Dr. Abdul Majeed Azad
On October 10, 2008 at 8:55 PM EST (6:25 AM on October 11, Indian Standard Time), my PhD advisor, a father-figure, a dear friend, a respected colleague and a revered scientist, Dr. O.M. Sreedharan Ã¢â‚¬â€œ fondly known as O.M.S. to all – passed away in Chennai, India. And even though both my parents are alive, it feels like I have become an orphan.
Those who knew OMS, loved him. Those who worked with him admired him, knowing that he was the best mentor in the whole wide world. Indeed, he was a teacher par excellence with an enviable encyclopedic memory. He was our king Midas: he touched and turned many of us into gold.
I began my scientific career under his affectionate wings and fine tutelage. I worked with him for eight years, during which time he taught me every subtlety of nuclear science and engineering, metallurgy and materials, high temperature thermodynamics and, ceramics.
But above all, he taught me the meaning of life and its core values. It is true that knowledge comes from God, but it is facilitated through humans around us. Even the divine message that eventually became Scriptures was delivered to the prophets by the archangel Gabriel. So, a great deal of the little that I know today about life and materials, is owed to OMS.
Life is a kaleidoscope of people who have made up mine. Every significant moment and momentous event in my life is caused by some special people – people who shaped me and molded me. Many a things they did or said left an enduring and indelible mark and, many a times not even a word or a deed but just a kind imperceptible gesture stays with us forever. OMS did all of that to me.
Over the years, many a people have crossed my path, but only few have left indelible footprints on the canvas of my life. I have shared laughs with many but have shed a tear in recollection for only a select few. OMS is certainly one of them. As people leave our lives, we lose the possibility to rediscover shared memories. Not with OMS.
Some say, with age, memory fades; I say, with passage of time, fluid memories crystallize and become shapely and well-defined. They get engraved on our heartÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s eyes, so we can see them more clearly and derive more pleasure than ever before. I say that because even though I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t see OMS even once since 1991, I could still sense him all these years, constantly guiding me through the maze of life. We have spoken a couple of dozen times in the intervening period of 17 years, and kept in touch through e-mails mostly, but thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all.
Very early on, OMS taught me to value long-standing friendships, precisely because then we can remember together. There is a great magical power in good friendship. It gives you support, strength and a meaning to your existence, because you are not living for yourself alone; there is someone out there, whom you care about more than you will ever know. That existence is like a soft glow, a spark, a tingle or an imperceptible tickle. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s like sunshine on a gloomy day or, soft moonlight on lonely nights. It is the VIBGYOR of our life.
He taught me too that distances donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t matter to keep relationships strong and thriving. He taught me why we should all stay connected with people we love, care about and who matter to us the most. For that reason alone, I never felt, I was away from him or his affection. I was not related to him, nor was he to me in anyway, except through the common quest for knowledge. And yet, the magnetism of this inexplicable relationship is something beyond any geographical or dogmatic similitude.
People talk of and teach about the virtues of charity, in long-winded way. Now that OMS is no more amidst us, I understand the true meaning of charity in simple terms. The real charity is to love someone without question. No strings attached.
When I read the e-mail about his passing away, I couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t stop crying unashamedly. Today, as I walk slowly down the memory lane, I cannot control my tears. All of a sudden it dawned on me that all those years ago, he was the only person who never judged me. He saw in me only good and above all, made me see it too.
His imprints on the lives of those of us who were fortunate to know him are too big and too deep to be erased easily by the sands of time. And though it might sound odd, I must say that I shall never miss him. Because for some reason I know, he will always be amidst us, guiding us with his boundless wisdom and selfless affection!
So, rest in Peace, O.M.S. We love you. Just like Mufasa – The Lion King – you have become a bright star in the distant galaxy, smiling down benevolently on your bunch of Simbas.
You will be with us as long as we live, for we have all become your reflection. And reflections cannot be obliterated.
Dr. Abdul-Majeed Azad is an Associate Professor in Chemical and Environmental Engineering Department at University of Toledo.