I learned today that one of the participants in the Mumbai-Goa fundraising bike ride on which I went a few weeks ago died shortly after his return home. He was only 44 years old and leaves behind a wife and a young son. (I do not include his name or picture here out of an abundance of caution with respect to privacy for his family.)
What a feeling of sadness this brings. Even in just a few short days, you can learn enough about someone to know that he was a very fine, gentle man with a big heart and a generous soul. Even now, I can remember his warm greetings before we set out each morning and then at the conclusion of each day's ride.
A ride like ours -- 330 miles over six intense days -- creates a kind of cocoon environment. Unexpectedly strong relationships emerge, friendships totally out of proportion to the actual amount of time spent together. You start by sharing a purpose and a cause, but it rapidly becomes a joint experience -- the discomfort of being in a strange place, the wonder of amazing scenery, the near misses of aggressive bus and truck drivers, many shared delicious meals and a few less appetizing ones, passing the warm water bucket for the end-of-day showers, caring for the ill and injured, and inside jokes -- and you evolve into a close-knit community, a team of people ready to jointly conquer the next hill.
As I have said about a totally different setting, "It is an elemental statement about the human condition: We are born to work and play together in teams, but we have to give enough of ourselves to let the filaments connect." This young man gave himself wholeheartedly to all of us, and I am grateful to have had the chance to know him.