Friday, July 27, 2012

Rest In Peace, Princess Gargi

If you look at Gargi Pahuja's Facebook page, you'll find a quote from holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl: It is well known that humor, more than anything else in the human make-up, can afford an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds. 
Sharing a laugh with Gargi

One thing I discovered quickly after meeting Gargi a couple years ago is that she knew how to find the humor in the most dire of circumstances. This was, I suspect, the greatest lesson of living a lifetime with a chronic transfusion-dependent disease. And like Frankl, Gargi was a survivor--with a proven ability to laugh hard and often. 

After connecting through e-mail in 2010, I invited Gargi and her mom to join me at my upcoming book-launch party in San Francisco. Long after most of the party attendees had left, Gargi and I sat laughing and plotting ways to join our respective advocacy efforts. Afterward, my husband asked me who she was because he didn't recognize her but could clearly see that we were old friends. "Just met her," I replied. 

But that's the thing with Gargi. Once she met you, you became an instant "old friend." She didn't waste time slowly building up to a friendship. After all, after being diagnosed with thalassemia as a baby, Gargi wasn't expected to live to see her 12th birthday. The doctors told her parents, "Take her home, enjoy her and don't expect anything from her."

Gargi got the last laugh with her doctors though. Not only did she see her 12th birthday - and two dozen birthdays after that - she also excelled in life: several degrees, non-profit board seats, and some incredible work helping patients around the world. But in my view, Gargi's greatest accomplishment was her solid grasp of priorities. She knew, without hesitation, what was important to her--family, friends, the human connection.

There's another bit of telling detail on Gargi's Facebook page. Her self-description reads: I like to laugh so hard and loud that my insides hurt, twirl until I fall down from being dizzy, have meaningful conversations with 5-year-olds, mix my poisons, and generally do good deeds so that I can come back as a princess in my next life.
With Gargi and Her Family at the FABC Gala Benefit
Though I never witnessed Gargi twirling until she fell, I did witness some of her many good deeds: promoting blood safety for future transfusion-dependent patients, working with her family's charity to help thalassemia patients in India, securing sponsorships for a gala benefit I chaired last November, relocating to Virginia so she could help care for her newborn nephew. Every time I mentioned trying to create a paid position for her with the foundation I was heading up, her response was always the same: "Let's just focus on your needs right now. The rest will work itself out."

Last weekend, Gargi's time on earth came to an end. But I have no doubt that her impact on countless people - myself included - will continue. So let's raise a glass to Princess Gargi, a radiant soul who performed a lifetime of good deeds in a mere 37 years. 

Rest in peace, friend. 

Gargi Pahuja
1975 - 2012


  1. Thank you for your wonderful words immortalizing my friend Gargi!! She is/was a wonderful person and will be an inspiration in my life always!!

  2. Yes, she was and will remain a wonderful soul. Inspiring in so many ways. Thanks for the kind words.