Tributes have poured in from diverse quarters following the untimely demise of India’s former Finance Minister and veteran lawyer-politician Arun Jaitley. Many fondly remember the departed BJP leader and esteemed parliamentarian as a great friend and mentor with profound legal acumen.
Suhel Seth however, gives us a peek into a more private side of the great personality of our era who is not among us today. Seth had seen and observed Jaitley from close quarters and knew him personally. In his reminiscences, Seth says that for him Jaitley was much more than an expert professional. He places him as someone who was and will forever remain the quintessential humanist: the man who got off a 15-hour flight from New York and came straight to the prayer ceremony for Suhel’s late father and had held him by his hand when his knees were giving in. Many have spoken about Jaitley’s kindness, affection, and respect for colleagues and juniors. But his kindness was all encompassing and not just confined to the professional sphere.
Suhel recalls that Jaitley was a shy man who suffered alone if he had to, but would do everything to help the world smile. In this regard, he recalls how Jaitley arranged for setting up of water stations all over the AIIMS hospital at his own personal cost when he was admitted there himself and got to know about the issue of lack of drinking water facilities for the poor. It is worth noting here that this happened last year when Jaitley was admitted to AIIMS for his kidney transplant. Suhel says, “At his core, Jaitley lived and breathed integrity like I have seen in no other human being.”
Holidays with Jaitley were also enlightening. Each holiday for him was about spending time with family and friends and yes, savouring authentic Indian food. In this context, Seth recalls how he and Jaitley had an engaging argument with the server at a fine-dining restaurant in New York because they refused to serve Indian pickles and green chillies because of their Michelin-star standards. Years later, the Chef of that very restaurant, called on Jaitley and they spent hours discussing recipes at the end of which the Chef, Vikas Khanna, became his ardent fan. This just goes on to show how dynamic his personality was.
Says Suhel, “India has lost a former Finance and Defence Minister. Our democracy is now bereft of one of the finest Parliamentarians that has adorned its chambers. But then every cloud has a silver lining. And we can thank the man above for allowing Arun Jaitley to be amidst us and touching our lives in a way that was both unique and heartfelt.”
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