Thank you, Sujit Sir!

Yesterday was a milestone day for me at work. Simply Sport Foundation was commissioned to write a report for the Government on women sport in the country and I led the team to get the report done. After a year of working on this report, going through all the 100 steps of research, analysis and writing of the paper, and submission process, we got a ‘go ahead’ from the Government to publish it. It was a massive effort by a very small team and I am proud of what we have accomplished. It was a labour of love for me personally, and I learnt so much.

Though this post is not about the milestone, it is about the ‘man’ who put me on the path of accomplishing this milestone, Sujit Patwardhan.

Sujit sir was an inspiring man. Sensitive, curious, lovable, child-like and a man who was all-heart. When I met him he already knew me as a Badminton player, and he was surprised when I made a request to him 15 years back to volunteer at his organisation Parisar, during one of my injury phases. He welcomed me right in, with no inhibitions. He took me to meetings, presentations, lectures on sustainability and public transport. He gave me a small project of documenting life on cycles of people living in Pune. The whole experience was so fulfilling and inspiring, that it made me love the work I could do in the development sector even before I officially began.

Though Sujit sir was hardly about just work. He introduced me to to Louis Armstrong and the whole world of Jazz. He made me watch documentaries on Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs. He made me watch Woody Allen movies, and introduced me to the world of Ingrid Bergman. He invited me to art galleries, and tried to explain the mysterious world of abstract painting. He told me about Satyajit Ray, and the importance of minimalism. He made me love the world of fonts, prints, the magic of logos, inks, and papers. He took me out on photography tours all around the city, and taught me how to take good photos. He gave me books and magazines to read that he had collected as a teenager, to help me understand the the fundamentals of a successful life don’t change through the generations. They remain the same, and I should never forget that.

He told me to write more, to study more, to choose the path I love and not should love. He helped me to navigate through my anxieties, confusions, and thoughts. He laughed like a child, his eyes welled up in an instant if he read a beautiful line somewhere. He once called me up after reading one of my blogs, and told me it made him cry. He showed me vulnerability and being sensitive is a strength and I should proudly flaunt it.

Sujit sir was my ride to all things beautiful. He exposed me to so many things that opened my mind to things outside of my sport, and gave me so much to look forward to everyday. Sujit sir was forever champion of my ideas and also their critic. He only and only pushed me to learn more, explore more, and ensured that I remain humble by making me meet people who have accomplished so much more and changed so many lives, silently.

I really wanted Sujit Sir to read the report we have written. I think he would have critiqued it at length, and then eventually told me that he loved the effort I put in on it, over a meal of fish and rice.

For a recommendation letter that he wrote to my University in the USA, he wrote, “With her unique experiences and perspectives, Aditi will enrich any class she is part of.”

I think Sujit sir did exactly this, just in his case it wasn’t a class. I think he enriched every room he was in and every person he met, by just being him.

Thank you Sir for you. I will miss you so so much. It was a privilege knowing you!