Remembering Sandeep...

 
 

Vinay Nair, Toronto Canada (Vinuchettan)

June 11, 2008

I will not testify that I was the closest person to Sandeep because of the huge geographical distance between us for most of our lives. I grew up in Canada, he in Kerala. But despite the distance,  I can attest to my fondness and admiration of him as my little cousin brother—who I had always had high hopes for.

 I remember seeing him in intervals of his childhood and early adulthood on my frequent visits to India in my summer breaks. The first time I saw him was in the summer of 1984, when he was just an infant, and I was on my summer school vacation. As an only child, I drew a lot from my cousins, who were in my mind and heart—my siblings. And whenever a new cousin was born, I was always excited to meet them and dream about how close we would all be.  I was also very fond of going to Thodupuzha because Sandeep’s grand father was always very entertaining and affectionate to me, and this time I was even more excited because of my new cousin brother that had been born. 

 I remember being impressed with how cute he was, with his moon shaped head, and his curly locks. I hovered around him as much as I could, and I remember we all jumped into a car to head out for a long trip, and I remember holding his head in my lap and stroking his face—which eventually put him to sleep. I remember Hema kunjamma being impressed with how well I handled him, and I remember taking a lot of pride in that compliment. After that I insisted on feeding him and playing with him at all times, proud of my new bond with my new cousin.

 The years went by, and I returned back to Kerala for another visit. I remember visiting Sandeep’s house to be surprised as to how much he had grown. He was still a very cute kid, and had very distinct mannerisms. I remembered teasing him because I enjoyed how he used to react with the most adorable expressions. Little did I now that this teasing was the basis of our relationship to come.

 There was a long gap from my next trip to Kerala, and the next time I saw him I had just finished a back-packing trip through India, accompanied by my Sardarji friend from Canada. I remember visiting Sandeep’s family with my Sardarji friend, and at this time he must have been 14 years old. He had grown tall and handsome, and had this naughty twinkle in his eye. He seem amused by my Sardarji friend, and did not hold back on making dumb Sardarji jokes to him. After a long heated debate between Kochanian chittappan and my Sardarji guest about Operation Blue Star and the Golden Temple massacre about who was right and wrong, I could see Sandeep fixated on my slightly insecure friend, as if he found something very comical about him. 

 After that discussion, Sandeep used to look at my Sardarji friend from across the room, and with hand gestures, would imitate a terrorist bomb explosion--insinuating that he was a terrorist. I remember my friend felt very insecure about this, and addressed it to me. I remember I smiled with pride when I heard this, because I loved the fact that my little cousin brother had developed a strikingly controversial sense of humour. When I later told Sandeep about my friend’s discomfort, I remember Sandeep feeling very badly, and asked if he could have the opportunity to apologize. I told Sandeep that it wasn’t necessary, because it was a great joke. And his ability to make great jokes will make a very fun life.

  It was at this time that I noticed how handsome and charismatic a young man he had become, and will continue to become in the years to come. I started teasing him again, about how many girlfriends he had. He used to shy away from the question. And this is when I started the Frooti joke. I would ask him if he went to the Vytilla junction and bought Frooti’s for his girlfriends. He used to hate this joke, because it epitomized the ignorance a North American has on Indian life. He felt that I was belittling Kerala life by assuming that all social interaction happens at the junction, and instead of flowers or a coke—a young man would buy a Frooti for his girlfriend. I loved the joke, not because it was so funny, but because it was the only thing that would get a rise out of this cool collected soul (who usually is the one that makes fun of other people.) From this point onwards, whenever we chatted or spoke, I would make reference to the Frooti, or Junction, and he used to cringe in aggravation. It continued to be our inside joke until his final days.

I also noticed at this young age his deep patriotism for India. I used to ask all my little cousins if they were ever interested in coming to Canada or US for higher studies. And all of them would respond that they were interested, and would start making plans with me to come. I acted as a recruiter of sorts for new talent, mainly because I wanted more cousins around me in Canada.

