President, Bombay Bar Association
On 31 March, when we’d just finished the reference to Justice Tarkunde, we heard the sad news that our good friend, Dileep Dalal had passed away. The news came as a great shock to us; some of us rushed to the City Civil Court where, we had heard, he had suffered a massive heart attack. To our horror, we saw that our friend had died in harness, working virtually till the very last.
We bid him farewell, but it was difficult to believe that Dileep Dalal, with his ever-ready smile and infectious sense of humour, he with that friendly face we saw every day and whom we met every afternoon here in the Bar Association, was no more.
Why, just the previous day, or perhaps the day before that, Dileep was watching the test match here. Many of us remarked that he had really taken a ring-side seat. He was so unassuming that he immediately said, “I will surrender this seat to you if it makes any difference to the match”!
Such was his zest for life. He was very much one of us. He watched cricket with us, enjoying that good stroke and was saddened when the team did badly. In fact, the very day when he left this world, he also asked what the score was that morning. So when many of us heard that he’d died, we just could not believe it for just a few minutes earlier, he’d come here to this Association. Such is the difference between life and death.
We will sorely miss him. He was an Advocate who lived a very transparent and straightforward life. He was very quiet and unobtrusive. He never pushed a point. He never had an unkind word for anyone. He had an infectious sense of humour and had that rare ability to even laugh at himself. I often teased him and said that his bag was more medical than legal, to which he responded, laughing, saying that his bag had many goodies in it. These, invariably, were books for Dileep was a voracious reader. He always had several books on non-legal subjects with him and he often introduced me to the best of these. I remember that he was the first to tell me of MJ Akbar’s The Siege Within, recommending it as a great book. Jokingly, I said that he was from a family of stock brokers and with the booming stock exchange, surely he must have benefited. He laughed gently and said that though he came from a family of stock brokers, he wanted no part of it; all he wanted was a small and simple life.
So there he was, Dileep Dalal with his little bag of books, going to the station, coming back, living a quiet life and working till the end with passionate dedication. This is a personal loss and we will miss him dearly. This evening, we extend our condolences to the members of his family, his brothers, his sister-in-law and to his nephew who was the last family member to see him on that fateful day. We pray to the Almighty that his soul rest in eternal peace.
I had the privilege of being associated with Dileepbhai for over 45 years when he came to my Chambers for the first time. What struck me then – and which others realized later – was his transparent sincerity and dedication to the work in hand and to whatever was entrusted to him.
But more than his legal acumen, I was amazed at the vast range of his intellectual pursuits. He was a voracious reader and his interests included literature, both Gujarati and English, economics, history, painting and a host of others. Any subject he studied, he studied in depth and was able to discuss and contribute original thoughts. He was an MA in Sociology and Politics. He had also done a course in Economics. He was also a journalist and had edited various books. I learned that he was a great chess player and actually won for his college the Inter-Collegiate Chess Championship. He was also an excellent billiards player.
He was also a very gentle person. In fact, he was cut out to be a teacher and would have been a great one had he followed that course. But he was persuaded to take up law and he came to it with transparent honesty. I remember he came to me once, very upset and incensed. He had been appointed an examiner of some law examination papers and complained that the moderator, or whoever was above him in the hierarchy, was insistent that some marks be added to the papers of some individuals. Of course, he declined and said to me, “How can people ask me to adopt different standards for different people? For people I know and people I do not know? For people who have put their faith in my impartial judgement, how can such a thing even be put to me in the first place?” That was his sense of right and wrong, his transparent honesty and that is what I most admired in him. He would not compromise.
He was incapable of a mean thought. He was generous to a fault. I know that he helped his family in bad times, stood by them through thick and thin without grumbling. His passing is a great loss to the family and to me personally. We have lost a friend and a colleague of such great qualities and I am sure that despite the unfathomable mysteries of the afterlife, wherever he is, his soul will be at peace.
MR SALEH DOCTOR
At the Bar, the month of March has been a season of funerals. On 31 March, the tide took my friend Dileep beyond “the bourne of time and place” to a land from which no traveller returns.
