The Terrain of Long Partnership

Learnings of life...

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The sudden death of my husband Naren on Christmas Day, a month back, felt as if someone had pressed Control+Alt+Delete on me.  A walking, talking, laughing soul disappeared within 15 minutes in front of me.  How was that even possible?

Naren, however, left the world at the top of his game.  His last major endeavor was building a cross-border (India and US) venture fund, which he started 15 years back. Finally, things were looking bright and his grin gave it away when he talked about his portfolio companies and their entrepreneurs, his heroes.  He wanted to create an Indian unicorn (a company with a billion dollars more in valuation).  And he could see some springing soon, in his portfolio companies. 

The last four months had been particularly enjoyable for him, as we were finally able to travel again.  Travels had always been his ultimate joy — 3-4 trips a year, come hell or high water.  The day before he passed, we were on a week-long family vacation in Florida — an annual ritual, he wanted it to become.  Canoeing for two hours with his daughter as the main paddler, serving margaritas two glasses at a time as fast as I could churn them out… this is how he wanted life to be.  Twenty people of all ages plus a dog were together in Florida.  Our vacation home was filled with fun, laughter, and activities.  From smoothies to farmers’ markets, from swimming to beach walks, doing puzzles, cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Most importantly the unsaid decorum of this vacation was, ensuring we interacted meaningfully with every individual in the group.  

Two days before Naren passed, he played online bridge with his favorite people, his brother Ash and famous Zia, the Tiger Woods of bridge — who our girls teasingly called “his boyfriends” — with whom he conversed several times a day. Online bridge while sitting on a beach chair outside our Air BnB overlooking the water.  Life could not get any better.

The day before he passed, he and I — just the two of us — went canoeing in the Gulf of Mexico. He took one picture after another: beautiful white egrets, blue herons, cormorants, and pelicans, as they were in the water or flying above us in formation.  The delta was half-submerged, with green leaves on thin red stems — mangroves in the making— while amateur fishermen with rickety equipment, fished from their boats, but the fish weren’t biting that day.  The water was shallow around the delta so we had to be careful to keep our canoes from getting stuck. The serenity of the place was just what we needed after the hustle and bustle of our vacation.

What a way to go! 

As I look back at our 47 years together, I think of how I got to observe Naren’s life through a telescopic lens, while zooming in on my own, both equally perplexing.  It is like traveling a long-familiar trail where you know each pebble, you know where you can peek at the blue skies above or the valley below.  You know where the best views of the waterfalls are and where you can get the softest spray. You know where you are most likely to trip and fall, but also learned to regain your balance.  It is all part of the terrain — the journey.  Sometimes difficult journeys are far more rewarding than easy ones.  But it does not seem that way at the time. 

Over the years Naren and I figured where and when to fill our water bottles and get ready for the next stretch, and another tough climb.  Then suddenly good things happened, and the destination once again looked like what we were seeking, both together and individually. Of course, on a long trail, the weather can be unpredictable. Storm clouds appear from nowhere threatening a heavy rainfall, but sometimes it’s the gentle snowflakes that fall on your cheeks.  It helps to expect the unexpected.

Our adventures remind me of the fun we had together on our travels, but also of our lives at home, making everyday decisions that sometimes got messy, reaching milestones or turning points in our careers, and watching other lives begin or end. 

The battles we fought made us evolve.

Unknown to us, Naren and I became two people who wanted to rise to each others expectations. We challenged each other.  Both of us had high standards and both of us were difficult to please.  We could be stubborn and sometimes we let tensions persist longer than we wanted them to, within the four walls of our home.

We went through some tough times together. He had a major heart attack, 23 years ago, and I sustained a traumatic brain injury in January 2020 when I fell off an electric scooter in San Francisco.  I was hospitalized for three weeks, with no assurance I would make a full recovery.  We also lost two pregnancies but eventually raised two strong and hard-charging daughters.

No matter how it happens, the sudden end of a long partnership catches you off guard.  Waves of panic hit me when I try imagining what is ahead and how to navigate. “Pain hits me when I see your belongings Naren, and you are no longer threatening to switch off the lights at 10 p.m. — your bedtime.  You are not in the bed at night anymore, and never will be again.”   

How will I be able to operate without the guard rails that we set for each other and depended upon?  Maybe I can, as my sister, Kumkum, wisely said, “Guard rails prevent you from falling off but they can also restrict your free spirit.  You can do anything.  I am cheering for you.” Those were the most encouraging and powerful words I heard and exactly what I needed at this time.