 Sandeep was very different. Whenever I asked him this question, he would respectfully retort: 

 “Why should I come chetta?”

“I am from here, and there is plenty of opportunity here. “

 He even one time pointed out to me that Kerala alone has the same population of Canada, and that should be indication of a better place to be. I admired him for his patriotism and his general knowledge, and he was part of the reason I stopped recruiting my young cousins to Canada and US. He made me realize that there was no need for Indians to leave India for opportunity anymore.


Both Sandeep and I share Manu and Viju as our first cousins, and was perhaps the bond that we both shared deeply. We had very similar views on being a big brother to these two very special people in our lives, and I could see similarity in how he treated them and loved them whenever I saw them together. He was a natural leader, and I remember feeling that he would become a much stronger leader than me one day, and an even better example to our cousins. I admired his views on brotherhood, and the love he had for his cousins. He would always have one of them in an embrace, and would never let them go. Even now as I look through old photos, he always has his hand around his cousins. He loved them dearly. No matter how much taller his little cousins were, they would always look up to him.

 The next time I came back was for my wedding in July 2005. I had insisted that all my male cousins and visiting friends get together on a houseboat cruise to celebrate my last day of bachelorhood. Sandeep was in the middle of exams in his final year, and was very busy. But I didn’t relent my pressure on him to come. I really wanted him to be there to celebrate the last day with me. And of course, he came. 


I later heard that he would find quiet moments during the day to study in the corner, and call up friends to exchange notes. Even on the houseboat, he was a bit quieter than usual. I would look for him on the houseboat to see him in front of his books cramming while everyone else was enjoying the cruise. When he would see me, he would quickly close his books and give me that naughty smile that I got accustomed to. After a late night of games and fun, I woke up the next morning and couldn’t find Sandeep. I had heard that he had disembarked the boat at dawn and caught a bus to the city to go write his exam. I was very touched by the effort that he made to be with me on this important day . Not only was this boy a handsome, and accomplished man. He was so loyal to me. And on this day I pledged my loyalty to him.

 He was there throughout all the festivities of my wedding. I would glance around the room and catch his eye in the crowd. He gave me that naughty look as usual, as if he was making fun of me for all the attention I was getting. He was there to share in the fun, with all my cousins. He was there to welcome my wife into our home after the wedding was over. As we entered our ancestral house for the first time as husband and wife, I remember seeing him watching us closely and smiling reassuringly. He didn’t miss a moment of my big day for the world. And as a result, he has been internalized into some of the most cherished memories of my heart.

 A few weeks after my wedding I came to hear about his diagnosis. I remember feeling weak after hearing the news, especially after how fond I had become of him. I remember looking up in the sky and asking God why?

 I had just finished reading a book by Lance Armstrong, about how he had beat cancer to win the Tour de France. And I thought that the secret to his beating this cancer, was in his attitude. Mind over matter. If anyone could beat it, it is this young star. So I ran to the bookstore, picked up the book and wrote a message to him inside the front cover about how proud I was of him, and how I know that he (like Armstrong) will be the one who beats this wretched disease. I sent the book through my wife to India, who reached it to him. I remember he pinged me on chat when he received it, and told me that he already got the book from a friend a long time ago (much to my disappointment), but he reassured me:

 “It’s the thought that counts, chetta,” he said


 And he told me that more than the book itself, the part he cherished the most was the message I wrote inside. He told me that was motivation enough.

 Throughout his treatments, we had ongoing chats. I would keep trying to ask him how his treatments were going, and he would always give me quick summaries, and then move onto how I was doing in the Gulf (he would tease me saying that he would call me Gulf Ettan). And he would constantly inquire about how my wife and daughter were doing. 

