When we were in school, I remember studying the famous sonnet, “Death Be Not Proud” by the English poet, John Donne (1572-1631) . I must have been around 13 or 14 then and this poem made a big impact at an impressionable age. The first lines remain etched in my mind though over 50 years have flown by since I first came across them. “Death, be not proud though some have called you Mighty and Dreadful, for thou art not so…” Donne mocks death and says it is not something to be feared as it happens to everyone. He concludes by personifying Death, predicting that one day Death too shall die! ” Death shall be no more. Death, thou shall die.” As we age, we lose friends and loved ones. It is to be expected as death is inevitable. They may have died under different circumstances, at different ages, and in different places, but in the last week or so, three people I knew and respected met with the same fate: Henry Daniel, Colonel Norman Murphy, and Dilip Bam.
The tall, rangy Henry Daniel was the Arts Master at the Lawrence School, Lovedale. Though Art wasn’t my forte (not by a long shot as I preferred Cartooning instead), I did admire his paintings. He was easy to relate to, a quiet man, and looking back I realize he had the capacity (though I didn’t quite see it that way then) to bring out the best in his pupils- a rare skill indeed. My friend Prathap Pothen, who became a famous actor and director, was one of those who learnt to wield the brush under Mr. Daniel’s tutelage.
Being an avid fan of The Master, P.G.Wodehouse, it was inevitable that I came across Colonel Norman Murphy though I never had the pleasure of meeting him in person. He was the Founder of the UK-based P G Wodehouse Society, was one of the most knowledgeable in matters Wodehouse and wrote exhaustively on the subject. I did interact with him and his wife Elin on a few occasions and we exchanged mails when I started a non-fiction project based on the works of Wodehouse. His obituary in The Telegraph is “mot juste” as The Master would say.
Dilip Bam, one year my senior at XLRI ( he graduated in 1973) simply has to be one of the most colourful characters I have come across in my life. He was so different from the rest of his peers. You can find more about Dilip, in his own words, in his website Dilip Bam.com. Adventurer, motor-cyclist, taxi driver, professor and coach, Dilip did all that and more. My friend Raj Maker recalls how he was walking along the tree-lined avenue in Telco, Jamshedpur when someone called him by name. He looked all round but couldn’t recognize anyone who knew him amongst the people passing by. As he was about to walk on, he was hailed once again. This time, the caller helpfully added, “Look up!”. Maker did- and saw Dilip Bam hanging from a tree. He was dangling, head down with his legs hooked on to a branch. When asked what on earth he was doing, Dilip told Maker, ” I am relaxing. I am taking a break!” This break is going to be a long one, Dilip but I know you will be yourself where ever you are!