September 13, 2007

Soft eyes

The email, messages, calls and letters have overwhelmed us. But perhaps none more than the man who wrote to the Times of India (September 7):
    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. ...

    UV Joshi
We had never heard of this Joshi, never heard my father mention him. But after this letter, we tried to reach him via a friend in the Times, then via another friend who knew whom to call at the hostel accommodation Joshi had listed as his address. Drew a blank. "Give us his room number", they asked, and we were lost right there.

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.


Patrix said...

Quite moving. Thanks for sharing.

Gopi Sundharam said...

Touching! Tears from my eyes. Sorry about your father.

Anonymous said...

Just reading this brought tears to mine as well..

Abi said...

Thanks for sharing this, Dilip. So moving ...

Mayuresh Gaikwad said...

For the first time, when I read the title of your blog, I felt uneasy "Death Ends Fun" ..... that was more than a year ago.

The second time I felt uneasy with the title was when you posted about the demise of your father. It is in a certain way, a reminder of how fruitfully one can live his life, a quintessential example being your father. As you (or was it your brother Ravi) said, we should be happy and proud of the fact that your father had a complete and successful life, where he could make a difference to the society and touch so many hearts (U.V.Joshi, for instance, there would be many more whom we would never know). A truly great man.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Thank you, all. It was something to meet this man.

Mayuresh, thank you particularly for your words.

Alltough said...

Dear Dilip, I am sorry to hear about your dad. I remember your dad when he visited us at XIC in 2002. He had come to speak to the journalism class. When he spoke to each of us, he spoke to us with so much warmth and careful attention, that nobody else mattered in that room. He made each of us feel so special. thank you for sharing this.

It brought tears to my eyes to read this post particularly. I am so glad I had saved all your posts from August 2007 to read one by one today. Had been procrastinating and today is that day and it is the best way to be spending my Sunday. Reading your blog like a book with chapters.

You really inspire me.