demonstrated during the Partition when the militants entered our house in Lahore on learning that you and father were still living there. Your presence of mind in enlisting help from our wonderful Muslim friends next door helped you both in miraculous escape by crossing over to their house from the terrace and eventually across the border to India. And thanks again to you, although father had lost everything he had built back in Lahore, the financial hardship of the family did not last too long. Your great career break in your friend's lumber company enabled the family to come back to the same lavish style of living as we had in Lahore. There was no looking back thereafter, as year after year, your career-graph kept moving up and up, eventually making you the Managing Director of the company you devotedly nurtured to become the biggest lumber company in Northern India. I can never forget those happy days in the family, especially your organizing the unforgettable tracking trip for us and our friends, from Simla to Missouri through the forests in the interiors of Himanchal Pradesh, with excellent arrangements made by your forest staff throughout at all the forest guest houses on the way. That trip we cherish for ever.
Your amazing spirit in dealing with adverse circumstances came to the fore when twist of fate compelled you to close down your flourishing forest business. As terrorists infiltrated from Pakistan across the border into Kashmir and intensified their operations from the forests, the Kashmir government had no option but to ban all civilian activity in and around the forest areas to fight the terrorists. Your business was the worst hit by this ban as your all lumber work was concentrated in Kashmir forests. Forced to quit Kashmir, with all your investments in lumber business totally lost, on spur of the moment you made the most sensible decision, to move to the U.S., where one could begin at the bottom and reach for the sky, with sheer hard work and determination..
Here in USA, you did not take long to learn the basics to start afresh from a scratch: to become big here, you have to first forget how big you were back home and be prepared to accept any work, however small it may be, it will be worth it. And within weeks you were doing jobs that were simply unimaginable, especially for all those who knew you from India as the king amongst forest lessees – now distributing newspapers early morning and doing construction work during the day. Even in the severest of storms your clients never complained of missing their morning newspaper for which the paper, Washington Post, awarded you a trophy that you showed to everyone with pride. You kept making progress at a tremendous speed and realized the American dream in a much shorter time than most others did – owning a home, becoming Chairman of a successful startup and most importantly, enjoying being proud parent of two loving and illustrious sons, Punkaj and Arjun, and very devoted daughter Sonja, who all helped you in business and beyond.
Today, when you are enjoying your well earned rest, having gracefully retired after reaping the fruits of your untiring hard work, you cannot imagine how much we miss you, especially your most enjoyable visits to us, sweet memories of which are no substitute for the pleasure of your personal presence amidst us. Still, those and many more memories not mentioned here, we hope, will be enough to sustain us and inspire us in leading our lives. Celebrating and saluting you with these words, may I say Rest In Peace, My Dearest Brother!