- I was saddened to read about the death of JB D'Souza, ex-chief secretary of the Government of Maharashtra. ... I have not come across another civil servant like him. I served under him when he was Director of Relief and Rehabilitation, Chandrapur, for the resettlement of Bangladesh refugees.
He was ... dedicated to the welfare of the common man, a visionary but practical, unassuming but bold, strict but friendly in and out of the office, patient and well-organised. He never lost his cool: and his respect for subordinates was exceptional. ...
Then, after dinner two days later, the bell rang. At our front door, a slender scruffy man with twinkling pale eyes, unshaven and tired, 78 years old and pants torn at one knee. "I am Joshi", he said, and we knew at once. He had taken the train from town, then walked from the station -- two km, near enough -- searching for the building, asking all the way. Sat with us, switching from fluent English to fluent Marathi to fluent Hindi. Has a son in the Army who has abandoned him. Lives with a friend in Nagpur. Felt he had to come see us, to "pay my respects". Looked often at the framed photographs on our table, affection and sadness in soft eyes. We told him, your letter brought tears to our eyes. Just telling him so brought more.
An hour later, he got up to go. Something made us ask: "Joshi-saheb, are you OK? Do you need anything?" He shook his head no. But at least, looking at that hole in his knee, a pair of trousers? We pressed one of father's pants and a shirt on him. "I won't say no to wearing one of his," he said with a wry smile, then said his goodbyes. Would not let us put him a taxi, put him in a rickshaw, give him a ride. Not even allow me to walk with him to the nearest bus stop. Nothing. At our gate, he gently yet firmly stopped me from coming any further.
"I'll be OK," he said. "You go be with your mother."
Earlier posts about my father: For a grandfather, for a father, To a father, Remembering Bain, A gentle, fearless man, To Bain.