I have no gods to depend upon or illusions about an afterlife.  But I do believe in free will.  “Naren, you should know that I and the girls will continue on that journey, like never before.  You will be remembered by us with fondness and not grief.”

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36 comments

  1. Niraj

    Vinita – what a thoughtful and uplifting celebration of your life together with Naren – thanks for sharing!

  2. Purnima Gupta

    I don’t know you were such a good writer. Will I ever know of all your talents? Love you.

  3. Sramana Mitra

    You know where you are most likely to trip and fall, but also learned to regain your balance. It is all part of the terrain — the journey. Sometimes difficult journeys are far more rewarding than easy ones. But it does not seem that way at the time. – Yes. Have been waiting for this piece. Much love, Sramana

  4. Romita Jerath Ghosh

    Love this- so well articulated. Naren Uncle lived such a fulfilling life, and you will continue on your journey with pebbles, clouds, snowflakes, and rainbows. ❤

  5. Barbara Tyler

    What a beautiful tribute to Naren. May Naren rest in peace, and you and your girls thrive in the lives you have in front of you. Sending my love. Barbara

  6. Karen Druker

    You are a strong woman. You will survive and become a new and even stronger you. Be grateful for the pleasure of his company during the times you had together, and the legacy he left you!

  7. S. K. Gupta

    What a beautiful tribute, not just to Naren, but to your amazing partnership. Thank you for sharing your honest and fond memories.

  8. Dominique Trempont

    Beautiful words, Vinita. Very touching. Someone quoted one day to me these words: « Genuine travelers travel not to overcome distance but to discover distance.«  Naren and you clearly enjoyed every minutes of the distance.

    A big hug

    Dominique

  9. arlene levy

    so sorry for your loss

  10. Aarti Awasthi

    Sincere condolences dear Vinita. You and Naren live(d) on your terms and just the way you both hoped and wished for. I am sorry for your loss but I hope the adventure will continue for you, all the way. As someone I look up to, even in the way you accept Naren’s passing on, I see wisdom and grace. I hope you will always keep looking upwards and onwards. Sincerely, A

  11. Deepak Bhagat and Shashi Bhagat

    Thanks Vinita for putting down your journey with Naren. Beautifully written! Shashi and I send our prayers for his soul, you and your daughters. I met him 4 times within a month before he passed away and we discussed how to collaborate as we both are in the same professional domain – he from a startup world and I from a corporate world. Four of us agreed to meet in January for a dinner. Nature had something else planned for him.

    Let us know if we can help in anyway. You should seriously consider carrying forward the work he left behind in hie venture fund. We are with you. All the best! Thanks.
    Regards,
    – Deepak

  12. Parvati Dev Dutta

    Vinita, your reflections are such a good way to get perspective.

  13. Roy Louis Dasilva

    RIP Naren, and live life large Vinita. Naren would not have it any other way.

  14. ZARINA KAJI

    What w poignant tribute to your life together!
    Sending you peace and love, Zarina

  15. Sanjiv Mittu

    A great tribute!

  16. Monisha Perkash

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful thoughts, Vinita. You have given me a lot to think about.

  17. Reshma Nigam

    Dearest Vinita,
    A beautiful tribute to an outstanding human being who reached the zenith and did not know it. Love you, take care.
    Reshma

    1. Florence

      Dear Vinita, this is such a thoughtful way to honor Naren’s life and partnership. You have a great mindset to guide you into the next chapter of your life. You and your daughters are in my thoughts.

  18. Hemant Lall

    "You will be remembered by us with fondness and not grief". That is what Naren would have wanted you to do. Very sad. But guard rails have been removed and you will soar to even greater heights. My heart goes out to you and your family. Hemant

  19. Charu Jain

    I am so sorry for your loss Vinita ji. What a lovely heart felt tribute to a wonderful partner of 47 years! I had the pleasure of meeting you both in Sept. at Amit’s wedding. I wish you peace….

  20. Peggy Kaplan

    “Naren, you should know that I and the girls will continue on that journey, like never before. You will be remembered by us with fondness and not grief.”

