Diye jalte hain, dost milte hain
An audio tribute to Rohit.
Abhishek Malhotra, Managing Partner, TMT Law Associates, NLS Class of ’99
The Gentle Man
Saying goodbye to Rohit is not easy for those of us who have known him. Having to do so, so early in our shared life on this planet is so cruel.
Rohit has been a permanent fixture of my adult life. The kind of friend you take for granted. Someone I assumed is going to be around for many more years to come – repeating and reliving those cherished law school stories, regaling us with Fali and Soli stories, lecturing us on the finer things in life, recommending us books to read, making us laugh – sometimes with his seriousness and at other times with his silliness, always always making each of us feel special – with his generous compliments and attention.
Rohit always did things in a flourish. His outstanding quality was the passion he displayed in everything he did. Nothing half-hearted. Everything in earnest. My earliest recollection is of him walking into our first-year class in crutches – looking grumpy. I recall becoming friends with him during our train journeys back home. The train to Kerala passed through Coimbatore. It used to reach Coimbatore in the wee hours of the morning – and it was a given for me that Rohit will be awake – to say goodbye and help me with my bags. He was a pucca gentleman even when he was 19.
During my five years in law school, Rohit aka Tiger Mammen, with his macho image and deep voice, was in fact always one of us girls. He perpetually hung out with us and has always been close to Namrata, Julie, Veena, Smitha, Reeba and me – second only to Shamnad, Zulfi, Kashi, Shehan and some others. The friendship did not end in law school, but only strengthened thereafter – all thanks to the efforts of Rohit who always found time for us. When we graduated from law school, and he chose the difficult path of litigation even though he had no family backing in law, he used to regularly e-mail me about his Parekh days. He was immensely happy briefing top senior counsels, handling high ticket litigation and of course, all the wonderful women colleagues in the Supreme Court. Later, when I moved to Delhi, we used to regularly meet for lunch at Swagat and gorge on malabar parathas and prawn curry. The past five years when he was going through his medical troubles – I used to end most conversations with ‘don’t worry, you will soon be all right and back in Delhi and we shall have a good lunch in Swagat together’. This will never happen again.
When I got married in Patna, Rohit was the official translator for most of my Tamilian relatives who could not follow Hindi. I remember him insisting to Gaurav that he is part of the bride’s contingent and not the groom’s (not that Gaurav had any doubts about that). It was an awkward North Indian-South Indian wedding and Rohit was one of the diplomatic bridges – for which we will always be thankful.
Any write up on Rohit is not complete without referring to his vast collection of beautiful things – porcelain figurines, paintings, statues, collectible first editions, pens, watches, cufflinks – the list is never-ending. I will forever miss being introduced to his latest watch or pen – and him telling me in excruciating detail all the features of that particular machine. Even when we were slumming it in law school, Rohit would spend his savings on a collectible box set of P.G. Wodehouse or the latest waterman pen. Will definitely miss my wingman in Kapoor & Co, where he always got this insane discount.
Rohit’s outstanding quality was his generosity – he was always generous with his thoughts, words, time and acts. I recall, as a student doing his internship in Delhi, he once impromptu gave his jacket to a rickshawalla on a cold winter’s night. He once recommended me a house painter in Delhi – and I could never hold a conversation with that chap without having to listen to him singing Rohit’s praises for the first fifteen minutes – every single time. He had a way with people that made him so special.
The last five years of Rohit’s life is a lesson for all of us on courage and grace. I will always admire the way he and Raina handled the unfairness of it all. Not just cancer, but the endless other complications that accompanied it. I don’t recall a single week in the last five years that was devoid of any suffering for Raina and him. But never once did they complain or ask normal questions like why me? why us? It was always about keeping faith and being positive. There were times when I just did not know how to speak or chat with him anymore as everything seemed so insignificant and pointless compared to what he was going through. It somehow felt like he was the one cheering us up rather than the other way round. He made the most of his time with Manya and Manav; continued to dote on his Mom, read and also took up painting. Nothing dimmed his zest for life. During these pandemic days, if I was expecting him to be nice to me on chess.com, that was not to be. He was fiercely competitive and always kept score.
When I heard Rohit was down with Covid, I assumed that he will recover. If he could beat the innumerable medical conditions that I had googled for the past five years, Covid should follow suit. But it was not to be. My thoughts are with Raina, Latha Aunty, Manya and Manav. God give them strength.
Rohit’s life was an ornate Persian carpet – full of colour and vigour; a wonderful weave of people, places, experiences – all heart. He was always thankful for what God had given him and counted his blessings. Someone like him who was so full of life, never dies. He will always be a part of us. We will continue to laugh together and at each other.
I know Rohit has been extremely brave for his family for the past five years, But I don’t want to remember Rohit like that – full of stoic suffering. I want to remember Rohit for the happy boy I knew in law school – quick to make friends, quick to take offence, full of love, kindness and laughter. Live on, Rohit.
Akila Agarwal, Partner, Cyril Amarchand, NLS Class of ’99
The painting displayed here are works of Rohit. SCC Online thanks his wife, Raina for the kind permission to display them here.