9/11. A new place called Ground Zero
9/11. The day the world stopped. It’s not often that you feel your heart has stopped and your blood run cold. This is the feeling many people had, especially in NY, on that fateful day in September 2001. There was the indescribable pain of loss, the sheer fear of the unknown, the helplessness of seeing the world teeter out of control.
Nine years later the healing process is still very much a work in progress.
I write about just one life lost and in that, the many.
This is about Rajesh A. Mirpuri whom I did not know in life but got to know in death through bits and pieces shared with me by friends and family, as I reported on the tragedy for India Today.
I will share with you the piece I wrote then, privileged to share the stories told me by his loved ones. You will also read a poem written in the memory of this wonderful young man who stood on the brink of a beautiful future, by his cousin in Hong Kong.
Once again I head out to his memorial in New Jersey…
9/11 happened just a week before Rajesh’s 31st birthday. He would have turned 39 years old this month. Like the rest of us, I feel a sadness which the passing of time has not erased. Today evening I head out to the Sadhu Vaswani Center in Englewood, NJ., where Rajesh’s parents, Arjan and Indra Mirpuri, have kept a bhog ceremony in his memory, concluding a Nuri Grath paath at their home. It has become a yearly ritual, a part of life and living. A deep seated spirituality and belief in the teachings of their master, Dada J.P.Vaswani, has been their anchor in coping with the tragedy.
After the bhajans and the prayers in the midst of scores of their friends, they will remember what they cannot forget. There will be hugs and embraces, tears and the holding of hands. There will be the sharing of langar prasad, the communal meal offered first to the Almighty.
And then, because there is no other alternative, life will go on.
Lost on 9/11 at Ground Zero
Rajesh Mirpuri – He Lived Life to the Fullest
Tall, handsome and charismatic, Rajesh A. Mirpuri had a huge appetite for life. Recalls his best friend Sharad Sethia, known as Shaz: “He was just a fun guy – he lived life to such an extent, it was unbelievable, just to go to a restaurant with him was an experience. He’d order a dozen dishes – he consumed life in such a great way. Nothing was enough – he had to go overboard. That’s the way Raj was, he lived life to the fullest.”
In fact, there were no half measures with Rajesh. Extremely devoted to his parents Arjan and Indra, he shared a deep bond with them as an only child but was also committed to a huge extended family across the globe. Visiting cousins and nieces could be sure of being shown the best of New York by Rajesh, Reshma Shamdasani, a close friend says.
“Raj not only looked out for me as a younger sister but he gave me the greatest gift anyone has ever given me: he introduced me to my husband, Vijay.”
In fact, that’s what Rajesh did best – getting people together and always taking care of them. Rajesh, who worked with Data Snaps, was attending the Risk Management conference at the Windows on the World on the 106th floor of Tower 1 when the planes hit the World Trade Center. He was always late for appointments but ironically he was perfectly in time for this date with disaster. He was home in New Jersey a day earlier with the flu, after a holiday in Spain – a trip shared with Reshma and Vijay, who was Rajesh’s classmate at New York University.
“There was a group of us, and we had the time of our lives,” she recalls. “Raj took care of everyone, getting us hotel reservations, arranging dinner and activities and speaking to the waiters in Spanish to get us the best food and service. He would even peel shrimp for everyone and put it on their plates! He was always making sure everyone had a good time.”
Adds Reshma: “He wanted to make it big, to look after his family, to fall in love and have a wife and many kids. Any girl would have been lucky to have him. It is hard to imagine life without the guy with the widest smile in the world. We miss him terribly.”
– Lavina Melwani
Rajesh A. Mirpuri
September 18, 1970 – September 11, 2001
Taken from us in the World Trade Center Attack in New York
A love poem…
When tomorrow starts without me
And I’m not there to see
If the Sun should rise and find your
eyes All filled with tears for me.
I wish so much you wouldn’t cry
The way you did today. While
thinking of the many things we
didn’t get to say.
I know how much you love me
As much as I love you
And each time that you think of me
I know you’ll miss me too.
But when tomorrow starts without me
Please try to understand
That an Angel came and called my
name And took me by the hand.
And said my place was ready
In Heaven far above
And that I’d have to leave behind
All those I really love.
But as I turned to walk away
A tear fell from my eye
For all my life I’d always thought I
didn’t want to die
I had so much to live for
So much yet to do
It seemed almost impossible
That I was leaving you.
I thought of all the yesterdays
The goods ones and the bad
I thought of all the love we shared
And all the fun we had.
If I could re-live yesterday
Just even for a while
I’d say goodbye and hug you
And maybe see you smile.
But then I fully realized
That this could never be
For emptiness and memories
Would take the place of me.
And when I thought of worldly things I
might miss come tomorrow I thought of
you and when I did
My heart was filled with sorrow.
But when I walked trough heaven’s gates
I felt so much at home
From his great golden throne
This is eternity
And all I’ve promised you
Today for life on earth is past
But here it starts anew.
I promise no tomorrow
But today will always last
And since each day’s the same day
There’s no longing for the past.
But you have been so faithful
So trusting and so true
Though there were times you did
some things You knew you shouldn’t
But you have been forgiven
And now at last you’re free
So won’t you take my hand
And share my life with me?
So when tomorrow starts without me
Don’t think we’re far apart
For every time you think of me
I’m right here in your heart.
– Seema Mahtani
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