We made constant references to Frooti and the Junction in our chats. We were constantly teasing each other. Him calling me ‘Gulf Ettan’ and I making reference to Frooti. Throughout my last chats with him, he continued to display his patriotism for India, and in fact started recruiting me to come there. He continued to show quick wit, and his affection for his family and friends. I heard stories of the lengths his friends and colleagues went to support him in his final days. One story in particular is how his friends shaved their heads in support of him and his hair loss during his treatments. This story was a true example of his leadership, and it made me even more proud of him. It also made me more sad at the same time—that we were losing such a leader. The world needs more of these men.

In his final days, as I heard about his deteriorating condition, I kept reading over our chats that I had saved. I realized that this little cousin of mine, who lived oceans away, and who I only saw and interacted with on a few occasions, had captured a significant share of my heart. And I knew I was going to miss him. And I could only imagine the loss felt by people who he interacted with on a regular basis.  There is so much to be learnt from this young  man, and I feel that we should remember the beliefs and attitudes he exhibited in his short life. I applaud the efforts of all who have put this site together. Let his spirit be alive, on this medium, so that he can forever guide us.

Let us ensure that his leadership will never be lost.

 
 

The MEC fraternity remembers you …..

Sandeep Menon…

The MEC fraternity remembers you …..

As the effective and efficient Chairman of the Placement Council…..

As a born leader who gained respect and command from his colleagues …

As the best example,  MEC could project to the MNCs…..

As the live-wire and driving force of MEC-Illuminati…

As an ever-hungry soul for new facts, figures and trivia….

As a perfect classmate, batch mate and college mate …

As one of the bonding elements of your class , your batch and your college..

As a faithful student to your teachers…

As a loving friend to your peers and seniors…

As a caring guide to your juniors….

As a great human being…

As a faithful son..

As a caring brother…

But above all,

As a brave heart and soul who never gave up when odds kept turning low, who never stopped smiling when life forced him not to, and who found time to share pranks with us even when Fate was playing pranks with him.

I was never very close to Menon . But we too shared a relation with respect and concern. But I could never tell him personally that I respected him the most in all my batch mates.   May that be my farewell sentence to you, dear friend……..

Adios!!

-- Jose Joseph

 
My SandeepChetta 06/06/2008
 

I was inspired by my father and the “Chicken Soup Series” to write this. This is about my favorite cousin Sandeepchetta.

  Sandeepchetta was a very kind. He was always very polite to everyone. This was one of his many good qualities. He was very quick witted also had a nice sense of humor.

  He was a very helpful loving cousin. This is proved by the fact that he helped me with the spelling bee. He encouraged me to take part in the spelling bee which I am part of at the national level. He told me about many websites to study words and to pronounce them aloud. He gave me very hard words to learn and to test my knowledge. He even lent me his thesaurus. He always encouraged me to study and become the topper of the class. He taught all my cousins including me how to play chess. Till date whenever I play chess I remember him.

  Recently when Hema chechiamma and I were viewing the photos of his childhood he looked very cute. He was always ready to do anything and everything we asked him to do. This is the fact I liked about him best.
                                 
  He was a very sociable person and he knew how to interact with people of all ages. All the teachers and lecturers used to like him. He was a role model for everybody. He had lots of friends who were close to him. He was always very pleasant and witty. He used to crack jokes that made all of us laugh when the whole family used to get together. I miss his presence in these gatherings as he used to be a dominant and handsome personality.

Now that he has left this world forever, I wish that one day he would come to earth from heaven and share his experiences. I still feel that he is somewhere there in the bright starry sky, looking down at me and at the others. As I did before I will always look only to him to solve my problems, since he is the best cousin I ever had.

SandeepChetta, miss you!

Love

Vaidehi


 
College Days... 06/06/2008
 

Pheno "Menon"!!!

Saying goodbye is never easy but then what hurts even more is when you don’t ever get a chance to say that!

It’s only when you realize that a person has left you when you feel how much he meant to you and how much you had really wanted to spend time with him. You wish. But then once lost you never get it back, yup you never get back your lost time. When I realized this fact it was too late .That’s one thing I regret about Menon and Me.