I have known Dileep from the time I joined the Bar in January 1968. It did not take us long to become friends. It was a friendship I much prized. It was a friendship with a person very different from me. In fact Dileep was very different from most persons I know.
We meet this evening not just to express our grief but to recall the virtues of a departed friend. Dileep needs no trumpeter to extol his virtues. He led a life that was clean, transparent, honest and upright. Amongst men who prize honour and virtue he stood tall. He had a set of principles by which he lived and which permeated all his actions. Ambition, envy and greed, common human failings, he did not possess. There was no temptation to which he could or would succumb. The dividing line between right and wrong was never blurred in his vision. I must confess that my sustained efforts in trying to introduce him to the pleasures of minor vice made no impact on him.
His friends, not the least amongst them being me, would do and say things that he did not approve. Never, never would he express his disapproval in a disagreeable manner. He would feel hurt but I have never seen him get angry. He was not a prude. He would laugh with magnanimity at what he considered the foibles and weakness of others. He was never scornful or derisive. He was not a fault-finder. He had a rare quality. He could look into the face of the most forlorn fellow mortal and see something beyond sin. He could look into a wayside puddle and see something beyond mud. The words of the poet Samuel Walter Foss in “The House by the Side of the Road” are apposite to Dileep:
He had a mischievous sense of humour. Somewhere he had read an article on my school which mentioned that the school produced boys with immaculate manners. He never concealed from me his curiosity to know what went wrong with me. He offered to teach me chess and told me he would beat me even by playing with his left hand.
He was well-read and well informed on a vast array of subjects. Learning and knowledge to him were tools to polish and adorn the mind and to refine character. It could never be used and he never used it as braggarts do. It taught him to have a compassionate heart, an open mind. Above all, it taught him humility.
To his brothers and sister and their families I express my heartfelt sorrow. I have known them too for several years. I share their grief and loss. Words offer no consolation. Yet I can offer nothing but words. For them I quote a stanza from a poem called “Forever”
My friend Dileep has ascended the stairway to the sky. He now dwells in Immortal Mansions in the land of Eternal Love and Eternal Light. I see him now in my mind’s eye being conducted by flights of angels to the very throne of God to receive from Him a glad “well done”. Therefore, in the words of the Book of Corinthians,
“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where thy victory?”
May his soul rest in peace.
MR ASPI CHINOY
This is my personal tribute to a friend who I have known for 30 years, who nurtured me into this profession, who was there every day to laugh with, to talk to, to argue with, to live life with.
I met Dileep 30 years ago when I joined Mahendrabhai’s Chambers. I remember he took me around the Courts, showed me the ropes to this mystical world where everyone wore black and talked solemnly. There followed years in the Bruce Street coffee house where we would meet every evening with Ashok Mody, Rohit Kapadia, Saleh Doctor; passionate discussions on law, on the happenings in Court, on the world around us.
Dileep was an extremely gentle man. In 30 years, I never heard him raise his voice in anger. That is an amazing thing for a human being. But he was always a strong man. He displayed a quiet strength, based on reason, on conviction, on belief. At politically charged moments, where most of us lost our balance and said things we shouldn’t, Dileep would retain his equanimity, his balance. He would quietly and steadfastly say what he had always said, in his usual measured tones. But his gentleness and his quietness did not in any way detract from the fact that he was both bold and courageous. Dileep was never worried about saying what he believed and about saying so when he believed something we were doing wasn’t quite right.
He was very well-read and his reading and discussions gave him a well-rounded knowledge of matters in life and law. He was always willing to help. If you had knotty problem, a discussion required, Dileep would always be there to lend a ear, to lend a hand. And, of course, we all know the twinkle in his eye and his capacity to blush from ear to ear when Sunip cracked one of his ribald jokes or Uma made comments trying to commit him into matrimony.
Through moments of adversity, through moments of difficulty, he retained his balance, his good humour, his principles, his belief in doing what was right and saying so. A quiet, gentle, strong and a good man; a friend and colleague who I will miss. I offer my condolences to his family.
