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Dr. Abhishek Singhvi was a colleague of Ram Jethmalani in the Rajya Sabha from 2006 to date. Singhvi was the Former Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law, during which time Jethmalani was also a Member in 2011. A fellow Senior Advocate, Singhvi was Jethmalani’s colleague at the Bar for 40 years. He pays tribute to his late friend Ram Jethmalani, who passed away today.
Ram Jethmalani was feisty, ebullient, fearless, outspoken to a fault and uncaring of consequences or of societal norms. He had a large heart and a restive temperament. Always a crusader, both his mind and body remained good almost to the end.
Ram, my wife (Ghazal & Sufi singer Anita Singhvi), and I have spent many evenings of fun and laughter. His professed secret of good health — maintained till the end — was undereating. His efforts to change my teetotaller status were unsuccessful, but I made up by eating heavily while he ate a very sparse dinner. He followed the wag’s dictum with great discipline for over 75 years: breakfast like a King; lunch like a Prince and dinner like a pauper. But he was ready for compensatory consumption anytime as far as liquid diet was concerned!
He was also very fond of music and attended many of my wife’s concerts. She would often end her concerts by singing Damadam Mast Kalandar, a song which holds a special place in the hearts of Sindhis. At one concert in Kamani Auditorium, Ram, well beyond his eighties, got up and started dancing to the song, roping in many more from the audience to do so as well!
Ram and I shared great chemistry, despite our age difference. Despite the fact that we agreed only 25% of the time, it never affected our mutual personal affection and regard. I always provoked him by saying that there is no party left in the country to send him to the Rajya Sabha (where he spent thirty years over five terms), since almost every major one has sent him at least once to the Upper House!
Ram’s love for legal education, students and law universities remained undiminished till the end. This started when he was made Chairman of the Bar Council of India. Till his early nineties, he would often leave everything else to deliver a lecture at Pune, Mumbai or other cities. With his passing, many legal educational institutions are today orphaned.
Ram’s fearlessness was matched only by his wit. Most know an episode when a famous anchor asked him a question that was perhaps too personal: “Did you have three wives?” Without batting an eyelid, Ram said “Yes”, adding, without malice, that “even my (Ram’s) third wife is happier than your (anchor’s) first one”!
He had a large and non-malicious heart. When he unleashed a vituperative attack on a former Chief Justice of India, I represented the latter. I was also on reasonably good terms with a former third front Minister and another BJP Senior Minister, both of whom he hated. This never coloured our relationship. We had “Matbhed” but never “Manbhed.”
Ram’s feisty spirit and lifelong good health is also reflected in the fact that he played badminton regularly for six decades. I joked that the principal reason for him to find novel ways to enter the Rajya Sabha was to retain his Akbar Road residence, which had a badminton court! He played singles for decades from 5:30 am. His only concession to age was to later shift from badminton singles to doubles in his eighties. He regularly invited me to play. My standard reply was to decline, saying I would hate to lose to a person 35 years older than me and that I would not easily subject myself to such humiliation! His abiding regret was his inability to play for the last few years.
We have lost an institution spanning many sectors: law, criminal jurisprudence, politics, public life, legal education, anti corruption crusades and authorship. May his soul Rest In Peace.