Sunday, June 14, 2020

Kaushik Banerjee - I will miss you

I happened to work with you in not as many deals as I would have liked to. I remember the time we worked in 2017, where you supported the entire deal from Sydney for a huge transformation program  while I was in Manila for our APAC Sales Conference for 3-4 days. You held the fort together for a very complex transformation deal we were working on, during a very critical juncture. You had just moved from a sales role to consulting, but the value you added was phenomenal and one of a pro. We didn’t work on other deals post this. Maybe because you were working with your banking customers and I was working with Utilities customers? However the bonds we formed in spite of this were so strong, so personal. I am deeply pained to see this untimely demise of you my dear friend - Kaushik. Why did you have to leave us so soon? 

It was such a pleasure meeting you at work, that unmissable smile on your face, your speech often laced intellect with humour.  Our coffee catchups exploring every cafe shop in and around 76 Berry Street in the mornings or noons were so rich with conversations. Despite our hectic schedules we used to try our best to get those 20 minutes for a brekkie and coffee in the morning or just an afternoon coffee to break a hectic work hour. We had just started exploring cafeterias for good breakfast in North Sydney and planned to do more of it. Do you remember the brekkie down the plush restaurant on Walker Street? The conversations spanning across work, personal lives, about the world of consulting, how we could position ourselves better as individuals and organisations. We also discussed books, consulting reports that you were so well averse with. You used to read a lot digitally as well. Your love for wooden furniture with stressed wood and everything that had character. Our long conversation exchanging how we chose bookshelves - especially wooden are still so fresh in my mind. Your wit, sarcasm were so well woven. Your strength of character as you battled the day to day challenges on professional and personal front completely shone though. The unmissable smile on your face always underscored that strength with a subtle message, which now I interpret as ‘The show must go on’. You used to love to travel and I had keenly followed your photos posted from your trip to UK a few years back. You had recently travelled to Vanuatu last year over a long weekend and had told how you and family planned to take break every year. You were in India as well in December break this year, so was i. Our discussion on Andheri and Mumbai is still fresh in my mind.

We both had been a part of Toastmasters in our early years of the professional life. We discussed so many times in the last few years to get back to being an active part of it again and join one of the clubs. The last I spoke to you was during the lockdown when I was in self isolation. I was just seeing my WhatsApp messages and see I had shared my blog with you post that conversation. I had urged you to write one, which you did by end of April. You had sent me a link to your blog as well on 28th April, which I read, re-read so many times. Your command over language, the smooth narrative and ability to make the reader picturise what you communicated on your blog was awesome. I loved the personal touch that you brought in with mentions about Pebbles, your cat and cherished possession in the blog. You have so nicely also mentioned about the life around your cats even on Facebook in the last few years, which have been so warm to read. My life changed from 02nd May due to a personal struggle I had to go through and in parallel to that a contractual negotiation that took a huge toll on me. I know you were busy as well. Calling you crossed my mind so many times in the last few weeks, but I thought I will speak to you soon. In fact on Friday, 12th June at 5.45 pm I was having a casual chat with another colleague who sits around us. I spoke about how fun it was to have my office desk next to yours, his and of the people around and the humour, fun we shared in between our hectic work meetings. You were our jest, conscience keeper and friend in need. Your penchant to collect  different water bottles, classic stationary and especially expensive pens was well known. You had a class, style, sales accumen and a big heart. 

On Saturday, June 13th when I got this news in the morning, I was shocked and couldn’t believe it was true. I had to pinch myself to ensure it wasn’t a bad dream. It took sometime for me to digest it. Once I got your address and knew it was safe to be outside your house considering current lockdown rules,  I tried driving to your place as fast I could, directly taking the M7 and then M5 to reduce the 50 kms of distance between our houses, in less than 40 minutes.  I couldn’t meet you but could feel your presence, the furniture choice and shades had class written all over it as I entered the reception, numb and hardly able to say any words I could to Natasha except that ‘ I used to sit behind you at work and have coffee with you often’. Natasha, going through so much, admirably put up a strong front and told me ‘ one soy flat white, that was his favourite’.

Maybe God himself has been going through these unprecedented times with lot of courage and needed someone witty, with a sense of intellect, power of words, warmth and humour to keep him strong. Om Shaanti Kaushik! Pray for strength for Natasha, your family and friends.