Friday, February 25, 2011

Dear Neil,

I remember driving down the roads of India with you. I had to really go to the bathroom, but there were still a few hours left until we reached home. You laughed and said, “I don’t see what your problem is. In India, the public bathroom is all around you. Go join that guy urinating against the wall that says ‘Do not urinate here’.”

You were five at that time. We laughed for hours, but I remember thinking: not many kids have such an amazing sense of humor at such a young age. And while there is no dearth of humor in our family, what set you apart from the rest of us was your sense of adventure, your zest for life and your confident and positive outlook.


Bengalis are normally very lazy people and are so scared about everything, including their own shadows, that they rarely get to experience life to the fullest. But you, Neil, you always pushed the limits. You started winning Golf and Cricket championships at the age of seven. Meanwhile, I was still figuring out how to not pee in bed.

And this is why I was always amazed by you. You were fearless: you played like you would never lose; you desired like you would never be disappointed; and you loved like you would never get hurt.


I owe my childhood to you and your sister. I never realized I was an only child because you treated me like your own sibling. And God knows we had enough sibling rivalry between us! Remember that time we were playing table tennis and we got into a fight about who won the last point? Right before the game, we had gotten hot oil massages, so even as we tried to put each other in a headlock, we kept slipping and sliding out of each other’s grasps. Once we realized we couldn’t even stand up without slipping, we each grabbed a tree and decided to stare each other down instead.


Every minute I spent with you was incredible. Screaming down roller coasters; singing Punjabi songs loudly while cruising down empty roads; swimming in the calm Bangkok ocean and laughing while throwing gobs of wet sand at each other, and then yelling curses at each other because getting hit by wet sand turned out to be extremely painful; and then getting beaten up by our parents because we tried to beat each other up!


How about that time we met up at Koeli's place in Florida? You spent hours trying to convince me that there was a possessed stuffed animal haunting the little storage area outside her apartment. And after all that effort you put into scaring me, you ended up getting scared yourself! Yeah yeah, you'll always deny it, but you were supposed to sleep outside in the living room, near that storage closet. Yet, when night came, you quietly slinked into our bedroom with your sleeping bag, claiming it was "too cold" in the living room. Really? In Florida? It was "too cold"? I guess some Bengali genes never go away!

These were the memories that lapped like gentle waves against my mind, as I saw the silhouette of your father drifting quietly in a small canoe, and pouring your ashes into the cool, watery depths of the Bangkok river.

My baby brother, I love you and I miss you. And while my greedy heart always yearns to see you; to touch you; to laugh with you; I know that time always disintegrates the tangible. But the intangible—my memories of you and my love for you— will hold stronger and last longer than time, itself.



  1. Sob...That got me crying again!

  2. this is one beautifully written piece...cant still believe our neil dada is gone!

  3. I can't decide if I want to cry or laugh out loud... thanks! I needed this! :) :*

  4. Absolutely beautiful Shilpi. I know how precious he was to you and I'm so, so sorry. I loved learning more about him and seeing your childhood pictures. I hope reading this makes your family smile because they get to remember some bits and pieces of him they probably never knew. Big hugs.

  5. Yaa we all miss Neil ........He was my only nephew
    so many memoirs we miss you kiddooo love and hugs forever .... mama

  6. Dear Shilpi,
    This was a very well written.I know what is it like when u lose someone so dear. May God give u courage. Always remember his smiling face beta. u know i think god also must be needing jovial people up there to keep his spirits high. god bless u.

  7. Shilpi as usual I am always late in responding. Your mami and I are so touched by your thoughts.Today after almost 59 days that our beloved Neil left us in his physical form but he continues to inspire us by the person that he was. He had thetraits of a noble soul that made him such a great brother for you sisters.He was always -Loving, Kind,Helpful, Grateful,Humble and always a Man protective of his parents,sisters et al. I weep coz i feel so helpless sometimes that i dont have his broad shoulders to put my worries on.. Remembering you all the time our loved Beta