Dear Shamnad Sir,
It is 3:30 am in the morning and I cannot sleep. I cannot even close my eyes. The truth of what has happened has finally sunk in. Therefore, with tears in my eyes and the courage you instilled in my heart, I am writing this letter to you.
I met you for the first time in the corridors of NUJS. You walked towards us in a black shirt, denim trouser and your signature half jacket. Arnab Sir introduced Danish and me to you. After the pleasantries, you asked us whether we were ready to fight the “Battle of CLAT?” (oh, your love for metaphors). I meekly said yes, and my voice wavered. You turned towards me, gave me a reassuring smile and said: “Don’t worry, I know you have it in you.” You maintained that trust in me for the next five years and when I got my job and called you, you said again “See, Didn’t I tell you that you had it in you!”
Yesterday at 6 pm, Mr. Ameet Datta (for whom you were his brother), called me in his cabin and asked me if I know someone who can tell me whether the news of your demise was true or not. For a minute, I could not move. It was unbelievable. This cannot happen. It was simply impossible. But unfortunately Oh Captain! My Captain! Our fearful trip is done. So, in the wee hours of this Friday morning, I am writing down everything that I could not personally say to you.
I believe I speak on behalf of the entire IDIA family when I say “Thank you!” The first thank you is for teaching us the true meaning of life and being an example of how an ideal Constitution abiding citizen should be. You taught us about secularism by showing us that unconditional love can exist without any motivation directed by religion, caste, creed or class. You taught us that diversity of opinions is something to be cherished forever. You taught us about liberty of thought by breaking us free from the bounds of limitations that we had put on ourselves. You taught us about equality and justice by providing us with the same line of start.
The second thank you is for teaching us the importance of discipline and love towards our profession. The third thank you is for teaching us to believe in ourselves in the face of adversities. The fourth thank you is for teaching us to be problem solvers rather than a part of the problem. The fifth thank you is for bringing in our life good people like Swaraj Paul Barooah, Arnab Roy, Swati Agarwal, Anusha Reddy, Sharmeen, Svetlana Correya, Vidushi, Aditi Kamath, Shruti Chandrashekharan, and many more.
Finally, thank you for teaching us what it means to be “Humane.”
Anyone who has ever known you or met you for more than once knows that nothing can fill the void that you left behind. But that is okay because I know that your teachings and legacy will go on in the face of your CHAMPS.
Finally, for your love of poetry, I remember the words of Walt Whitman today –
O, Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
O, Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you, the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you, bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head!
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
Exult O shores and ring O bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
Forever an IDIA Scholar
August 9, 2019
Professor Shamnad Basheer recently passed away in a tragic accident at the age of 43. He was the founder of Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access to Legal Education (IDIA), a non-profit organisation working in India which aims to empower underprivileged children by giving them access to quality legal education. To donate to the cause, visit the IDIA site.