MR NAVROZ SEERVAI
We are here today not to mourn Dileep’s death, but to celebrate his life. And all of us who knew Dileep well know that there is much to celebrate.
Whenever I met Dileep, we invariably greeted each other with the question, “What are you reading now?”. Just as often as not, I’d reply, “Nothing.” But Dileep, voracious reader that he was, would reel off a string of titles. Ever modest, he would prefix his list of books by saying, “Just now, I’m only reading ... ..” and that was the quintessential Dileep – modest and unassuming.
I have never met a sweeter, gentler, kindlier, more humane person than Dileep. I never heard him raise his voice, never abuse of bad-mouth anyone. Certainly an object lesson for me!
But it would be a great mistake to believe that because Dileep was a soft-spoken, mild-manner gentleman, he did not hold strong opinions, or that he was guided by firm principles and beliefs. Our lunch table bears ample witness to this. Be it moral and ethical issues, question of political and social conduct, or topical issues such as secularism and religious fundamentalism.
The great English poet, FH Bradley wrote:
Of very few can it be said that they pass this test. It is the rarest of men of whom it can be said that they effortlessly pass this test. Dileep was one such man.
And yet he never imposed his view on others. He was moral, but never moralistic. We all know that Dileep never smoked, never drank, never gambled. He never swore. He made his disapprobation of these very clear though – as with all things – in a soft and gentle way. But he never preached to persons who did, nor did he shun them.
I will not dwell too long on his learning, his knowledge of a wide variety of subjects, his love of reading. Suffice it to say that to talk with Dileep, on any subject, was an intellectual treat and delight. Biography, literature, politics, history, sociology and much, much more were his staple diet. Dileep was knowledgeable and learned and, like all truly learned men, he wore his learning lightly.
His sense of humour, his endearing smile and his laugh as he enjoyed a good joke are fond memories that we will always carry of him.
Dileep died as he had lived, without any fuss or bother to himself or to others. But to all of us the news on 31 March came as a great shock. And as I tried to grapple with the terrible news, I was reminded of these lines:
Like dew on the mountain
Like foam on the river
Like a bubble on the fountain
Thou art gone, and forever
Dileep has left behind many, many friends at the Bar and outside. When FE Smith suddenly passed away, his close friend and admirer, Winston Churchill, was anguished. And, in his masterful essay on FE, Churchill ended with these words, which I quote for they expres all that I feel for and about my very dear friend Dileep:
“Some men when they die after busy, toilsome, successful lives leave a great stock of scrip and securities, of acres or factors or the goodwill of large undertakings. FE banked his treasure in the hearts of his friends and they will cherish his memory till their time is come.”
The House unanimously resolved:
“This House expresses its profound sorrow on the passing away of Shri Dileep Dalal, Advocate and member of this Association and extends its heartfelt condolences to the members of his bereaved family.”
The House observed a two-minute silence in memory of Shri Dileep Dalal.
ASSOCIATION'S ONLINE NOTICE
Published 1 April 2004
IN MEMORIAM :
d. March 31, 2004
It is with great sorrow that we have to inform our members of the sudden and unexpected demise this morning of Dileep Dalal, a member of our Association.
Dileep Dalal (or Dileepbhai, as he was to many of us) was that rarest of lawyers: a genuinely modest and humble man, self-effacing to a fault. He always preferred to remain in the background. Yet, those who knew him and his work will readily attest to the high quality of his skill, especially as a draughtsman. His research was meticulous, his pleadings precise and cogent.
Quite possibly, this was the result of his extraordinary engagement with poetry and with literature of every genre: fiction, history, philosophy, legal writing — he read it all. More than just voracious and eclectic, he was an attentive, discerning reader with a finely-tuned sensibility and could discuss a range of subjects. He loved watching cricket, too, and while the discussions at his lunch table, with Mr Mahendra Shah and Mr Navroz Seervai, among others, ranged widely they seemed seldom to stray very from the sport.
His manner was unfailingly cheerful — indeed, it is difficult to remember him without a smile. The Bar Association will not be the same without Dileepbhai.
May his soul rest in eternal peace.