Tuesday, March 19, 2024

“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”

― Omar Khayyám.



Last year, for whatever reason, I cut my hair really short, shorter than it’s been for a very long time. Obviously, I wanted to show it off, in fact, I thought I looked… different and (of course) brilliant! Everyone complimented me about how gorgeous and different I looked, but one man came to me and told me, “don't do this, don’t leave your hair open, it doesn't look professional, it’s not you.” The only person on earth who could get away with a comment like that, without me retaliating, is Mr. Surendra Kumar Kapur, Barrister etc, etc etc…. a doyen of the legal profession in the High Court at Calcutta and elsewhere. 


Mr Kapoor, or ‘SK’ as  we knew or referred to him was one of the most genuine, kind, large-hearted persons I have ever met (second to my fathers, of course, and I think he’d agree), famous for his large parties, Singapore Slings, prawn cutlets and his jovial, happy nature. He did not distinguish between us who were junior (much junior to him) and those who were much senior to us,  he was equally loving, equally forgiving and equally demanding when it came to matters of law. I remember my first conference with him I was shoo-ed out after the important bits were done because thereafter he served whiskey to the other juniors who were obviously male. The next day, I dared  to ask him “Sir, how could you do this to me?” He lovingly paused and said “Okay beta, chalo next time you’re included” and I was.  

Much to my delight, SK was one of the first persons who invited me for a party at his garden at lunch. I was an unknown someone, a non-legal heir and I was struggling. To me, it meant a lot to be acknowledged by someone as senior as SK to be called for a party. I will never forget him because he was one of the most amiable and jovial men I have ever known, in the face of any adversity.  There was nothing you could not set right to him, there was nothing you could not tell him, he was the life and soul of every party (he still is, I don't know why I said “was”). I like to think we will listen in every party and miss his smiling face forever more. I remember his son’s wedding and the Champagne he just poured down our throats (Whiskey for the men, of course) and his consternation when, while he was dancing with the baraat, his son (from the top end of a horse, that too!) said “just chill”! 

That’s a man. That’s the man who can be everywhere and anywhere because we cannot forget him. There was this time when he told me he loved my writing and he told me to send him all of them and I was humbled because it was inconceivable that someone as erudite as SK could find any harmony in my work. He loved poetry, we often had long discussions about poetry and he would tell me that these days no one reads and I had to agree with him because it is true that no one reads, especially poetry which was his forte and Shakespeare, of course, at the drop of a hat, even in a court where the judge (with all humble respect), could not understand. That never deterred him, he went on to all his adventures (as I would like to call them that, because for him, life was an adventure) with no regard for the people who did not follow through and nothing but joviality and love for those who did. He was whimsically careless about those he disliked and open and heartfelt to those he was. (Thankfully, I was in the latter group!)

I will miss him, I will miss seeing him coming to our table and saying “beta,” (no one else ever called me that!) and chatting with me about things that matter or do not matter and I would listen because he was larger than life.  Because he was there when no one else was, because he was one of the most wonderful people that I have known. I feel blessed that I got to know SK, even more so because he was fond of me, and of course I have kept my hair tied ever since!

Do I dare argue?

SK left us on the Ides of March, 2024. The word “Ides” is derived from Latin, meaning “to divide,” forever dividing his world from ours. If SK saw tears for him, I am certain he would laugh and tell us "...what fools these mortals be!" 

So I will not cry and I will always remember SK, smiling, his happy laughter,  strong and resounding, for even when he was unwell, he would come to us with a smiling face and say, “no one can beat me!”. Indeed.