Now you belong to heaven,
And the stars spell out your name.
And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind:
Never fading with the sunset
When the rain set in.
Your candle burned out long before
Your legend ever did

Elton John

The Spirit of Deepu

I have been looking for a word. In fact, I have been obsessively seeking one word for over two weeks now. A word that will describe the essence of what Deepu meant to me. I am hoping that if I can find that one word, I would have found a shortcut to remember Deepu by. Also, if I encounter that word when I am reading something else, I will be reminded of him.

The first word that came to my mind as a good candidate was the word 'noble'. I have actually heard some others use the word noble to describe his character. Tell me now, how often does that happen often ? Deepu was certainly "noble", but that was only one facet. I searched some more. My aunt Vijaya chitti always used to say of Deepu that he was forever laughing (Sirichindae irrukiyae da !) No matter where he is today, how can it be otherwise ? The word "jolly" was the closest I could get, but "jolly" is way inadequate to describe Deepu.

There is one image of Deepu that persists in my mind - poking fun at everything with his infectious laughter. On many occasions when I was being serious about something, he would joke about it, reminding me that there was another way of looking at the same thing. I rejected the word "irreverent" because those who didn't know Deepu won't understand this aspect of him.

Rupal has told me repeatedly that he was most "helpful" when she came as a newcomer to the family. Deepu went out of his way to make sure that she felt at home. That's very typical of him. Deepu was affectionate. He was very affectionate. I wasn't around at the time, but I heard Deepu's deep grief at the passing away of his grandmother. If there is any afterlife at all, then I am sure that Depu and his grandmom have met and are sure to be laughing down. Yes, I admit that it is a comforting thought, and I fervently hope that it is true.

I have seen Deepu rebuked many times (upaddhravam pannadha da!) but never have I seen him hurt or angry for long. Never seen his spirit quelled. I rejected the words indomitable and buoyant and finally felt that the simple word cheerful came the closest.

So after two weeks, I had narrowed it to cheerful, jolly, irreverent, helpful, affectionate and very noble. But still the spirit of Deepu was still eluding me. As I was sifting through all these words, I made myself a promise. In Deepu's memory, I will try to stay cheerful always and to never have a mean streak. I will try to keep in mind what he taught me by living (and not once preaching) -- that the right attitude is everything. And as I made the promise, I suddenly realized that my search had ended. It seemed so obvious that I was surprised I hadn't seen it before. I felt like slapping my forehead with my palm. It is foolish to look for a one-word adjective to describe the essence of Deepu. That will never be possible. Instead, the word "deepu" itself must become a new adjective to the vocabulary of those who knew him -- to denote the highest possible standard for attitudes. For example, in a sentence like: May you go through life with a deepu-like attitude. I believe that that is the true spirit of Deepu.
Prasad (cousin)
November 1999

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