Menon was someone who would light up any group! Doesn’t matter if you r a bunch of bujjis or a group of prankish kids, Menon wud get along with the group anyhow! Always playin pranks, crackin a pj abt anyone ‘nd everyone, ready to bingo he ws oozing with energy! Menon was a great friend to have and an even better son to his parents! He is someone I admire and respect not just love coz of the person he was! The way he kept himself upbeat and the way he always hoped and persisted showed true colours of the man! He had the world at his feet! He was young, smart, charming, brilliant, hardworking and was successful in more than one way! And one day when you wake up and realize what could have been? That feeling when anyone else would have broken down, got shattered, he stood tall fending away despair and sorrow! Very few people could have so much belief in oneself ! That’s what makes him so so much the Pheno”Menon” we all know!  


Menon and I were classmates. We were part of the BRA(Back Row Association) durin first year. It sure was one of the best times of our life. We used to play a lot of tricks on each other and sometimes on the staff too. Asif,  Appu,  Johny,  Relin,  Kichu,  Menon, Pillai,  Joshy, Seban, Varky, Jetty, Mama, Kootha, Noufy, Chandrappan and a whole lot more formed the E1A batch BRA! Menon used to be there with us all the while playing along but when the exams came up he would change totally. He wud get bk to his study table and we wudnt see him till the exams got over! That’s the first time I saw the intensity in him. Cant forget the numerous FIFA clashes we have had. He would never want to loose. Always game, be it  for a game of football or teasing the joo’s or simply havin fun. It was not until our 3rd year when the placement cell was formed when I truly saw a new dimension to him. The way he used to work and say “Job for all” truly inspired the rest to work that much harder. The way he used to keep the spirits of the unplaced students high was something remarkable. The way he persisted in brining biggies to campus was awe inspiring. Many would have already given up chasing companies from the initial response that they get from the HR but then Menon never used to give up. He used to persist and finally would succeed more often than not. And then it all changed. Sometimes life doesn’t treat you fair. I have often wondered why him of all people? He dint smoke, he dint drink, he was the cleanest I would say among us. It becomes too hard sometimes to accept. But life aint fair always. We were all there outside AIMS praying when his first surgery was carried out . Still remember that day when Vikas, Pillai, Asif, Appu and me went to AIMS after his surgery. We sat there with him and he was his usual self crackin PJ’s(notorious for his Bamboo-Bamboo Challu J). He was back to his smiling best! Everyone was so happy for him! In a short while he was back with us in college and everything seemed to be back to normal. His “Tiger” song during final year for English recitation was a treat to watch. Even the judges burst out laughing! That’s when I really started respecting this guy. After all he had been through he still hadnt changed one bit and if at all he had changed it was by becoming more jovial. Soon college was over for everyone of us and we all went our way joining the professional world. But then we were one bunch of people who could never be really separated! We used to have frequent get-togethers be it at Bngy or Hyd or Kochi, it dint matter as long as everyone was there. Menon was our “Zizou”. Cant forget the fights he wud pick up with anyone and everyone who wud say Zizou was no good( which they wud regret later on as I did)!He always had a football in his car and that’s the first thing he would say when we meet up. Let’s go play ball! J I will always cherish those moments we spent playin football whether be it in college, hostel terrace, BEML ground or at Micrsoft@hyd. Sad that it all had to change when he had to undergo surgery again. It was tough for everyone to believe but we hoped it was nothing serious. And we still don’t want to belive what has happened.

When all about you is black with gloom, 
And all you feel is pending doom. 
When your bones are racked with grim despair - 
When every breath is a gasp for air. 
Keep on going, though you need to grope, 
For around the bend is a ray of hope.


Still you may loose,

But you always die a winner!!! 

That’s something I learnt from him and he is a winner for Us! You will always be special to us and I will always treasure those moments I spent with you. Miss you buddy and will always miss your company! 

