Exchanging Whatsapp messages has become a daily routine for most of us. It provides instant connection to greet each other and know about well being.Sharad Gupta of “Dairy India” fame had the following exchange of messages with Dr. Naware and Shailendra in April 2021.
Messages exchanged with Sharad Gupta April 2021
13 April 2021
Sharad : Baisakhi. Gudi Padwa. Poila. Baishak. Bihu. Ugadi. Vishu. Puthandu. Cheti Chand. The names are as diverse as our culture and landscape. But the significance is one – thanking the universe for a bountiful harvest. Happy New Year !!!
17 April 2021
Sharad : Covid+ since Tuesday. Mild version. On oxygen support at home. Feeling miserable. 0710
Naware:On seeing above message I rushed on Whatsapp to talk to him.
Sharad : Sorry cannot talk.
I realized my mistake in expecting him to talk and continued my message
Naware: Okay. I was little disturbed. Hence called. Can realize now. Take care. 07:59
Sharad : Am better since afternoon today. Taking antibiotics and steroids. 07:59
Naware : What about other family members. 08:01
Sharad : I appreciate your concern. Everyone else is OK. Taking precautions. Will keep you posted. 08:01
Naware : Okay. Seeing worsening situation I feel forty years back we implemented FMD control program in better way. 08:03
Sharad : You must write on this for Shailendra-ji. It will be interesting. 08:15
Sharad : I took first Covishield vaccine on March 25th. Maybe that is why I have a mild version of covid. 08:15
18 April 2021
Sharad : Better today. But still getting fever. Doctor says to watch for another 24 hours. 08:09
Sharad : Oxygen level is normal. 08:09
I : Good ! 08:14
19 April 2021
Sharad : My cough is better. Had fever 100.9 again today at 1 pm. Came down within two hours after medication. O2 normal without concentrator. 09:43
Sharad : Some progress but high fever everybody is worrying. The antibiotics and steroids reach a peak after 3-4 days. So hoping for improvement soon. 09:45
Naware : You will be okay Sharad. 10.05
Sharad : Yes Sir, I will be. Being confined to one room is a torture and will be for next 10 days. 10.22
13 April 2021
Sharad: Baisakhi. Gudi Padwa. Poila Baishak. Bihu. Ugadi. Vishu. Puthandu. Cheti Chand.
The names are as diverse as our culture and landscapes. But the significance is one — thanking the universe for a bountiful harvest.
Happy New Year!!!
17 April 2021
Sharad: Covid+ since Tuesday. Mild version. On oxygen support at home. Feeling miserable. 10.06
Shailendra: Ohh sorry to hear this. 1434
Did you get first dose of vaccine
Here also situation no good but India is real bad
18 April 2021
Sharad: Thanks for your good wishes. I took the fist Covishield vaccine on March 25th. Maybe that is why I have a mild version of covid.
The situation in Delhi is worst than horrible. No beds or oxygen cylinders available. Fortunately we have an oxygen concentrator. A huge blessing.
Reading Vrikshamandir blogs when possible. Inspiring. Please do take all possible precautions.
28 April 2021
Shailendra: How are you feeling now ?
The above message was the last ones from Shailendra and I received Sharad on 18 and 19 April 2021 respectively. He appeared positive and I thought he was to be okay.
There were no replies to Shailendra’s message of 28 and my message of 29 April, 2021.
I made enquiry with other friends to know about status of Sharad. On 30th April I was informed that he was in Noida Hospital, feeling better and recovering fast. However On 6th May 2021 I received message informing that Sharad had passed away.
I can not imagine how one sending a perfectly normal message wishing happy new year passes away in 23 days. It is such a terrible phase we are witnessing in our life time.
How will you name the relationship that continues over 40 years when persons involved are neither in blood relation nor childhood friends ; they are neither schoolmates nor your colleagues at the workplace but it rests on mutual interest, respect, trust and love. Business if at all is only secondary. My unique relationship with Sharad had these qualities.
