The Last Dance
January 21st, 1 pm. The speech was over within moments—it was simple and short. And yet, I was unable to process it. Behind the speaker, on the other side of the furnace, was my precious friend of ten years. He had just bid me a final goodbye. My dry eyes were in denial, begging me the liberation of acceptance. My mind was furiously trying to find solace in the words I had once heard from a wise man, “Everyone who descends on this planet comes with a purpose. Once the purpose is accomplished, their journey is over.”
Was the wise man right? Perhaps, the answer is hidden in this ordinary story of an extraordinary man.
Mangesh Kale. My first encounter with Mangesh was a decade ago when both of us joined Pune’s Young President’s Organization (YPO). We hit it off on day one—we were similar in few ways. Both of us hailed from a ‘non-convent’ middle-class background, although his formative credentials outclassed mine. Mangesh was a born achiever, a gold medallist from the prestigious Govt. College of Engineering, Pune with sports accolades in Rowing at the National Level. Bestowed as the best outgoing student, he fitted the image of one destined to be an entrepreneur.
There was one more difference between us, I got lucky earlier than him. I had the good fortune of riding the wave of India’s IT revolution. Mangesh, on the other hand, had chosen a path less travelled. He along with PARI’s co-founder Ranjit had ventured into the futuristic world of Industrial Robotics. “It’s an incredibly complicated and risky business to run, demanding huge capital expenditure and inconsistent returns,” Mangesh would often share. “There is a non-stop battle, both on the demand and supply sides,” he stated. While Cybage passed the start-up phase very early in its existence, when it came to the realm of robotics – the glory awaited those who had tremendous amount of patience, resilience and perseverance to wait for the industry’s sunrise.
However, Mangesh’s business struggles failed to dampen his die-hard spirit. He exuded confidence of a Fortune 100 CEO with an immense clarity of mind. Every time I had the front row of watching him in action, he never failed to deliver a well-rounded extempore speech, devoid of any pauses to even process the content of his talk! “You are on steroids”, I frequently pulled his leg. His passion, time and again, left me perplexed. How can a businessman sustain the enthusiasm of a start-up entrepreneur for over a quarter of a century!
And yet, here was Mangesh – always as chirpy as a morning bird, unapologetically comfortable in his own skin. Sure, his peers were the who’s who of the corporate world, but he didn’t give a hoot when it came to his relational socio-economic standing. He didn’t aspire to stereotype his identity to societal yards of success. ‘High’ class gatherings didn’t do much for him. Neither did big houses or fancy cars. He continued to indulge in his various passions that held him steady over the years such as riding a bike on weekends, cycling and hiking on the Parvati hills, deep sea diving, dancing to the tunes of Zingat, and worshipping his wife, Aparna, like a goddess. In line with his academic excellence of yesteryears, he was a perpetual student who never missed an opportunity to learn.
Once we both participated in a charity auction where there were many extravagant items for offer, including dining experiences with Bollywood celebrities. And what did Mangesh bid and acquire at the auction? A corporate seminar by Arun Nathani on the Power of Analytical Approaches for all the senior employees of PARI! Mangesh and I shared an unspoken bond. I admired his zeal and brilliant mind, while he was influenced by my scientific methodologies to running an organization. His willingness to continuously evolve and adapt to new ideas scared me. What may have worked for me or others, what if they didn’t work for his business?
My apprehensions were ill-founded. Mangesh and his partner Ranjit’s relentless pursuit of excellence started yielding results. The business momentum picked up dramatically over the years. PARI finally arrived—strong balance sheets with high predictability and consistency – they became an undisputed leader of industrial robotics, over ten-fold larger than their nearest Indian competitor. Mangesh caved into the pressure of his cheering comrades and finally agreed to upgrade his lifestyle with a beautiful house and a luxury car. His actions were driven more to appease his close ones than for himself.
Then about a couple of months ago, Mangesh unexpectedly announced that he and his partner had entered into a definitive agreement for PARI’s acquisition by a leading corporate house. It was a decision driven from strength, and not from distress. PARI had reached an enviable scale of success in the world of industrial automation. It was now a perfect platform for any synergetic magnate with a large-scale reach to develop it into a leading global brand. For Mangesh, it was a logical conclusion of his years of toil. “But what will you do if you retire?” I asked him. “Oh, there is plenty to do Arun. I have many passions to explore, both personally and professionally.” My friends and I decided to host a celebratory dinner with champagne for Mangesh and Aparna, the date locked in was today, January 27th.
About a month ago. We were playing some fun party games with a group of friends. One of the competitions involved dancing with a partner while balancing a coconut. Mangesh and I became a duo (The Last Dance). “We make an excellent team”, I told him after we won. That was probably the last time Mangesh danced with anyone. Just when it was time for him to slow down his pace and start enjoying the materialistic spoils of success that never did much for him anyways, he decided to call it a day. On January 20th he passed away from a cardiac arrest while playing golf with his lifelong friend and partner, Ranjit Date.
Back to January 21st, 1:10 pm. It was a quick, small funeral in line with COVID restrictions. My friends and I walked listlessly towards our cars like one would from a theatre after watching a movie with an unsatisfying climax. The mother-daughter duo was ahead, drudging alone towards their own car. It was a heartrending sight. We took a detour to intercept them. I had to give a hug to my friend’s little girl. I thought of my own daughter as I held Tanvi close. Her soft sobs against my heavy chest ended my dry run. The speech that she gave moments ago suddenly felt as meaningful and clear as my own tears.
“Baba is gone but I promise, my mom and I will live up to his legacy and carry forward his unending energy. He will continue to live through all of us because we loved him so much.”
