New Delhi: They
inspired with their brilliance, humbled with their talent.
Sometimes controversial but always effective, they held us in
thrall and left an indelible mark on the lives of thousands. As
2012 winds down, time to once again remember the magic of some of
those we said goodbye to:
Homai Vyarawalla: Chronicler, archivist and the grand old dame of
Indian photojournalism, Vyarawalla took her first photograph in
1926 when she was just 13. India's lone woman photographer in the
heady days of the freedom struggle was at the Red Fort on Aug 15,
1947, when the first bells of freedom tolled, when Mahatma Gandhi
was assassinated, when Jawaharlal Nehru died and also when Lal
Bahadur Shastri passed away. That tryst with history ended Jan 15
this year when Vyarawalla died at the age of 98.
Sailendra Nath Manna: In a country where cricket is the reigning
game, this soccer legend, who passed away Feb 27 at the age of 87
in Kolkata, will be long remembered. He led India to the gold in
the inaugural Asian Games in New Delhi. In 1953, he was named by
England's Football Association (FA) as one of the 10 best captains
of the world. Indian footballers then played barefoot. Queried by
Princess Margaret, Manna said his team felt more comfortable. "We
could not say that there were no funds for buying boots," Manna
Dara Singh: The man of steel with a heart of gold, Dara Singh
wrestled his way from the ring to the big screen and the small one
to enormous success. The wrestler who became hero and then uncle,
father and friend in numerous character roles died July 12 at the
age of 84. He was last seen in "Jab We Met" as the stern 'Daarji'
who ruled over a noisy, close-knit Sikh family. Quite like the
real life man, who intimidated people with his 6' 2" frame but
soon won them over with outgoing nature and warmth.
Rajesh Khanna: He was India's first and biggest superstar. From
dizzying fame to quiet shadows behind the arclights, it was a life
with a theatrical sweep. He was only 69 when he died July 18,
leaving behind memories cast in celluloid of that famous crooked
smile and head tilt. In an era long before this age of instant
connect of mobile phones and internet, he was the man who sparked
a frenzy never seen before and never since. Ever the urbane, suave
romantic, he was not an actor with great versatility but was oh so
charming in films like "Safar", "Kati Patang" and "Anand".
Lakshmi Sehgal: A feminist icon, an enduring profile in courage
and a staunch patriot. Sehgal was all of this and more. The close
associate of Subhas Chandra Bose and the first captain of the
women's wing of the Indian National Army died July 23. Sehgal was
also fielded by the Left Front as its presidential candidate
against A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in 2002 but lost. A founder member of
the All India Democratic Women's Association, she was an outspoken
advocate of women's rights till the very end.
Varghese Kurien: The man behind India's white revolution who
empowered millions of rural poor in Gujarat through a cooperative
movement died Sep 9 at the age of 81. It was his initiative that
catapulted India to be the world's largest milk producer in the
1970s. He was the founder-chairman of the National Dairy
Development Board (1965-98) and also chairman of the Gujarat
Co-Operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd (GCMMF)(1973-2006). The
Kerala born 'Amul man' who arrived in Anand in 1949 launched
Operation Flood in 1971.
Brajesh Mishra: India's first national security advisor was a
career diplomat who played a key role in events as they unfolded
during 1998-2004 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was prime minister and
Mishra his trusted aide. Mishra helped shape the Vajpayee
government's nuclear policy following the May 1998 tests, as also
its foreign affairs initiatives, particularly with Pakistan. His
BJP leanings did not stop him from backing Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh's India-US civil nuclear deal. Singh wrote after his death
Sep 28 at the age of 84 that he often consulted him "and found his
counsel to be insightful and free from bias".
Yash Chopra: Where would romance Bollywood style be if it were not
for Yash Chopra, cineastes wondered after his death Oct 21 from
dengue. He gave us love on the Swiss Alps with dreamy heroines in
wispy chiffons and soft heroes with heart. But this filmmaker, who
gave timeless films like "Waqt" and "Silsila", also made actioners
like "Deewaar" and "Kaala Patthar". The 80-year-old evolved with
the times as his last film showed to great effect - pre-marital
sex and kissing on screen too. The film was "Jab Tak Hai Jaan".
Chopra could not have wished for a better epitaph.
Sunil Gangopadhyay: He called poetry his first love but delved
successfully into all literary genres. Much loved in India and
Bangladesh, Gangopadhyay wrote over 200 books and was considered
amongst the popular poets in post-Tagore Bengal. The doyen of
Bengali literature, who died Oct 23 at the age of 78, was more
than that though. The Sahitya Akademi president was known for his
liberal, secular and open-minded views and believed that "Indian
literature is one, written in many languages".
I.K. Gujral: India's prime minister for a brief 11 months in
1997-98, Gujral was a gentleman politician. He will be rememberd
for his Gujral Doctrine - his mantra for India's neighbourhood
policy that helped change mindsets and improved India's ties with
its neighbours through the years. The quintessential Congress
member later left the party to join the Janata Dal after
differences with former prime minister Indira Gandhi over her
autocratic ways, He died Nov 30 at the age of 93, as quietly and
gracefully as he had exited the political stage two decades ago.
Bal Thackeray: The fierce proponent of Marathi chauvinism and
Hindu supremacist ruled over the politics of India's financial and
entertainment capital for five decades till death at the age of 86
on Nov 17. The Shiv Sena that he founded in 1966 became the
vehicle for his divisive politics, attracting opprobrium but also
millions of Marathi followers. Thackeray never contested an
election himself but made sure that his acidic, volatile views on
everything, from films to cricket, were known to all.
Ravi Shankar: The strains of his sitar wove together the disparate
worlds of the east and the west. The classical musician, one of
India's best known, was also dubbed the "godfather of world music"
by his Beatles friend George Harrison. From the chaotic epic stage
of Woodstock to all night soirees in India, India's most effective
cultural ambassador wooed them all. When he died on Dec 12 near
his home in the US, the world could only say, "Thank you for the
music, for giving it to us".
(Minu Jain can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)