Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Legend - Manognya Desai

After my three books had got published last year, I received a call from a lady. I used to write my column ‘Internet Corner’ in Janmabhoomi since last four years then, based on which my three books were published. Same kind of column she used to write in Mid-Day (Gujarati) called ‘Life Ka Funda’. She complimented me for the book. Certain people you connect with instantly even when you have not seen them or when you have not even met. We talked over phone for a good 10-15 minutes and she told me that she was a speech therapist too and worked at Ramakrishna Mission, Khar Road. I really liked communicating with her. She had impressed me in the first interaction only.

After this incident the review of my books also got published in Mid-Day which I later came to know, was written by none other than this lady herself.

Five-six months later, my fourth book ‘Abhooshan’ got published and this time I decided to hand over the book to her myself so that I get the opportunity to meet her in person and communicate with her. Last time when we had talked for the first time, I had promised her that I would meet and have a Tête-à-Tête session over Tea. So I took an appointment and reached her home after my office hours, one evening. She greeted me with a pleasing smile and warmth at her place. She was already talking with one of her patients (a young girl who was accompanied by her parents) and asked me very politely to wait. I overheard her conversation. She was a good communicator and a friendly doctor was what I could guess from her conversation. After the patient left, she introduced me to her family members and they were all very good people. Her elder brother praised me and my column and talked about two-three very good articles, I had translated and written in ‘Internet Corner’ two-three years back, which had touched his heart and still he remembered. You feel very good when somebody genuinely appreciates your work. She arranged tea meanwhile. Her brother’s grandchild was a cute little boy who was very fond of this lady whom I had gone to meet and was playing fondly with her all the time. I could see how attached she was to all her family members and how they all loved her too. She introduced me to her brother’s wife who had done some ‘Bhavai’ program with my father a few years ago. After all the introductions and Tea, we started our discussion on the various topics. One after the other ,so many good things we discussed that I could not keep track of time and a good one and half-two hours passed in a flash! We discussed the present state and future of Gujarati language. We discussed about radio. (I read Gujarati news on All India Radio and she hosted many shows on weekdays on Gujarati FM channel) We shared lot of common interests and I came to know many facets of her during my that meeting. She used to write poems, apart from writing reviews of books in Mid-day Gujarati she also handled many other small sections and columns which I daily used to enjoy in Mid-day but was not aware that she only handled them. She also used to prepare cross-word for a Gujarati newspaper of Gujarat. After all these work-related discussions, I talked with her about my family – my wife and my sisters. I told her how my second elder sister was looking for a good job in teaching field but due to dwindling Gujarati medium schools, was unable to find a good opening after her long struggle. She was so considerate and immediately thought up something and asked me if my sister would like to work as her assistant. Here was this lady whom I was meeting for the first time and with whom I discussed my family members and their problems and she even offered my sister a job in our very first meeting! We also discussed about good books, importance of reading , other few good people and many other interesting things. We connected instantly. Company of people whose thinking wavelength match with that of yours, you enjoy very much. I was delighted to meet Manognya Desai.

After our first meeting, I talked with her a couple of times over phone and soon I went at her office in Dadar with my two sisters. She had offered a job to one of my sisters and in this regard only I had gone to visit her office in Dadar. She greeted my sisters also so warmly that they also connected with her instantly. This time also we discussed many things and it was almost confirmed that my sister would join her as an assistant from 1st Jan 2009. (We had gone to meet her in last week of December 2008) She very kindly explained what all she expected from my sister and my sister considered herself lucky to have met so good and loving a personality and was delighted that she would work for such a great Boss! She was also happy that now after getting an assistant, she would actually be able to accomplish much more she wanted to since a long time, but could not do due to her busy schedule and health related problems. But she seemed to be relieved. I was more joyed than both of them! I thought 2009 would prove to be a very good year for me, my sister, for ManognyaBen and for all.

But things take their own shape with time in Life. You think something and something else happens. After agreeing that my sister Tejal would join ManognyaBen from 15th Jan 2009, she got a call from a school to join as a teacher for the leave vacancy of a pregnant lady. Teaching is Tejal’s first love and her top priority. ManognyaBen had also told that if Tejal joined her and she got another teaching opportunity after joining she would immediately relieve her to take up teaching job. Tejal was in a dilemma and she instantly called up ManognyaBen even without waiting to inform about this development. And ManognyaBen was happy to learn that Tejal got this call and she asked her to take up that teaching job without a second thought. I have come across a few people who I would not call selfish but business-minded and who would first think about their priorities and business only giving little consideration to others. But ManognyaBen didn’t think about her desires to take up her work further first and thought about Tejal’s interest and priority more and blessed her with good wishes! When I came to know about this whole thing I was angry upon my sister. I wished more that she joined ManognyaBen and not take up this new job offer which came after we had met and agreed with ManognyaBen. I most of the times think more about others and the commitments given to them than my own family members. Many times I think is that fair? Anyways, I wanted Tejal to join ManognyaBen not only because she was looking for a Job but also as I knew by joining ManognyaBen how Tejal would benefit. Working with such a great lady would automatically improve Tejal’s personality. She would certainly gain much more than just the salary money. Also ManognyaBen’s desires, the ideas she had in mind to do more about Gujarati language and the Gujarati people would get a shape and it will be a very good thing for society. But destiny had some other plans.
I talked with ManognyaBen and asked her if it was okay if instead of Tejal, my wife Ami joins her. She was actually not feeling well when I called her up. She was having health related problems since last few days. So she spoke little with me but I assured her I would be there to help her any time she needs it and I also promised her that if not immediately, after some time whenever she would feel appropriate, my wife would join her as assistant and we would surely take her ideas and desires forward. She felt very good as I gave her this assurance and talked with her. I could feel her response on the phone even though I could not see her. This was on 10th or 11th Jan 2009.
On 13th Jan 2009, I left for Mahesana to bring back my wife to Mumbai from her parent’s place. The plan was to celebrate my first Uttarayan also in Gujarat with my wife. It was our first Uttarayan after my marriage. Also I had heard a lot about great Uttarayan celebration in Gujarat and was curious to celebrate one at my in-laws place in Mahesana. So on 14th Jan 2009 I just went to the terrace of their flat in the morning and I got a call from Varnin, ManognyaBen’s nephew. As soon as I heard his introduction, I warmly asked him how everybody was there and ManognyaBen. He said ‘ManognyaBen aapani vachche nathi.’ (ManognyaBen is no more.) I got the shock of my life. I didn’t even have a hint that something like this could have happened and Varnin had called me to give this kind of shocking news. I could not speak for a few moments. Varnin was also almost crying there on the phone. I consoled him and informed him that I would see him and other family members after I return to Mumbai. I went to the nearby Mahadev Temple and cried there. My wife Ami was sitting beside me and watching me. I prayed for the peace for her soul.

I had actually felt the pain. My heart was crying. Why God did this? ManognyaBen was not old enough to die. She had so many desires, so many plans, and so many brilliant innovative ideas. How much literary world would loose by the early exit of this great lady. I came to know so many virtues of her and so many talents of hers so far oblivious to me. She was a great poetess. (I read some of her poems recently after her death.) Varnin told me she was also into astronomy. She used to go for Field-trips to observer stars and planetary incidents. She was a writer, a radio-jockey, a critic, an orator, a speech therapist, a counselor, a guide, a philosopher. She was a warm and pleasing personality. I regret of having missed all the programs devoted to her in her sweet memories due to my pretty hectic schedule. But I respect her from the bottom of my heart and wish her soul rest in peace.

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