Remembering My Late Friend Nilanjan Banerjee (November 26, 1978 – November 26, 2004)


I wanted to share a few thoughts about a dear friend of mine who passed away 19 years ago on this day.

Nilanjan (or Nilly, as he was warmly known to friends and family) was my best friend from ages 8 to 11. Throughout those years, we both attended Elmwood and Ashbury College in Ottawa, Canada.

I fondly recall all of the time we spent together. We spent countless hours playing both inside and outside. We loved playing with our Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures.

We were both obsessed with our Nintendo games and Sierra personal computer adventure games.

I recall that we would often “divide” video games since the computer game boxes, back in the day, would come with two diskette sizes (5.25-inch and 3.5-inch floppy diskettes). I would keep the 5.25-inch version and he would keep the 3.5-inch; it was a good deal for both of us (doubles the games to own).

I remember that this loving lady by the name of Maureen Henry would look after us in aftercare at Elmwood and that she would also watch us during March Break. We did a few projects together in grade 6 at Ashbury College, including designing a bridge that was made of popsicle sticks that could sustain a significant amount of weight.

Nilanjan’s parents, Nipa and Ranjan, took us to Syracuse in their 1980s (or maybe even late 1970s) Oldsmobile station wagon. I still have the two Montreal Canadiens coffee mugs and boxing video game that his parents purchased for me on this trip. I will never forget the kindness, warmth, and hospitality that they always received me with. I’m very grateful for that.

When Nilanjan came to visit while he was in university, I remember that we drove around in that very same Oldsmobile. I’d like to recount one particular experience from December 1996: when we drove over the Alexandra Bridge from Ottawa to Hull, the Oldsmobile was doing fishtails on the icy metal bridge. This video below by a comedian named Sugar Sammy hilariously captures the type of experience it is like crossing the bridge from Ottawa to Hull (Gatineau):

That night we ended up at this infamous bar named “Le Pub,” which was an upstairs bar. We didn’t understand why a drag queen was greeting us (this was not all that common back then, at least not to us). Little did we know that we had entered a gay bar. We kept wondering why all the men sporting beards who looked like truckers kept staring at us while we sipped on our beer. It took us a while to get a clue into what was going on. We were certainly naïve when we were 18. We shortly left thereafter and ended up at a memorable dive that was underground and named “Le RIP.” It consisted of one bar with a couple of stools and a pool table.

Every so often, I think of when my parents would take us out for dinner. In some of those restaurant outings, Nilly’s quirkiness would shine through; he would order a hot chocolate with his main course meal of chicken cacciatore at Robbie’s Spaghetti House. My parents always found that endearing.

Although we lost touch in our university years, I kept in contact with Nilly for years after he had left Canada for Jakarta and the United States. Regrettably, the last time I saw Nilly was when he came to visit in 1997. He had already completed his first year of university at Dartmouth College, and we (his former peers) were celebrating our high school graduation from Ashbury College (Ontario had an extra year of high school requirements back then).


Nilanjan had a cute but rambunctious Pekinganese dog named Ming. As I recall, he looked similar to the dog in this picture.

I learned of his passing two years after the fact (in 2006) when I googled his name and came across a blog maintained by a high school friend of Nilanjan. (I left a comment on this blog in early 2007.) The blog is called EKACHAKRA. Like his friend did and most likely still does, I miss Nilanjan, especially in moments where I begin to reminisce and get lost in distant memories of our childhood. He was a kind, unique, intelligent, creative, and remarkable person. I get nostalgic when I watch “Perfect Strangers” with my daughter and remember that I watched some episodes with Nilanjan back in the 1980s. At times, when lost in deep thought, a tremendous sadness can develop because of the irreversibility of death (at least from our present vantage point). Reminiscing is always a bittersweet experience since the memories are the closest thing that we have of him (in our present conscious state). Friendships like the one we shared are very hard to come by, especially as one ages.

Last year was the first time I reached out to Nilanjan’s mother, who is a professor at the University of Ottawa. This is something that I only learned about last fall when googling her name. I sent her an email to open up the lines of communication. I was pleased to have her respond in such a warm manner. Unfortunately, I was supposed to call and visit, but I haven’t gotten around to it. I always feel as though I would be imposing and that perhaps it would be too painful for his parents, or perhaps I would be overcome with emotion when I see them, so much so that I wouldn’t want them to see me in such a state. Nevertheless, I plan on reaching out again soon.

Finally, I wanted to mention that last year, in the late summer, I had a dream with him in it. In the fall, I had a second dream with him; this was after I had correspondence with Nilanjan’s mother. Although I cannot remember all the details of the first dream, I recall that there was an abundance of warmth, understanding, and benevolence that radiated from his presence. I’m not sure of the dream’s full significance, but I have the inclination to think it was an archetypal symbolism of his good and loving nature and perhaps also a direct encounter with him. Perhaps he wanted to communicate to me that he was in a transcendent place of eternal love. My personal beliefs and my work in the field of consciousness studies lead me to believe that we will all see him again in the next life. The second dream was not as pleasant and was a bit startling. In this dream, Nilanjan appeared in a green military outfit with a green beret. He stated that “the devil is real.” I took these words as a sort of cautionary advice about an imminent danger, one that we easily ignore in the spatiotemporal reality we inhabit as body-soul composite beings. It was odd, but perhaps it was a warning of sorts directed at me and perhaps others, including those reading this. Perhaps it has to do with not fulfilling our mission in this life; either way, we mustn’t ignore realities that extend beyond the material into the spiritual, especially from those who have crossed such boundaries.

Nilly left us much too young, but he left us with so much.

The sudden death of Nilanjan serves as a sobering reminder that the true measure of life is not the amount of time spent on Earth but rather its quality. Nilly, as I remember him, lived life to its fullest.

Nilanjan is seen here facing toward the hedge and away from others, as if in deep contemplation.