Luv,
Amar

 
 

From Valli with love...

How your most innocent smile could melt our hearts and make us all forget how difficult you could be as a child. 

I remember how you would take time to teach ammoomma cricket and how inspired you were of her wisdom, enthusiasm to learn new things and her quiet serenity.


I remember you teasing Rahael-amma. Yelling ‘phone’ into her ear, leading her to think you were calling her names in the English language and how you annoyed her so much she had to lock you up to teach you a lesson!

I remember
(And just for the record, no, I did intervene at this point and got an even friskier Dulu out for fear he’d go blue all over!)


I also remember a rare occasion when ammayi was home on a working day, thanks to an all-Kerala-Bandh. She decided to use her ‘free’ time to lock herself up in the safety of her bedroom to clean out the contents of her cupboard. This seemed to trigger all the right buttons in young Dulu and his little master of a cheta, who promptly made their displeasure known by banging on the door with an assortment of toys and some of the smaller furniture. Attempts were also being made by the brothers duo to enter into the bedroom via the window, to no avail. You must also know that the air was thick with calls of ‘patti’ and ‘thendi’ when they were suddenly silenced by a passerby in the street below shouting – “DA! AARAVIDE!!”. I still chuckle when I think of Sandeep and Dulu’s faces at the time. JI remember the time we came back from watching ‘Manichitrathazhu’ and how I told you what seemed to be a harmless story with a scary ending and how you jumped out of your chair! 

I remember the delicious times in Trivandrum when we took you with all the little brothers in tow to the beach, the museum and the zoo, the movies and all the games we played at home. I remember how proud I was to be your Valli chechi; of being the one in charge and of the trust the elders had placed in me.



You had a monster of a memory. How you would remember every little thing in your past life to the minutest detail. 

I remember you as a little boy at Kochammavan’s wedding, looking as handsome as ever in your kurta-pajama, living up to your mischievous reputation, pinching your mother as hard as you could, while she stood behind the mandapam with all the others in the immediate family and trying not to grimace.
 
I remember being gob smacked to see how quickly you and Dulu could devour a whole bowl full of pazham-poris, so much so that next time the pazham-poris were on the table, I was ready to pinch my two-share’s worth before it was all gone.

I remember you when you first started at Bhavans, in your checkered shirt and on your brand new bicycles. How you would send Dulu crashing into the gravel piled on the side of the road with a smashing side kick to Dulu’s cycle. 

Of course, I remember the episode of the “chechimar enikky erivulla molagu thannu” in Karuvatta. But then, Anu’s already mentioned that.

I remember the sensation of absolute horror on finding about your illness and trying not to lose control of myself upon seeing you last year in May 07. That trip, my dear was mainly to see you. 


I am glad that my children - Vai and Gauri got to know you when we visited you last year. They ask me why you got sick, if it’s because you had too many lollies. But then does anyone know why you had to be the one? Why it had to happen?

You would have been immensely moved to see the enormous outpouring of love, generosity, understanding and prayers for you from all whose lives you have touched.

You didn’t like to see people cry, especially not family. You knew how sick you were, but you were ever cheerful and positive and lent so much strength to those around you to deal with what fate had in store. 

In the end, it’s not about anything else. It’s just that you are my brother and I love you very much. Sandeep, I miss you every day.

Farewell and so long, Sandeep. You’re a STAR!


 
Post Title. 06/02/2008
 

Kunji chechi to Sandeep

My dear, dear brother.  It's been a month.  So hard to sit here and type these words.   Being so far away, I can almost pretend that nothing has changed and you are still at home watching cricket or surfing the net.  It feels so unfair that life should go on for everyone else when you are not with us.  But if we learned anything from you, its to stay strong.  That and all your memories is what keeps us all going. 

