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My Friend-Colleague of 26 Years Died of COVID & I Couldn’t Even Be There for His Final Journey

Sudesh loved his work, his team and was passionately involved in every detail. Photo credit: Surinder Nagar

Sudesh loved his work, his team and was passionately involved in every detail. Photo credit: Surinder Nagar

Sudesh Vasudev and I have worked with each other as colleagues, longer than we have worked with anyone else.

In May 2005, I made a promise to Sudesh (Vasudev), my friend and colleague of 26 years, that no matter what, I will take care of him for as long as I am there. He was considering an offer extended to him to join Global Broadcast News (a unit of TV18 Broadcast Ltd) to set up a brand new English news channel, which was then yet to be named.

Exactly 16 years later, I could not live up to that promise. I failed to save him. I am deeply sorry and shattered.

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Sudesh and I have worked with each other as colleagues, longer than we have worked with anyone else. He has always been my favourite over the years. My first interaction with him was when he joined me on the field as a sound recordist for a corporate film in May 1995.

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I continued using his services both as a sound recordist and video editor, as he was skilled in both. Most importantly, he was a pleasure to work with. His endearing personality and warm smile provided the much-needed spark to our professional journey, which will live with me forever.

A year later, Sudesh and I joined NDTV within a few months of each other and our bond grew stronger. We went on to create some great work together, which won many national and international awards. More than the awards, it was the sheer pleasure of working alongside him.

When I left NDTV to set up the production team for CNN-IBN, Sudesh was one of the first colleagues I reached out to help partner me in this new venture. He readily joined and we continued to make magic. Sudesh edited with me for most of the key projects we worked on and I derived enormous satisfaction from our collaboration. He helped set up the video editing team at CNN-IBN (now CNN-News18) and mentored a young team, which I am convinced is the finest in the business.

In January 2014, Sudesh was diagnosed with a very large tumour in the brain. It was a painful time for all of us who knew him. He was operated by Dr Sarat Chandra, one of India’s finest neurosurgeons at AIIMS, and was back to good health in a couple of months. Later that year, Sudesh had a few brain seizures and was back in the ICU at AIIMS. He came out of it, once again, because he had a strong will to fight and due to the support of Dr Chandra who has saved his life more than once.

In the last seven years, I have advised him many times to focus on his health and not stress about official work. He would always smile charmingly and ask me to relax. He would assure me he was fine, and I had nothing to worry about. He loved his work, his team and was passionately involved in every detail. He was always positive and full of life, till his last breath. A day before he passed away, he smiled and waved to his son, from the ICU.

On May 1, Sudesh was infected with coronavirus and finally succumbed to it two weeks later. His wife, Lalita ji, had lost her mother to COVID, less than a month ago. I pray to God to give her strength and bless his two beautiful children Shashank and Ishika. I am in awe of Shashank, who has shown tremendous maturity for someone of his age. For a 23-year-old, he has shown remarkable strength of character and courage in the way he has conducted himself during his father’s fight with COVID. Ishika, a year younger to Shashank, is equally brave.

COVID-19 has been cruel and has snatched away many of our loved ones. I have lost four dear colleagues in less than a month. Of the four, two were part of my team whom I worked very closely with. Each day is painful with news of more lives lost. Some are known, some unknown. But every such grim news is painful.

Over the years, I have lost some of my dearest ones, who left well before their time. They were some of the finest people I ever met. I believe the only reason they are summoned prematurely to the other world is because God seeks their company, as much as we do.

Losing a near one in the time of COVID is even more painful because one does not even get to say a final goodbye. I will always regret not being there for my friend Sudesh’s final journey.

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first published:May 16, 2021, 17:30 IST