Gently Into The Night...
India has lost a former finance and defence minister. Our democracy is now bereft of one of the finest parliamentarians that has adorned its chambers. Justice weeps, for it has lost one of its fairest and most illustrious sons. Cricket is today much the poorer, its finest strategist having departed ...
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By the time this piece appears online, almost everything anyone knows, would have been written about Arun Jaitley. From those who thought of him as a friend to those who considered him to be a mentor or for the many who swore by his legal acumen and his political chutzpah.
For me none of the above actually defined him: neither individually nor as a composite whole. To me Jaitley was and will remain the quintessential humanist: the man who got off a 15 hour flight from New York and came straight to the prayer ceremony for my late father. Or the one who would hold my father’s hands just when his knees were giving way and actually sacrifice an on-shore excursion just so that he could keep my Dad company. Many have rightfully spoken about his love for his staff; his respect for his juniors and the affection he showered on those who needed help. But then again, there was more to him than that. Like celebrating his birthday and that of his children by feeding orphans, not by sending them food but by actually visiting them and spending long hours with them.
Jaitley suffered alone if he had to, but he would do everything to help the world smile, that was his leitmotif. That was his birthmark and the reason why he was this way was because under the bravado and the charm and the irresistible wit lay a deeply sensitive human being who was soft to the core. When he was admitted to AIIMS last year for his kidney transplant he was in the C&N Block at AIIMS which is right next to the Oncology Wing. He was not as concerned about his own health as was about the lack of drinking water facilities for poorest of the poor. So, what he did was set up water stations all over AIIMS at his own personal cost. At his core, Jaitley lived and breathed integrity like I have seen in no other human being.
For him, his friends were his world and I would often wonder how Dolly and the kids even accepted that? But then his DNA and values were the ones that Dolly shared too. She never grudged the fact that her husband belonged to whoever wanted him to be theirs in terms of friendship. She was part of the Jaitley persona. She also knew her husband’s innate goodness was one to be shared and cherished and not restrained or cloistered. This is what the family is about and this is what Jaitley made them to be. His belief system was so pure and worthy of emulation that people happily embraced it.
Holidays with Jaitley were never about museums or shopping trips though he loved Jermyn Street and London was his favourite stomping ground. But then again, each holiday for him, was about spending time with family and friends and yes, the pursuit of Indian food. How can I ever forget the engaging argument that he and I had with the server at Jaloos, a fine-dining restaurant in New York because they refused to serve us Indian pickles and green chillies with our meal citing their exacting Michelin-star standards? But then again, this is where Jaitley was different. Years later, the Chef of that very restaurant, called on him; they spent hours discussing recipes and finally, the Chef, Vikas Khanna, became his ardent fan. Jaitley was a builder of bridges, never a destroyer.
When he was in New York, earlier this year, for his sarcoma treatment, my wife Lakshmi and I, would spend almost every evening with him; the TV would be on; his table would be laden with printouts of Indian newspapers; the blog would be dictated; books would be launched by him over video and the steam of visitors who called on him would be served Chaat and Samosas brought into Manhattan all the way from Long Island. His care-givers would be regaled with anecdotes by him. He never ever let it be known that he was in pain or that he had little sleep the night before. In many ways, Jaitley was shy when it came to himself.
India has lost a former Finance and Defence Minister. Our democracy is now bereft of one of the finest Parliamentarians that has adorned its chambers. Justice weeps for it has lost one of its fairest and most illustrious sons. Cricket is today much the poorer thanks to its finest strategist having departed for the heavens. But the pain that is palpable the most is amongst his family and friends.
But then every cloud has a silver lining. He was so generous with his time and his affection that he leaves behind a treasure-trove of memories and anecdotes. We can laugh for the rest of our lives remembering his wit; we can hum the very songs he loved, remembering how he hummed them. And we can thank the man above for allowing Arun Jaitley to be amidst us and touching our lives in a way that was both unique and heartfelt.
Decency and goodness were his twin traits. And wherever he is, be sure there will be long walks; general merriment; great food and sparkling conversations.
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