    Oh, Vinita! You are such a strong, wise and amazing woman! Your wealth of abilities, your determination to give just about everything your best has always impressed me deeply. And your strength with the loss of Naren? Few could express as you do. I remember the first time I met Naren; we were "at the table" and he was a bit nervous – yet very friendly and nice. He achieved so much at bridge… and I must admit I so wish it could have continued for years to come.

    Yet – I know you and your girls are such fine people, you know to always remember your love and joy with Naren… and continue life with a wealth of beautiful memories. My heart is with you all.

  21. Vijay Gupta

    Vinita, what an amazing piece of writing! And every sentence is straight from the heart.

    I didn’t get to know Naren well, but I still have one interesting memory from the early 1980s. I had bought a used car (Toyota?) from Naren and you. Naren had kept the most complete and well-organized records of car maintenance and repair that I have ever seen. And this was before the age of personal computers!

  22. Saroj Pathak

    Vinita, This brought tears to my eyes. Your sudden loss and your brave spirit, I can feel both of them in my bones. You have no GOD to rely upon but you have a community of humans and pillars of support from your daughter. This journey will not be the easy one, it never is but we learn and evolve.
    I am very grateful that you poured your heart out and please reach out for a hug or just some time to sit quietly.

  23. ANIL AGARWAL

    Dear Vinita, Very sorry to learn about the demise of your husband Naren. May his soul Rest in Peace. You have written a beautiful writeup dedicated to Naren. Well, the life is like that. In this age someone between the two does leave this earthly life to go for next inning as per God’s will.
    May God give you and your family enough strength to bear this loss and to continue Naren’s legacy forward.

  24. Shashank Aggarwal

    ?? we will always be proud of him.

  25. Liliane Kirchhoff

    A beautiful tribute to a beautiful man & relationship
    Some verses of Rainer Maria Rilke come to my mind:
    When you think about me
    Remember the hour
    In which you loved me the best ( sorry for a clumsy translation of the German verses )
    I wish you the best for the time ahead

  26. Kalpana Shyam

    Dear Vinita,
    Sorry for your loss.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Regards,
    Kalpana Shyam

  27. Sujatha Suresh

    Vinita, touching, poignant and poetic. Thank you for sharing your journey with Naren. You articulated a partnership beyond marriage – inspiring.

  28. Murthy Divakaruni

    Dear Vinita,

    The news was a huge shock to us. You two have set good examples for many people like us; we think fondly of the time we spent together.

    Great article, and thank you for sharing your memories of Naren. We are thinking of you and the girls, and you are in our prayers. I know you will go onto set new examples for us, like you did with your bridge championships and the blogs. Be safe and healthy.

    Fondly
    Murthy ( and Chitra & boys)

  29. Mike Ryan

    Dear Vinita,

    I am sorry for yours and the girls loss of Naren.

    You have beautifully captured your incredible memories and relationship together. I appreciate the images our your journey, priceless. Like Naren, I suffered a major heart incident, Sudden Cardiac Arrest, in my early 50s. When I returned to my first board meeting afterwards, Naren was extremely supportive, shared his own stories and we had a common bond. May his memory be a blessing. May you pursue the next glorious chapter in your incredible journey.

  30. Kathie Shaw

    Vinita,
    I am so sorry for your loss. It is a wonderful tribute to your husband Naren that you have been strong enough to share this with your friends in such an open way. My thoughts are with you and your family as you go forward . — My deepest sympathy, Kathie Shaw

  31. jaya pancholy

    dear vinita,
    i just came back from a very challenging trip of over 2 months from India.
    loved your lifestory and my condolences for your husband. life is full of mysticism that divine controls, we live in Irvine, would like to meet ou when i come to bay area. love, om.
    jaya pancholy

  32. Jim Whitehurst

    Vinita,
    This is so lovely and so well captures the Naren I got to know and will always remember. Thank you,
    Jim

    1. vinitagupta

      Thanks, Jim.

  33. Arun Jain

    Vinita, a truly extraordinary tribute for a truly extraordinary human being..
    And, what incredible writing skills.
    In awe..

  34. Yogesh Nivas

    Vinita,
    Thanks for sharing your feelings about Naren and being so transparent. This is a nice tribute to Naren.
    Just to refresh your memory, Bina and I live on Beauchamps Lane, Saratoga, across the house Where Kumkum and Pradeep lived for few years back in 90s. Their Daughter Seema and our daughter Rachna were also class mates at MontaVista high.
    Bina & Yogesh

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