It started somewhere around 1981 when I was working in southern regional office of NDDB at Sabri Shopping Complex near Residency Road, Bangalore. One fine morning as I was entering the building I saw a tall and handsome duo identifiable as father and son because of similarity in features except that the father PR Gupta being around fifty years’ of age was sporting a beard and his son Sharad in prime youth looking around twenty. They must have come by morning flight from Delhi. Since we were aware about their visit I recognized and escorted them to our office on the second floor. They had introductory meeting with Director (SR) that was followed by a round of discussion with me and few other officers to give them idea about the project activities in southern region under Operation Flood and the World Bank aided dairy development program in Karnataka. I never knew that it was just a beginning of a relationship with Guptas that was to continue over next four decades ! After that visit in due course they brought up their first edition of Dairy India in 1983 and never looked back.
Afterwards wherever I worked, whether in NDDB regional office New Delhi, Maharashtra Rajya Dudh Mahasangh Mumbai or Dynamix Dairy, Baramati ; both PR Gupta and Sharad Gupta were in touch with me. I also provided them all the details, statistics to which I had access to help them bring out subsequent editions of Dairy India in 1985, 1987, 1992 and 1997.
However the real breakthrough in our relationship occurred in 1998 when as Managing Director of Jalgaon Milk Union I was on official visit to Mother Dairy Delhi to finalize supply of SMP and White Butter for the coming season.
Towards the end as I entered the cabin of then General Manager NA Shaikh, I found PR Gupta sitting right in front of him. Both of them continued their discussion in my presence as there was nothing confidential and in fact they asked me to even participate in it. That was followed by discussion between me and NA Shaikh and the purpose of my Delhi visit was over. It was office closure time and we were to disperse. When I was about to leave, PR Gupta enquired as to where I was put up and then extended invitation to me to visit his residence with assurance that afterwards he would drop me at IDA Guest House. Since I had no other work I accepted his invitation and went with him. The car that was provided to me by Mother Dairy I left there itself. I would say that was the day my relationship with Guptas took a new turn ! That night I had dinner in their house and knew about other members. Sharad must have been around 38 years’ of age at that time.
The next real contact was in 2002 when I was on visit to Delhi and purchasing their book on Indian Dairy Products was on my agenda. For that purpose as I telephoned Sharad he readily agreed to provide me a copy and actually came to IDA Guest House to hand it over to me. That was the period from 2002 to 2005 when I used to visit Delhi four times a year to attend the meetings of the Central Executive Committee of the IDA. During my next visit I was invited to their residence when PR Gupta suggested that I write one article on the subject of Milk Procurement for the upcoming edition of Dairy India. I accepted his invitation and wrote article under the title ” Holistic Milk Procurement”. It was a lengthy article but complete in every respect and PR Gupta was all praise for it.
My next visit was sometime in 2005 when I come to know that PR Gupta was not keeping well and I felt it was my duty to call on him. I met him with a bouquet of flowers and he was visibly pleased. In the meeting that followed he asked me to suggest names of a senior person who could go through articles on various technical subjects and provide help so that the ‘Dairy India’ publication is brought out free of errors. I did suggest the name of a person who was from Delhi very. However, PR Gupta succeeded in persuading me to agree with his suggestion and do that job myself. I accepted his invitation and without any formal agreement the arrangement was worked out. As a result they started sending articles through courier and I went on correcting them wherever necessary. Over the period I was made Editorial Adviser. But my meeting with PR Gupta proved to be the last one as he passed away in January 2006.
The sixth edition of Dairy India was published in 2007 and for couple of years no work was involved. However, during those years Sharad maintained a day today contact with me either by sending some important news related to dairy field or any other interesting matter by email. Then he came out with a suggestion that, if I like he would send ” Daily Motivator ” to me which could be a philosophical topic or that which promotes good thoughts. I agreed to that suggestion and we had contact via email for several months.
Around 2010 we started working on the next edition of Dairy India. By that time I had no meetings at Delhi on my cards. As a result Sharad started taking each and every opportunity to visit Mumbai and the meetings were held at my residence. He attended all dairy conferences, seminars, and exhibitions held in Mumbai but each time his real purpose was to visit my residence and discuss the issues pertaining to seventh edition.
