British democracy will certainly outlast Ms May and the foolish maze she has made of Brexit.
“A time to be born, a time to die
timeto tell the truth, a time to lie
A time to sharelove —
Too short my friend,
When the push of time
Comes to shove…”
From Theri Marco Polo by Bachchoo
At times, gentle reader, a column gets compelled. There’s so much to write about and yet the compulsion towards one theme, one tribute, one distinction and one lament prevails.
Let me start with Theresa May. She is, though she may be a perfectly good human being, as a Prime Minister of Britain no better than Alice in Wonderland. And Alice was much more entertaining. Poor Theresa has fallen through the rabbit hole into Blunderland.
There she meets Mad Hatters, impatient rabbits checking the timetables of Brexit, Queens with double-tongues, walruses of deceit and carpenters who wield hacksaws to destroy. Even an idiot such as Donald Trump’s son writes a column in a newspaper pronouncing her a blundering fool who is engineering the death of British democracy. Trump Junior is not someone to take advice from or agree with. British democracy will certainly outlast Ms May and the foolish maze she has made of Brexit.
One has to laugh because it’s the only antidote to crying. Ms May is certainly not crying and, on evidence, she hasn’t much of a sense of humour — or for that matter of rhythm. The jokes she memorises for her speeches in Parliament are dreamt up by speechwriters and when she attempted to match rhythms and dance for the cameras on an African visit, she ended up looking like Amit Shah attempting to rock and roll.
Asked by an interlocutor on a TV show if she had ever done anything mischievous or wicked in her childhood, she didn’t admit to shoplifting toffees — because she wouldn’t have done any such thing — but recalled running through fields of grown wheat (or corn) when the farmer didn’t want her and her companions to.
I warrant that every reader will be able to admit to having done far worse in their childhood or teens or early twenties. I will begin the intended substance of this column by confessing one such sin or misdemeanour because it was executed in the company of a dear, lifelong friend. A friend who died last week and whom I don’t suppose I shall stop missing as long as I live.
I felt like saying “earth receive an honoured guest, Darryl D’Monte is laid to rest”, but I was deprived of that reference to Auden by Darryl’s wish to be cremated and not buried.
The incident to early wickedness to which I refer occurred in our final days in Cambridge, where we had met three years previously, part of the small circle of Indians in our first year at the university.
By the time we graduated I suppose we had encountered people we disliked and on this drunken night, the two of us identified their bicycles, undid the chains that held them, carried the bikes to a bridge over the river Cam and threw the bicycles in. I can’t be precise, but I think three or four bikes were sent to such watery graves.
Much wickeder than being runners through the rye, but the point of mentioning it is that I am absolutely certain that whatever transgressions I have been guilty of in my life since then — and I am sure Ahura Mazda can and will call several witnesses — I am certain it was Darryl’s last.
This is not, gentle reader, an obituary. There have been many respectful and reverential ones in all the Indian newspapers as Darryl was once the Mumbai editor of the Times of India and worked for the Indian Express before that. At his funeral and at the memorial service in his native Bandra, there were encomiums galore. In spoken and written testimony, his friends and colleagues talked about his outstanding and courageous contributions to journalism; of his fairness, his encouragement of young talent; his modesty, his gentle and therefore winning attitude to all dissent. These were not routine tributes but descriptions of experience. He started his journalistic career with the Kent Messenger after leaving University. (Adil Jussawalla, our gang-mate, invented a name for it too rude to recall here!)
Though I worked for several Indian newspapers scribbling columns, I never worked for Darryl though we had vigorous and mostly supportive discussions about everything from love and rationality to politics.
We discussed his battles for justice for mill workers, fishermen and slum dwellers. His inclination to fairness was inherent in his personality, but through university and the years after we discussed our struggles to understand Marxism, Socialism, the Maoist and Leninist heresies and other contentions in the library of aspirant world-changers.
After resigning from his editorship, Darryl turned his mind and political skills to battles of the environment — local and global. I argued with him about everything else, but was, through ignorance, at a complete disadvantage when discussing these. Like entering the ring with Muhammad Ali. I kept discreetly away.
Gentle reader, everyone loses friends, relatives, lovers, especially as you get to a particular age. I don’t suppose that sort of loss becomes easier. On the night he died, a sleepless early morning in fact, I wrote this “sonnet” for Darryl: (forgive the verse yaar, absorb the sentiment — fd)
We live in other people’s memories
As who we are and things that we have done
As fluid thoughts and impressions that freeze
In clichés at the setting of the sun
This morning isn’t just another day —
A part of me is missing, gone astray
The Obits speak of Darryl’s attributes
Andachievements. There are moving tributes
From friends and colleagues, listing all his skills
And battling commitments — which are all true
But to me, all these achievements are frills
And not the fabric of the friend I knew.
Whose sincere laugh will always be with me.
It isn’t dead, it’s in my memory.