Inspiring Icons Insights
Never take life for granted.
by: Sangeeta Maheshwari
It was the fateful day of March 8th 2014, when the shocking news flashed all over the world of a missing aircraft of Malaysian Airlines MH 370, paralyzing many families and friends who lost their near and dear ones.
Uma and Malay Mukherjee was one such couple brutally hit by this tragedy. It had wiped their elder son, Muktesh, and daughter-in-law, Xiaomo, from this world. Their world fell apart in a nanosecond. They froze in disbelief and drowned in anger, hurt and grief.
Uma had lost her father in his fifties in an air crash and now lost her elder son too in his forties in another air crash. How could life be so cruel?
As these questions were spinning in their head like a whirlwind of shock and uncertainty, they knew there was something even more important that needed urgent attention. Muktesh and Xiaomo had left behind their two beautiful sons; Mirav and Miles. Mirav was seven years old, and Miles was two years old at that time. At the time of the crash, they were with Xiaomo ’s parents in China.
Uma and Malay Mukherjee had retired from their active working life before this tragedy. They were looking forward to traveling places, pursue hobbies and interests they could not pursue earlier due to work and family commitments.
Now their focus was to ensure they secure Mirav and Miles’s lives by picking all the shattered pieces to their best ability.
Being Indian citizens themselves, Muktesh and Xiaomo were Canadian citizens, and Mirav and Miles are U.S. citizens. To take their grandchildren’s’ custody and move to India, Mr. and Mrs. Mukherjee had to allay questions of child trafficking.
Once they reached Mumbai with their grandchildren, they wrote to many schools about the tragedy and imperative need for both Mirav and Miles to get admission to move on. Sadly, except the American School in Mumbai, none of the other schools responded to their request even to meet them.
Now the biggest fear and driving force were “If something happened to us who would look after the children.” The age difference between them and their grandchildren was over six decades. This fear-fueled Mr. Mukherjee to get all the legal documents, finances and accounts to secure his grandchildren’s future.
He rushed to fix everything, and solutions often evade you when emotions take over. He felt vulnerable as the same systems that were set up to ensure safety were now sabotaging their security. To comply with the rules, regulations and legal provisions, he had to fly to the U.S. more than twenty times with the original papers, as authorities would not accept notarized copies. He was also required to produce a history of ten years of credit card statements, bank and medical details of his deceased son.
The same people who offered condolences and were in a position to help and waive off such formalities chose to pass the buck on the system. Systems that were set up to assist in smooth operations posed questions to the obvious.
“When was the last time you spoke to your son after the accident?” asked an official knowing fully well no passenger was found. “You have to wait for six years for the system to accept that your son had passed away,” when the world knew none of the passengers survived. Mr Mukherjee feared he might not have the luxury of six years. Vulnerabilities shot up as he faced these insecurities.
Why have we become slaves to the systems we set up ourselves? Are we unsure and afraid of our abilities? Are we shy of responsibilities? Where is the power when we have clipped our wings in the cage of systems? Why are we fearful of making decisions? We have banished our heart, intuition and the inner voice that tells us we are beyond the system.
Amidst these setbacks, there were many kind and compassionate people who came as angels to ease the obstacles and make it a smoother transition.
When asked if Malay Mukherjee has any regrets he says, “I wish I had spent more time with my son and daughter in law. I had no idea it would end so quickly. My son loved to spend more money than he earned, and I used to challenge him. I now understand why. He concentrated his spending over his short life.”
Insights of Malay Mukherjee after this experience:
1. Do not take anything for granted.
2. Do not go to past associations for support.
3. Friends are those who come to you, and you do not have to chase them.
4. When the going is good everyone comes to you. Identify your close circle of authentic relationships and value them.
5. Do not expect anything from anyone. Instead be grateful for what you could do for them.
Gifts from these challenges:
Although the first year went with anger, it shifted to responsibility during the second year, they now enjoy their grandchildren as their children and have become full-time parents again. They look after their health and well being for the sake of their grandchildren as they have a significant purpose and all their decisions in life are now based on their little children’s well being. For example, Mr Mukherjee liked a cold air-conditioned room, but now his main concern is that children should not catch a cold. He is a softer father figure now than he was to his sons, whereas, Mrs Mukherjee who used to be more delicate with her sons sets the boundaries now with her grandchildren. Roles have somewhat reversed to maintain objectivity and balance in family dynamics. Their focus is beyond themselves, and they gain happiness from the children’s happiness. These challenges have made them more resilient, adaptive and accommodating people. They feel more energetic, driven and lively and are enjoying the circle of life. They stay curious and eager to learn to support their children with the challenges of a new education system, technology and emotional needs.
Their younger son, Mohan, has taken the role of a father figure for the young boys. Mohan has given up all his ambitions now and spends all his times with the boys to his best ability. The boys are very fond of him and he creates a great bridge between the boys and the grandparents.
Mr Mukherjee reminisced how Muktesh would buy the latest technology device and gift it to him with his name engraved almost on the day it was launched. He now buys it for himself and misses his son’s gifts and love.
He wishes to help other families who were not as fortunate to overcome the challenges of the system and get their fair share from such a crisis.
Family background of Mr. & Mrs. Mukherjee
Uma’s grandfather Dr. Subbarayan was a Cabinet Minister in Nehru’s Government
Her father Mohan Kumaramangalam who died in the air crash was a Cabinet Minister in Indira Gandhi’s Government and her brother Rangarajan Kumaramangalam was a Cabinet Minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government
Malay Mukherjee’s brother Monoj Kumar Mukherjee was the Chief Justice of Allahabad and Bombay High Courts and Judge of the Supreme Court of India.