Friday, May 14, 2010


It's been a month since Mahesh's passing, and it still is a strange feeling for me to come to terms with it. I've known him since our very first day at IITM, and ever since then, we've been in touch via nearly every medium that existed. We're in together in every single group I'm a part of, and it was a rare day that I didn't hear something from him - some brilliant pun that he cooked up, some illuminating etymology for a Sanskrit word he chanced upon, some nice article he stumbled across or some music video that had a brilliant funda to it.

I could try describing him to you if you didn't know him personally, but I'm quite sure it'll come nowhere close. He was supremely brilliant, to a degree that I could not comprehend with my abilities. I mean every word of that: in the 6 odd years that I've known him, not once have I been able to grok how someone could know so much, be so sharp and so effortlessly connect ideas together. Even the most trivial chat conversation with him would leave me completely spellbound by his sheer intelligence. I ended up learning something fascinating in nearly every conversation with him, and everyone who's met him would agree with me on this. What made it even more amazing was that his enormous depth of knowledge pervaded every field imaginable. Academics? There he was, putting fundaes to 10 people crammed in his room the night before the quiz, not getting irritated once at needing to repeat himself, not thinking the least bit about spending all his time explaining stuff to junta, supremely confident of his own fundaes and doing all this with his inimitable panache, humour and style; Music? Ask him to describe RHCP's evolution, or the intricacies of a raaga, or about using formants in Fruity Loops and you're in for an absolute treat. Hell, he'd give you a live demonstration composing music on his cellphone synthesizer as he went along his lesson! Sports? You want to talk about basketball or tennis or football or skateboarding? He could as well be a professional bookie with the amount he knew; Got bored of talking and want to actually play? He was the basketball coach for an uncountable number of people, and many like me took up skateboarding because he was the teacher and it couldn't get much better than that.

It came to an extent that Mahesh was the recourse for many of us who were very disgruntled with the 'general sham' of the adult world. Here was a guy who could tell you that no, it wasn't all crap, and show you why it wasn't. And when he showed you, you'd see it, see that it wasn't all crap. You could pick up a conversation on anything with him, and by the end of ten minutes you'd find yourself seriously thinking of picking it up as a new hobby. Last year, we were all at Death Valley and getting rather bored  as the night passed by. Someone remarked that the starlit sky was very clear, and slowly Mahesh started telling us little factoids from here and there - about how Orion actually has a bow that isn't visible in the cities, about how to locate Aldebaran, how Pleaides has much more than meets the eye.. by the end of half an hour, we were as invigorated as if we had been given a tour of the greatest show on earth by a guide who truly felt the greatness - and we had!

But to remember Mahesh primarily by his intelligence and learning would be like trying to remember the sun by its Fraunhoffer lines. There was much, much more to his personality than just his superior brilliance. For one, he was humble to a fault. The combination of such unbelievable talent and equally unbelievable humility was something I could never comprehend. I cannot count the number of times I've gone back and thought over some argument I had with him, only to realize that the openness, humility and fairness he displayed were far beyond what I was capable of.

I brought up fairness - whenever you reflect on your mental image of a person, there are some characteristics that stand out as being particularly amazing in your judgment. Mahesh's sense of fair play and ethics were almost superhuman. Here was a person who you could trust to play by the rules NO MATTER WHAT. Never once was there a compromise. Never an argument with himself that went, "See, that's fine, but let's be practical...". Never giving in for an opportunity for a 'quick con'. It was always the high road, no matter what the consequences were.

And in spite of following to the dot the severest of such self-set rules, he never took moral high ground when interacting with people. Never did he speak one word of criticism about anybody else's ethics. We hear much talk of 'dependability'. You could depend on Mahesh to help you out. Period. He was the kind of guy who would take it upon himself as a mission to help anyone who asked him. 

Such a treasure trove of the finest of human qualities, and yet he did not have the slightest air of self-importance. His sense of humour is legendary, and never did he have qualms about making fun of himself.

How can anyone react to such perfection in any other way than mute acceptance?

Why did he take the extreme step? I don't know. Given the number of times I have sought and blindly followed his advice, and cannot help instinctively thinking that he fully knew what he was doing. Maybe this was all the world deserved of him. I hope those he has left behind find peace. 


[ Very well-written posts on Mahesh by:
Please let me know if there are more. ]