 
 

You were our much awaited little brother. Sandeep.  First cousin on our mom’s side.  A new baby after six years ! I remember Amma reading a letter from India with the news of your impending arrival and asking us to think of names for the new baby.  Chechi and I promptly reeled off a list of names of boys and girls from our grade.  Mine included names like Lancelot and Mohammed Faizan.

My memories of you are so many…the red faced tiny two month old -  I still vividly remember feeling a mixture of delight tinged with jealousy (my status as the baby in the family now involuntarily relinquished), the frenzy of shopping before each yearly summer trip to India and us deciding what toy to get you.  The train set with trains and tracks, the penguin rollercoaster.  Each toy selected with the anticipation of your face lighting up in joy.

The time we fed you “eruvulla” grapes (a spray of fresh green pepper (kurumullagu) from the tree near the front gate at Karuvatta meant to be grapes after our leisurely lunch of sand (rice) and pebbles (curry).  Playing “baby” to my “Mommy” and Valli chechi’s “Daddy” – you did so great till then , pretending to eat the ‘rice’ and ‘curry’ .  How were we to know you would pop it into your mouth and then let out a LOUD scream that brought Kochammavan and Ammumma running in fear from the house.  Tears flowing, you complained to them, “chechimar enikku eruvulla grapes thannu”. !!!!

The time we spent hours making an elaborate sand castle in Karuvatta.  With doors and flowers decorating the castle – while we waited for Mini ammayi’s  home made icecream to set.   Then Mini ammayi playing referee when baby Dulu ran outside and in one well aimed kick (should have been an indication of the soccering talent to come), demolished our hours of labor.

The Onam and Xmas and summer hols with all the cousins in Trivandrum after we moved to India.  The time nine of us crammed into valyamman’s new Santro and drove to Trivandrum from Ernakulam.  How about halfway into the uncomfortable but tremendously fun trip, you and Dulu got into a fist fight - the rest of us trying hard to keep out of the way of the blows.  (Not an easy task when there are seven people in the backseat of a relatively small car)

Over the years you went from being adorable (sometimes bratty) lil brother to a great friend.  At first I was saddened at the thought that my son, Ishan will never get to know you, but then I realized he would.  Because between us all we have enough memories of you to last us a lifetime. You were the first one he called “maama” and when he is old enough, I will tell him all about you.  I read this in a magazine and loved it because it captures what I feel exactly even after you are gone. “ I am I and you are you. Whatever we were to each other, that we still are”. You will always be my  lil  brother.  I will always be your kunji chechi.

 
 

I saw pictures of my nephew when he was born, and I knew he was going to grow up as a handsome young man. I finally saw him in person when I came home in 1986. Truly a handsome boy and my father [his grandfather/Appooppan]’s pride and joy!! At the tender age of one, he knew how to get his way and I saw how happy he made my father.

Over the last few years as we came back home more often, we had a better chance to enjoy every minute with Sandeep. He always had some good plans for everyone—never a dull moment! During our visit in 2005, he talked about several big plans, including for our family to travel together, which we were going to do, but God had other plans for him. Now I know our limits and that we cannot alter God’s plans, no matter how hard we try.

I will always cherish the happy moments we had, even though the opportunities were rare as the distance and commitments in life made it difficult. I was amazed at this young man’s strength and how he could keep everyone around him happy, despite the most adverse situations in life. He taught me a good lesson—that you can set high goals and work towards them, even when the worst things are happening to you. What a lesson to learn from a 23-year-old boy that I did not learn in 48 years!  I am not afraid as I know you are in a better world where your Appooppan will protect you, and I can see him fussing over you even more now.

 
sandy! 05/19/2008
 

The early years...

remembering early ages of sandeep is great fun. i think, i have met him first as young baby, in one of those midnight entry of the trio (that is my brother kochettan, hemachechi and baby sandeep) through the back door of maveli house, karuvatta! he must be fast asleep and in he wakes up everyone else with his cry for the moon!
he always asked for what is unattainable! i mean as his young kochacha that period of time! his demands were so difficult for me!