Sayan Sengupta loved the outdoors and was an avid hiker, closing in on his goal of climbing every major peak in New Hampshire. He was a free spirit who once cancelled his Netflix account because he worried he wasn’t reading enough books and longed to give up his 9-to-5 job to return to his native India and live like a monk.
“He would rather live a life without any worldly possessions and just be close with nature,” Solanki Sengupta said of her brother.
Sengupta, 27, was also selfless, those who knew him said. The way he died Saturday, diving into Lake Tahoe to rescue two people who had fallen into the water, was in keeping with the way he lived, they said.
“He had that kind of a nature,” Solanki Sengupta said in a phone interview from the family’s home in Mumbai. “He would have done it for anybody, anybody. If he saw a stranger, if he saw a dog, if he saw a cat.”
Sayan Sengupta lived in Boston and received a master’s degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 2016. On Sunday, about 20 of his friends from the university gathered in Worcester to remember him, according to Saran Madan, 28, who said he and Sengupta have been close since they were boys growing up in Mumbai.
“We’ve lost someone who was a giver, and always used to try and make other people happy,” Madan said. “That’s a big loss for us, and we are trying to cope with it right now.”
Sayan Sengupta was driving a rental boat on Lake Tahoe Saturday, towing three people on an innertube, when two of the riders “fell into the water and became distressed,” the Placer County Sheriff’s Office said Sunday.
Sengupta dove in to help but slipped underwater while swimming toward the pair, who escaped unharmed, the sheriff’s office said. His body was found underwater Sunday afternoon.
Sengupta was “in top-notch physical health,” his sister said, and was an extremely strong swimmer.
“He learned how to swim at a very young age,” his sister said, and later taught her to swim. “My brother drowning is the last kind of thing I would have expected,” she said.
Officials said the water is extremely cold and that it is not uncommon for swimmers to cramp up.
Solanki Sengupta said she and her brother had a special bond.
“My brother was my everything,” she said. “More than my parents, he was who I believed in. He was the one who actually guided me and gave me the strength to become the woman I am today.”
He had a sarcastic sense of humor and would rush to cheer up a friend or family member who was feeling down, she said. In India, where women and girls often have less freedom than men, he encouraged his younger sister to be strong and independent, she said.
“My brother never treated me like, ‘Oh, you’re a girl; you should be meek,’ ” she said, adding later, “He always treated me as an equal. He never treated me like a younger sister.”
His love for nature went hand-in-hand with a concern for the environment. He encouraged others to use less plastic, and one of his top priorities was “making the world a bit more green,” Madan said.
Madan last saw Sengupta about a month ago when they were planning a December trip to India. Sengupta hadn’t been home in almost two years and was excited for the visit.
“We had plans together, and suddenly it’s like, I will never see that person again,” Madan said.
Madan said his friend’s death was shocking, but the circumstances were in keeping with his character.
“He passed away trying to save someone,” Madan said. “He’s always been like that.”
Solanki Sengupta said she doesn’t want anyone to lament that her brother died too young, because “he lived each and every year of his life with happiness.”
“I want people to know that he lived his life to the fullest,” she said. “He lived the way he wanted to. He had no regrets.”