My instant reaction was to delete the email from my account the minute I saw it. It was a mail from a leading private bank and it was about World Heart Day on September 27, 2009. It was about a free checkup that the bank had organised in partnership with another leading diagnostic centre.
This time, however, something had changed. For a change, the mail — which also gave details of WHO’s report, putting the number of those who die because of cardiovascular diseases at 17.2 million globally — wasn’t merely all about numbers. Suddenly, I could put a face in those million numbers.
I never knew him personally, but I’d met him very briefly — and only recently — at a party. He was from Mayo and being from the same school it was natural to smile at each other, wave our hands and go over and immediately find a connection and start talking about school, about the friends and other people that we had in common.
It was shocking, then, to wake up to the news of Nitin Luthra’s sudden demise. A close friend of mine, who had called up to inform us about his sudden death, had met him only three days ago at his place for dinner. Nitin had passed away in the wee hours of Monday morning, leaving behind his family, including his parents, his young wife and his four-year-old child.
The 33-year-old defence journalist had worked with Reuters and Dow Jones Newswire. He had moved to India Strategic only recently and I’m sure he had grand plans about the new job and for himself. What went wrong? Everything happened – it seems — almost immediately. Nitin, very unfortunately, had a cardiac arrest and had passed away.
I don’t know if there will ever be a way to console his wife, his parents. I don’t know if there ever will be a way to tell his little son just what happened to his daddy. I don’t know if they’ll ever heal. I don’t know how they’ll tell his little son that next month, on his birthday, daddy won’t be home.
I don’t know if his loved ones have even slept. I don’t know if they still think of it as a bad, bad dream wishing it had never ever happened. I don’t know how his parents must be feeling. I don’t know what his wife must be thinking.
I wonder what breaking stories Nitin was planning the next day. I wonder how he must’ve waited to wind up his work for the day, planning out his next morning, his next vacation, his next outing with his wife and child, his weekend break, his Diwali, his New Year’s Eve. Was he tired? Was his body asking him to stop working and thinking so hard? What happened? What went wrong?
Our generation is blamed of leading unhealthy lifestyles, we don’t exercise, we don’t eat, we’re junk food junkies, we’re this, we’re that… It’s all true, I suppose, and there’s no point denying that. Pollution levels in our city have exceeded permissible limits, we work too hard, in fact, we feel proud of working 24×7 and those who manage to come home from work by 5.30 pm (I don’t know anyone in my circle who actually manages to come home at a decent hour actually) are often made to feel guilty. And sure, we don’t eat fresh fruit, juices or even include enough fibre or have a healthy, balanced diet. Simply put, we are wrong, wrong, wrong. In more ways than one, we are wrong.
But once you look at Nitin’s four-year-old son, once you look at the emptiness in his wife’s eyes, once you see the helplessness and anger and rage and grief in the eyes of his parents, what is the answer that we will give them? How will we console them? What will – and what can – we say to them? WHO’s report will no longer be just about numbers for them. In that number there will be a name and a question for Nitin’s family.
Why did Nitin die? They’ll search for an answer to that question for the rest of their lives.