Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Neal's Eulogy for his Brother

As you all know, Anuj never really liked to be the center of attention. He was of a rare breed – a leader who led not by ostentation and speeches but rather through quietly making those around him better. So it is the cruelest twist of fate that we are gathered here today with all the attention focused on him.

In his characteristic selfless generosity, even while parting from this world, Anuj gave us a gift. By fighting valiantly for four weeks, he allowed us to collect and share countless stories about how he led his life and the everlasting impact he had on those he crossed paths with. One universal theme emerged: despite the fact that he touched hundreds of people around the world, every relationship he built was truly unique.

In fact one of my favorite stories stems from my wife’s observation that she had never met anyone who was invited to be part of more wedding parties than Anuj. He was invited to 3 or 4 a summer. He thought about this for a second and said, “isn’t everybody?” Typical Anuj. What the rest of the world deemed to be deep, special relationships were simply the way Anuj expected and made sure all of his friendships were.

Above all, Anuj was a man of utter humility. For someone who accomplished an incredible amount in his short time with us, I think we all agree that there was not an ounce of arrogance in him. From early childhood through the very end, he was so self-assured and confident in his talents and natural abilities that he never felt the need to boast or brag about anything.

For example, many of his recently acquired friends at Wharton did not know that he played a leadership role in the National Kidney Foundation, orchestrating events that raised over $50,000 annually. I’m sure most of his friends and colleagues at MIT didn’t know that in high school Anuj was elected or appointed to more leadership positions than any student before or since. Despite its location in Silicon Valley, colleagues at Kana may not have known that outside the office, Anuj was the founder of the well-regarded Software Entrepreneurship Lecture Series for the MIT alumni club of Northern California. While that work resulted in people recognizing him throughout Silicon Valley – I would often have acquaintances approach me to ask, “are you Anuj’s brother?” - many did not know that as a student at MIT he was an often-cited researcher with papers published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. And we in his family had no idea that some of his Wharton professors called him one of the brightest lights they had seen in many years given his simultaneous academic accomplishments – he made the Director’s List – and extra-curricular leadership – leading the Entrepreneurship club, organizing several guest lectures, managing panels for the annual Technology Conference, etc.

It was the little stuff that made us truly appreciate him though. I am reminded of a story that took place a few months ago. Anuj gave a friend at Wharton his commitment to help out during a “Rebuilding Together” event that his friend was running. A few days before the effort, he threw out his back. On the day of the event, Philadelphia was cold, dreary and in a pouring rain. Yet, exactly on time, his friend opened the door to a smiling Anuj, completely drenched, tweaked back and ready to help. He was one of the few that showed up and last to leave, staying for hours until the task was done. He had made a commitment, his friend needed help, so Anuj was there.

Perhaps it was his strong spirituality that kept him grounded, gracious and even-keeled in every facet of his life. As his Kana colleagues have told me, Anuj was the last one to ever get upset at anything. And on those rare occasions when he was, you knew something was really wrong! I’d like to share with you just one of hundreds of stories related by people who respected him that highlighted these qualities:

“My memory of Anuj that most accurately describes his warmth and generosity of spirit occurred when I was rush chair a few years later. I’d sought out a lot of former rush chairs for advice; however, it was Anuj who gave me a call from across the country. Most folks will give you advice from a “here’s how not to screw up rush/the house” perspective. Not Anuj. I remember him asking about me, to see if I was doing alright, and trying to find out how I was holding up. Of course Anuj cared about the house, but he effortlessly found a way to care about the individuals first. This reminds me of how much of a lesser man I am . . . but that’s a good thing; Anuj can still teach me things and that active connection means part of him is still with me.”

