We first met him on a Wednesday. All of us were very eager to figure him out. But the first meet didn’t give out much about him, except for the fact he had a firm handshake, and that when he spoke, he did so at length.
Next morning, we reached office on time, only to find him waiting for us. The editor had arrived, and he was there before time. I was impressed, and intimidated at the same time. The standards were set really high.
How much can one know about someone in just five days? Not much, certainly. I am no exception. I do not claim to have discovered a great deal about Paul. I do not even remember all of the things he said to us in the few meetings he had with us.
What I do remember is the bits and pieces of my interactions with him that I claim to be ‘personal’. Even when one is in a group, more often than not, one manages to squeeze in some ‘personal’ interactions.
When all of us got our business cards, I simply couldn’t contain my happiness. Paul was sitting right next to me. I held up the bundle of cards in front of him, and said, “It’s my first job”, trying very hard to suppress a grin.
“Oh! Is it? Make sure that you keep a copy of it with you”, he said.
In that moment, I believe I could connect to Paul. I believe he could sense how happy I was.
I remember the brief ten minutes on Saturday, when Paul showed me the photographs he had taken. The photographs were of sunsets and sunrises in Diu, the home he had left to be with us.
I remember the “economy of words” lesson that he taught us. I remember the dinner we had with Paul. I remember that he asked me to order fish, since he thought that a Bengali guy mustn’t be deprived of fish for long periods of time.
Little did he know that I was not a great fan of fish – a fact contrary to my Bengali origin. He assumed that I was one. Even we assumed that we would get to see him again on Tuesday. He left us early on Saturday evening. Little did we know that it was the last goodbye.
We make assumptions because they give us a sense of security. But it seems that destiny always has different plans in store.
Destiny had a bike accident in store for Paul.
No, I don’t know much about Paul. Five days is too short for knowing someone well.
Life is short. At times, it is even shorter than what we would imagine. The trick is to make every day count. That’s my biggest learning from Paul; a lesson I would like to remember for a long time – MAKE EVERYDAY COUNT.
RIP Paul Joseph Menezes.