Shamnad Basheer: An indomitable spirit

I didn’t write a tribute to Shamnad. I haven’t attended a memorial yet or organised one. Ironically the weather Gods prevented most from reaching his funeral!
There is a Tagore story that each Bengali child has read. It’s about a small beautiful boy who turns up at a zamindar’s house. He is a vagabond. No one knows who he is and where he came from. The zamindar has one daughter and no son. He takes in this boy and loves him like this own. The boy loves nature and roams freely. The zamindar gets him an English education, and he is the smartest boy anyone has met. He showers his wealth on him and prepares to get his only daughter married to him. This boy has every talent known to man. Everyone loves him! But the night of the wedding, completely inexplicably this boy escapes every human joy, bond and luxury given to him freely and runs away to help a poor travelling theatre, never to be seen again.
For many years, I didn’t understand this boy. If he had every worldly pleasure we all crave so much, riches others dream of and so much love, why would he run away? Why was he such a rascal and so ungrateful?
Now I realize, some people are not made the confines of the narrow walls we restrict ourselves. Maybe what Tagore described in this boy is an indomitable spirit. That is for everyone and belongs to no one.
Shamnad disappeared ever so often. Then he turned up. Here and there and everywhere! His emails came sporadically, he unexpectedly dropped by with generous gifts, his raucous laugh would ring through our halls, and sometimes his rascal-like ways became apparent. Greek-God looks. Razor-sharp mind. Heart of gold. How could so much come together in one man? It was almost unfair, and we are mere mortals. How we loved him!
People who really knew him know he was never really with anyone and then again, he was with everyone. And while he was there as a scholar, a lawyer, a friend, a guru, a mentor, he was completely there! One hundred and fifty per cent! The tributes, the thanks, the memorials are all testimony to that.
He cast a spell on all of us. Passionately talking of diversity, mesmerizing us with his intellectual prowess. Convincing us of everything he believed in. All in the same breath with drinking the most expensive whiskey and trading the worst NLS gossip. Our favourite pastime was to trade on our collection of tea. Mostly whacked from airport lounges across the world! Gautam (Saha) called him God. He called Gautam, God. Among the Gods and this banter, even the best tea in the world was not strong enough!
This is a man who could just walk out of the most exclusive dinner hosted for him and take the next bus to the poorest village in Sikkim to meet the Buddhist monk and sit in meditation for the next 15 days, not contacting anyone who loved him for days. He was both these men and then again, none of them fully!
A big-picture man who imagined IDIA and made it happen. But a man of details who believed that IDIA was not a charity. His last conversation was about the non-fiction IDIA kids should be reading. I sit today with 40 copies of To Kill A Mockingbird and Animal Farm ready to be distributed! Only parents fuss about children’s overall development. Why bother? He was no father. He distinctly said in one conversation that traditional stereotypes of family structures were not for him. But hang on, wasn’t he?
Even the way Shamnad went, in the end, was so Shamnad! Not in a hospital, with people fussing over him. I would like to believe… of his own free will. In the mountains, on his own, inexplicably.
Grief is so personal. We will all grieve at our pace and in our time. In the meantime, that beautiful boy has escaped. Not on our terms, but his own!

One comment

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    Its rare to find such personality in these world. Maybe god sends such type of people only in decades. It depends on only a Heart that controls the mind. I do and am fairly fallen in love to his ways of life. Strongly with matching identity, With same attitude, love, caring and ways of life to live. Just a simple thought in mind makes you relive everyday “Khuda dekh raha hai, Khuda sunn bhi raha hai….”

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