The plan was for a white sauce pasta party he had requested on our last visit to his house. I was accompanied by another journalist, Harpreet Lamba, both former Novy English students at Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Khalsa College, University of Delhi.
The two visits – about six months apart – were remarkably different in how we found Novy.
He could walk with help earlier, now he couldn’t. He could move his right hand earlier, but now he can’t. He could hold things earlier, now he couldn’t. He could get out of bed on his own, now he couldn’t. He could ring the bedside doorbell earlier to call for help, but now he couldn’t. He could swallow easily earlier, now it was a task.
With each passing hour, the anterior horn cell disease (AHCD, a degenerative disease of rare motor neurons) was depleting every bit of strength in his musculoskeletal system. In two years, since December 2019 when he fell down the stairs of his house to signal the onset of the disease, AHCD has expelled Novy’s life.
(Novy Kapadia in her bedroom in 2020 – Photo source: Twitter)
Close family was almost non-existent during those two years. The characters in the epilogue of his life’s script were his former students, media colleagues, members of the sports fraternity and above all his 24/7 guardians, Hira and Kishan.
During our evening visits, we passed Hira. A guy in his thirties, aptly named, which means diamond in Hindi (Hira). He and Kishan were Novy’s closest “family” for two years. Without these two, we would have lost Novy much sooner.
It is thanks to their palliative care, I believe, more than to the drugs he was taking, that Novy was able to experience this pain and this physical deterioration without his contagious smile abandoning him.
“Acche insaan to bahut dekhe but dil ka itna bara aur taklif mei bhi muscurane wala insaan pehli baar mila mujhe (I met a lot of good guys but he was the first one who smiled even in difficult times”, said Hira, se remembering Novy.
“Ek cheez ka hamesha dukh rahega, ke mai unke paas nahi tha aakhri waqt (I will always regret not being at his bedside during his last breath).”
The true love that Novy has filled throughout her teaching and media career has not been forgotten. His students did the banking for him, pay bills online, answer Whatsapp messages, bring his favorite food, and more. Friends from the media would visit him and share time, smiles and nostalgia with him.
This allowed Novy, the storyteller, to continue. Conversations, as we know, got the most out of Novy. His football expertise is no secret, and his homework before homework will forever be an example for learners. And on top of that reputation, he would be willing to help and share. Not his food, maybe! Such was his penchant for world cuisine.
Sometimes in our conversations over the past year, Novy also shared the pain he felt for the behavior of a few. “Some people approached me to ask if I wanted to sell the house and go to a retirement home,” he once said. “There’s only one Sardarji in the neighborhood who sometimes comes to see me and brings home cooked food with him. He’s so nice.”
Invariably, he ended all these conversations of joy and sadness with a smile. A man who doesn’t complain – that was Novy.
He would rarely collapse. On one of those rare occasions he said, “Why me? And choked. “What harm have I caused someone? ”
Harpreet and I put our arms around him. But you couldn’t cry in front of him. Strength and positivity had to be imparted to him so that he could continue to fight.
I didn’t have the strength to visit him in the hospital during the month he was in a coma. Slowly, as time passed and hope faded, I silently began to pray to God for an end to his unmediated misery.
I am sad, but also grateful to the Almighty. Only he could really take care of Novy.
Rest in peace, sir.