Tanvi’s simple words can’t be trivialized. The purpose of life is to leave a legacy. The legacy has custodians who take it forward. Therefore, if the legacy never dies, then how can the purpose of our existence ever be over?
My friend was a legend, a marvel who dared to pioneer into a pre-sunrise industry, one who created thousands of inventive careers in a developing country, inspired hundreds of young entrepreneurs with his never-give-up attitude, stirred dozens of his peers with his passion, captivated handful of his closest friends with his authenticity and nurtured an amazing offspring to take over the baton of his legacy. He was amongst the rarest who chose to live as well as move on at their own terms, leaving behind eternal footprints on the sands of time.
Walking alongside a few steps with you, Mangesh, has been one of the greatest honors of my life. Thank you and rest in peace, my brother.
the question that haunts – why?? Why a person like Mangesh had to go untimely. An athlete to the core and a talented person left suddenly in unexplained way … beyond science and any understanding …
Atleticism of the past need to be maintained. Maybe some other medical reasons, which we are not aware of.
Very well said Arun. Mangesh was a phenomenon…
I recently lost someone very similar who was full of energy, a fitness regime follower, a cheerful and chirping happy person on 13th Jan, 2021 and that too at an age of just 48 years! The loss somewhere makes us feel void but when we have got a chance to be close to such a lovely soul, the learnings always remain and yes, each one who knows such an amazing person, tries to do atleast 1 thing that will keep up the legacy…!
I did not know him, but I know you well . Coming from you and the way you have expressed him, I am sure he was a gem of a person and will be definitely missed by his friends and family.
Sorry to hear about your loss. May Mangesh’s souls rest in peace.
Arun you have encapsulated Mangesh journey so beautifully. He indeed was a wonderful human being … simple jovial and fun . I often reminisce the time we spent recently and the conversations we had. My heart goes out to Aparna n Tanvi but as well put his legacy will be carried forward. May his soul be in eternal peace
Mr. Nathani, your writing was exceptionally beautiful. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, your respects and your talent. He had a short life but a life well-lived. He will be missed forever.
Arun. I have also known him for about 11 years and I have never met such a man. The cruelest thing is now..just when he planned to relax and enjoy the fruits of all his labor…how could he leave us now. It would have been such fun to retire along with him.
Arun so beautifully written .
Mangesh lived his life to the fullest.
His spirit towards life was unmatchable
You will be missed Mangesh
Rest in peace 🙏🏻
Very rarely I read something from start to finish without skipping but this time I did. As if I wanted to feel & absorb every word.
Never ever anyone introduced a person like you did in this note. I can understand your sorrow and grief. My heartfelt condolences.
Man who had vision to think for innovation tonight, because he was aware it’s someone’s morning & he must be doing something new.
Very beautifully penned tribute in honour of our great friend Mangesh. Mangesh’s brilliant mind, boundless energy and enthusiasm and ready wit gave him a magnetic persona. He will remain in our heart and minds forever. Strength to Aparna and Tanvi to face this irreparable loss.
Thanks Arun for this wonderful tribute to the ever energetic and most lovable soul called Mangesh . It’s gut wrenching to know or even think he’s no more amongst us , yet like you said he will leave with those fond memories of the energetic person that he was amongst us, forever!
Poignant and well expressed Arun! ❤️
Very well expressed. Though I did not know him personally, I could guess about his life. As you rightly pointed out, “… Once the purpose is accomplished, their journey is over.”. I feel his purpose of this life was over keeping behind his legacy (being simple and unending energy) for us to follow. Lot of learnings.
May his soul gets Mukti!!
Mangesh with eversmiling face would win the hearts without saying a word .Known him for last 10 years great forum buddy full of energy and motivational .Mangesh you dwell in our hearts forever
A great tribute Arun
Moving piece, Arun. Poignant and profound.
These lines have left a deep impact on my mind.
“ The purpose of life is to leave a legacy. The legacy has custodians who take it forward. Therefore, if the legacy never dies, then how can the purpose of our existence ever be over? ”
Indeed. An amazing enthusiast. Aghast. I have no words over the way you have penned, Arun. Mangesh was in following batch for me in COEP and his grip on every subject was phenomenal. I remember I had asked him few doubts about Microprocessor technology and he had answered me in a simple, elaborate manner. Long live Mangya.
Arun , I understand your pain of losing a dear friend. This is a very touching and eloquent and moving tribute .May His soul Rest in Peace.
Moved by the loss family has to go through as have faced the similar situation. Hats of to the upbringing of Tanvi that she values the struggle of her Dad and dedicate her all thoughts to continue the legacy instead of losing hopes and will… “Greater the obstacle, more the glory in overcoming it”
God bless the family….
May his soul rest in peace. May Almighty provide sufficient strength to his family & friends to bear this great loss
..In my School days, one of our English teacher’s quote was – ‘We should welcome and embrace (face) all the situations (difficulties/obstacles) coming in our way with open arms’..
Arun well written each word. Seen Mangesh through college and career both. Great soul
May God give strength to his daughter and wife to carry on his legacy. Mangesh will give them for sure.
May his soul rest in peace.
My association with Mangesh has been very recent – over the past 2-3 years – and Mangesh was immediately an icon for me to follow and a mentor. Really well written article. May his soul RIP
I didn’t get an opportunity to meet Mangesh – but your words for him drew a distinct picture in my mind about the life he lived and the legacy he left behind. I pray and hope for Strength as well as Courage for his family to navigate through this difficult time.
Mangesh and Ranjit created robotics company at a time when engineer was paid around Rs 2000 per month. What an amazing vision they had and how much ahead of them both of them have been !
Very well expressed. It brings out the bond and friendship you two had. My condolences for this untimely loss.
He lived like a Karmayogi…May his soul rest in peace!!