Sharad would ensure my presence and availability well in advance and then only plan his air travel. He would escape from the venue and reach my residence by 5 pm. Then there would be evening tea followed by continuous discussion with an interval for a dinner of Khichadi, Kadhi and Papad which was menu of his choice.
During our dinner my wife Preeti would change the subject to discuss family matters but would not succeed for a long. Only after 10 pm or beyond Sharad would go back to his hotel. He had identified one hotel in nearby suburb so as to reduce travel time.
Even on the last day he would arrange program in such a way that from my residence he would straightway go to the airport just in time. We suggested that he could as well stay with us since we were lone old couple and any young member was welcome change for us. However, Sharad always preferred it to happen next time !
Through these interactions the contents of seventh edition were finalized and he received the articles from various authors. He sent all those articles to me for review and then as first draft and second draft and as proof before printing for corrections if any. We saw to it that the entire contents of the edition did not have any discrepancy or contradiction of any sort which in a compendium like this with so many authors could have happened easily. Sharad also sent to me all art works in that edition to have my suggestions. As a result the seventh edition was finally released in 2017. I don’t need to emphasize how much important the ” Dairy India ” publication has been to dairy industry. The credit for that venture goes to PR Gupta and Sharad Gupta who have done a great job from concept to its publication over the years. I can only say that I have a sense of pride to have been associated with it.
Let alone our contact on account of Dairy India Sharad elevated me to be his friend and guide on several matters. Each year he would send his regards to me on the day of Guru Pournima and many auspicious occasions. After the demise of PR Gupta Sharad produced a compact disc of the Bhajans his father liked and promptly sent one disc to me. He also sent a book on the teachings of Swami Vivekananda and the novel ‘Siddhartha’ by Hermann Hesse. He sent to me a coffee table book on Indian Cattle Breeds. A unique book he spared for me was a collection of short stories authored by veterinary doctors from various countries of the world. He considered me like a family member on several matters. He sent bio data of son Vidur to explore possibility of getting the best suitable match. When the marriage was fixed he sent me advance message to save the dates and participate in the function to bless the couple. Around the same time he wanted to give a suitable name to their residence in Delhi and for that he wanted my suggestions. Finally the name ‘Param Anand’ was finalized by him. When being in USA I could not attend the marriage of Vidur with Surabhi, Sharad sent a box containing Baklava Mithai to us through courier all the way to California.
What more, Sharad contacted me each time he was in pain. When his mother was ailing he was very much disturbed and reached to me for soft words. In February 2017 he suffered from pain in lower back which affected his commitment. When he contacted me for advice I suggested the approach of yogic exercise after acute symptoms are over and the kind of diet that would provide comfort to him.
From 2013 onwards as my trips to US increased Sharad extended helping hand to me. He told me that if anything needed to be lined up from India I have to just inform him. Luckily for me there was no difficult situation but in September 2014 we faced a situation in California when our infant twin granddaughters had problem to get adjusted to the milk formulas available in US. On enquiry we were informed that it is quite common in US. But at one stage we all thought whether we can get the milk formula tins from India. When I contacted Sharad instantly he offered to send a consignment from Delhi ! Luckily our granddaughters got adjusted to a certain type of milk formula and that problem was settled. But the gesture shown by Sharad has lived for ever.
During last couple of years Sharad kept on sending important news and articles to me by email. The last article he sent was on 6th April 2021 titled ‘ Dairy Majors Foray Into Packaged Mithai’ published in Financial Express. The last messages we exchanged on Whatsapp are reproduced above. To end this article I have one ‘ Daily Motivator ‘ by Ralph Marston Sharad sent to me on 16th December 2014 under the title ” Easy to be Thankful “. In short, it says that people often forget to do so or hurdles like status come in our way to express our thanks to each other. But, having said this, I agree Sharad, it is easy to be thankful but very difficult now to thank you when you have gone away for ever.