This past Sunday started on a sad note for me. I learned from India's The Telegraph newspaper ("Lord of spices," in the "Eye on England" column) that Chef Udit Sarkhel, who had made it good in the United Kingdom as a doyen of Bengali cuisine, had bid his final goodbye. What made the news all the more saddening was that he was an acquaintance whom I revered, even though I had never met him. We had exchanged e-mail messages and talked on the phone only. Yet, I felt an affinity for him because he had shown empathy toward me when I was trying to get a memoir published. He had patiently read a chapter and said words of encouragement. More important, he had, like me, just returned to his roots in Kolkata from a faraway place of work, or, if you will, a self-imposed exile.
In fact, both returned to Kolkata about the same time -- late January or early February. Just before that, I had received a LinkedIn invitation from him and, after accepting it, written to him an e-mail expressing my delight at his return and looking forward to a long-awaited meeting. I was beginning to lose patience when I hadn't heard from him. I was wondering whether he would reply. Little did I know then that I was waiting to hear from someone who had ceased to exist.