Anuj’s kind heart and self-deprecating humor did not mean that he wasn’t incredibly driven and thrived on competition. His fraternity brothers have talked about his prowess on the football field and the championship basketball game where he went on a 12 point scoring spree in over time to secure the win for his class. Whether it was learning a new language in a couple of months, willing his way on to the MIT varsity baseball team, participating in a 200-mile bike relay to the ocean, or learning how to cook, Anuj applied himself fully to the task at hand until he became the best at it. I will always remember the incredible Thanksgiving feast he cooked up just a day or two before he left for Bangalore on a business trip a couple years ago. This summer he was looking forward to applying the same ambition to swimming. The sole solace we have is he left us doing something he loved and being exactly who he was.

To his family, he was simply our son and brother. To my mother, he will always be the baby who would drink from his milk bottle really fast and throw it out of the crib as soon as he was done. Years later he would be the son who took the initiative and time out of his own busy life to teach my mom how to drive and use the Internet. To my dad he was and is the dimpled little boy who would eagerly wait by the door in his yellow “walking jacket” every evening when my father got home from work, so the two of them could go for their daily walk around the neighborhood, he tugging at his ear the whole way. Yes, we all know that if he tugged your ear, you had reached a new level of affection with him. Most of you have probably already heard how Anuj moved mountains a few years ago to save my dad’s life when he was diagnosed with kidney disease in India. He cut through bureaucratic roadblocks in the US government as well as medical establishment to allow my parents to immigrate back here in record time, getting my father the care he needed and eventually making a kidney transplant possible just a few months ago. To my youngest brother Kapil, he was the idolized mentor who went out of his way to help him in all facets of his life as well as a friend he called every week to just talk about sports. What a sports fanatic he was. By God’s grace, just three days before his accident, Anuj witnessed the fruits of his labor as he watched Kapil graduate from USC in LA. When we pointed out that he had a big hand in his brother’s success through his many late night trans-oceanic mentoring sessions, Anuj chuckled and characteristically said, “this was all Kapil, I take no credit.”

And to me. Well to me, Anuj will forever remain my baby brother. I will remember the summer evenings spent doing wheelies on our driveway in Michigan, the rickshaw ride the two of us took everyday to school in India, the matching sweaters our mom made us wear as children, and how he made little families with everything he collected – pencils, erasers, balls, shoes, anything. Always a family man. As his friends have repeatedly said, what a great father and role model for their own children he would have been. Years later, at my wedding, he would give one of the most thoughtful and touching best man toasts that I have ever heard. Oh, how I desperately wish I could have been reciprocating that gesture instead of standing here speaking today.

In Anuj’s untimely passing, we have all been robbed of a future with this wonderful soul. But we will always have cherished memories from the past. And we can always remember him as an incredibly handsome young man, with ever present dimples and a radiantly warm smile. He left behind a world that is truly a better place because of his short time upon it.

Anuj, you are the finest human being I have ever known. You will live on in each of us everyday because of the indelible positive impact you had on all that you crossed paths with.

In the end though this isn’t about achievement, impact, legacy, or zest for life. It is simply about love. He was your friend, my parents’ son, and my brother – and I just loved him very much. Anuj, I miss you tugging on my ear.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dearest Anuj,
You are undoubtedly the most accomplished young person I know. The things you've done in both your personal and professional life are truly inspiring. I admire you for all of these things. But what I really love you for is for being my cute, little cousin and all the memories I have of all of us in Ann Arbour. I think about you each and every day. You live inside my heart.
Love, Ruby

11:26 PM  
Blogger Gautam Ghosh said...

dear neal

I'm so sorry ! Found out about Anuj through a post about it on the SFC community on Orkut !

Dear pal, wish you and your family all the strength to weather this great loss !

Gautam Ghosh

2:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was not fortunate enough to know this young man, but I am deeply touched by the story of his talent, humility, leadership, selflessness, acomplishment and love for people.

6:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a painfully beautiful eulogy, Neal. Your words tell us how profoundly special Anuj was.

I imagine that there is no solace now, but I pray that there is some in store for all those touched by his amazing life.

I hope the hurt is replaced with wonderful memories of Anuj and that those memories stand more brilliant in quality and color than any others in your mind.

I continue to wish you peace and stregth.

2:44 PM  

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