Thursday, June 13, 2024

Remembering Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Washington, DC – He was not the typical religious guru with a serious persona. Like His Holiness the Dalai Lama, whom he admired immensely, Desmond Tutu shared a full throated hearty laugh typical of these two great religious scholar personalities. Both developed very strong bonds which were strengthened by Tutu’s frequent visits to India as Head of the Elders.

I met Desmond Tutu during one such visit he paid to Delhi in 2013 when he delivered the inaugural LC Jain Memorial Lecture in the memory of Lakshmi Chand Jain, Former Indian High Commissioner to South Africa. Tutu’s lecture was a treat to the ear – punctuated by his trademark full throated laughter, personal anecdotes and hardly sermonizing as one might normally expect. I had read and learnt a lot about him and his report on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission but was not expecting to see him as a friendly next door neighbor type persona! His earthly humor belied his serious religious discourse. I had the great fortune of meeting him a few times at the Leela in New Delhi where he was staying with his family. I was deeply impressed by his humane approach to philosophical issues. He made philosophy and religious thought simple and understandable to the common man and did not burden his speeches with religious jargon which might be Greek to the masses. He was a great bridge between India and South Africa.

Despite his age Desmond Tutu remained very active till the end and used to reply personally to his fan mail as long as he could marshal his faculties to do so. He carried his sense of humor in his correspondence till the very last when he wrote that “Now I have really retired”, referring me to his daughter Mpho for future correspondence.

Rest In Peace Your Holiness! India, South Africa and the world will miss you till eternity.

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