I can expect no more mails from the man who made the id firstname.lastname@example.org famous across the country, through various strata of society. The pilot extraordinaire of the Indian Air Force whose real fighting days started at the age of 24, after turning a quadriplegic, succumbed on Tuesday to the deadliest foe that he faced, just two weeks after he turned 50. Cancer did what the deadly accident that left him immobile from chest downwards could not do. M P Anil Kumar, fondly called the wheelchair warrior, as he authored many a feted article by painstakingly working away at the keyboard with a mouth-held stick, will continue to inspire many for the indomitable spirit he showed while facing the worst possible setbacks in life.
It was only on Monday that I had the first inkling that things were taking a turn for the worse after a mail from K S Haridas Nair, who described himself as “a friend of M P and his batch mate at Sainik School Kazhakoottam, Kerala”.
He went on to narrate why Anil had not been sending mails for a few months as he had not been keeping well and then said M P was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia last month. Given his quadriplegic condition, the deterioration was quick. And a day later came a friend’s telephone call that Anil was no more.
On Wednesday, the mortal remains of this man who stood apart by fighting whatever life threw at him by way of challenges, with a lion’s heart, will be confined to flames. M P, thus, will become part of folklore.
I met you, Anil, only a couple of times, both times in your small room in (Paraplegic Rehabilitation Centre) PRC, Khadki. You put me at ease about your quadriplegic condition with a casual but sharp comment about the need to interact with you as I would with anybody else. You gave me information on what happens in newsrooms, as you came to familiarise yourself with them as the occasional edit page writer and sounded philosophical when some of the “heavyweight” editors started playing truant about publishing what you wrote. It was no easy life, the last 26 years, as your interactions with the outside world were mostly limited to the ether space, even as you watched other wheelchair-bound paraplegics at the rehab centre play basketball. The frustration of it all sometimes came through in the mail even as you stoically fought to be the epitome of calm in the sea of turbulence that marked much of your life.
I remember how you savoured an outing with some of your friends though it left you exhausted. That was many years ago.
I recall you also had an Onam sadya with some of your Kerala friends. Those snatches of conversation will now remain in my memory. How I wish I could have come and met you before leaving Pune in 2011. But that was not to be. I came to the PRC, Khadki, in 2007 to interact with the doctors about setting up a computer centre and if I left the place many hours later a better human being, it can only be attributed to my feeble efforts to fathom the persona of M P Anil Kumar. May Your Soul Rest in Peace.