This fund-raiser is a celebration of his life and our small way of saying ‘Welcome to the Kgp family’ to his son, Yugal.
Please do not regret if you did not hear about his diagnosis sooner. He did not want you to. And you could have done nothing more than he did in the last 11 months. Like his wife, Vijeta, said when a few of us met him and his family recently: “He always wanted the best for him and everyone around him. So on the day of his diagnosis, he simply said: Best cancer hospital mein fight maarenge”. And he did. With days of his terminal diagnosis, he shifted from Pune to New York to fight the unfair fight with a flair only he could.
Do not mourn his loss either. He instructed his family – his father, wife, brother, even his six-year-old son - to celebrate his life and not shed tears after he’s gone. And they are trying their best to honor his wish. It will be difficult to find a family that has suffered so much pain and yet stands so strong and tall and united in the midst of it all. Perhaps courage is a genetic trait.
We all have learnt something from his life. He never complained about anything or anyone. And, though he always dreamt big, he was thankful for the smallest achievements in his life. He was perhaps the only guy in the Kgp batch of 2004 who threw a party after being placed in Infosys. “That they selected me is a miracle,” he quipped at the time. A few years and an MBA from the US later, he, along with his co-founders, would set up a software company which would boast of a global clientele and which was growing exponentially at the time of his diagnosis. He loved sales and kept working till he no longer could. One of his happiest moments was when he bought his dream BMW and many of us received prompt invitations to just leave everything and rush to Pune, and then travel everywhere with him. Indeed, he was the best host ever and some of us would live with the regret of not coming to Pune sooner. I have no doubt that when our time here is over, he would be up there to receive us with his customary salutation “Kaise ho dost!”
Despite the happy-go-lucky and devil-may-care front that he maintained for his friends, Rituraj was meticulous in planning – in business, life and even in death. When the doctors in Sloan Kettering Memorial Cancer Hospital informed him that his cancer had spread all over the body, he put his final plan into action. He had only one regret – that he would not be around his son, Yugal to guide him as he grew up. So he wrote a diary for Yugal, which his mother would give him in his teenage years. He made us, who could meet him in his final days, read that diary. That someone could write that masterpiece when he could not walk, could not properly talk, and in unbearable pain, and without any hope, is incredible. But that was part of his plan to depart.
It will be up to Vijeta to share those pearls of wisdom with the wider world. But let me ruin the climax for you. The final chapter for Yugal is titled ‘Give back’. In it, Rituraj writes that he had just one regret while fighting cancer – that he could not do anything for the children affected by cancer who were also in that hospital. “If nothing else, I could have given them some food and water”, he writes. This was a man who himself had not eaten anything in months. That was the kind of man Rituraj was. A heart full of love and empathy, which I am told came from his mother.
Rituraj liked to declare that he did not know how to raise funds. (Actually, his business was doing so well he didn’t need to.) Nor would he approve of us raising funds for his family now. But this is not fund-raising at all. This is just a token gift from the many uncles and aunts of Yugal who have come to see him or know him for the first time.
Yugal, if you have not seen him, looks and acts every bit like his father. (Dopa, being Dopa, quipped to Rituraj, “That may not be a good thing”. And Rituraj, being Rituraj, smiled. This was two days before he passed away.) To nobody’s surprise, Yugal watches just one show on TV - Just cars. He sketches really well, just like his father. But only cars. In fact, we told Rituraj a day before he passed away that Yugal will be our replacement friend now that he’s going away. “Achhi baat hai,” he managed to say somehow.
Our friend lived up to his name. He lived and died Rituraj, the conqueror of all seasons.
You should know that when death came knocking, Rituraj was busy smiling at his friends.
Even that which killed him made him stronger and kinder.
Goodbye and rest in peace, Rituraj.
Till death brings us together again, friend.
-Yashaswi on behalf of Ritu's KGP family