Mr Om Prakash and I worked together in the Tata Energy Research Institute (now The Energy and Resources Institute) (TERI) for several years. He joined a couple of years after I started working in TERI. The Biotechnology Unit was established in TERI with Dr V. Jagannathan’s joining the Institute in 1985. Om Prakash was the Technical Supervisor in the Unit, appointed to look after the several items of equipment and instruments to be purchased for use in the Unit.
Om Prakash was a retired officer of the Indian Navy. A straightforward man, he used to talk a lot about his days in the Navy. His pride of having been in the Navy could be gauged from every expression he had and every word he pronounced. He used to describe how he had enjoyed life to the full while in Navy. He had travelled to several countries and seen a number of places and met with a lot of people. There was no adventure that he didn’t engage in. And there was no enjoyment that he missed.
After retirement, however, he had become sober and wanted to lead a peaceful life with his family. He became a member of the Air Force and Naval housing society and had been allotted a flat in one of their societies in NOIDA. After having worked in TERI for several years, the Institute had become part of his life. He was fully involved in the purchase, setting up, and maintenance of every item of equipment in the Biotechnology Unit. The items of equipment were his like children. He used to say, ‘As long as I can work, I will work in TERI. I don’t want to work anywhere else.’
But then, times change, and people change. He departed much ahead of his anticipation when several years of active service had still been left in him. He had been very sad towards the last few days of his career in TERI. He didn’t tell us about the reasons for his departure. What has to arrive, however, cannot be stopped. After his departure we did not have much interaction with him. He also did not contact us.
One day we heard with awe and shock that Om Prakash had passed away. It was unbelievable because it had only been a few years since he had left TERI and he had been keeping very healthy. But when we heard how, where and when it happened, we actually envied him. What we heard goes like this.
Om Prakash had become very religious after his departure from TERI. It was Shivarathri, and the normal routine for devotees was to spend the night in a Shiva temple praying to the Lord and singing bhajans (prayer songs). Bhakti (devotion) is an ecstasy to many. After a few hours of bhajans, pooja (worship) was being conducted and everybody prostrated before the idol of Lord Shiva. Om Prakash too prostrated before the Lord praying to him, ‘Hey Bhagawan, mujhe apne sharan mein le lo’ (Oh, Lord! Take me into Thy fold!). While the others stood up after a few seconds, Om Prakash did not. It is only after several minutes that those around him felt there was something wrong. They tried to wake him up, but they could not. He had already gone to the abode of Lord Shiva! Who among us will not wish for such a peaceful, sudden, and active death? His soul, I believe, has gone directly to the abode of Lord Shiva.
Whenever I hear of Shivarathri, I remember Om Prakash. For me, the two have become synonyms.