An advocate pays tribute to the legal doyen, who was also his neighbour
For someone whose love for jazz sometimes outweighed his passion and commitment to the law, it can’t just be a coincidence that Soli J. Sorabjee departed on International Jazz Day. With his passing, not just has his immediate family lost its patriarch but it has left the legal community in India and abroad with a void. One that no one will ever be able to fill. They just don’t come like him any more.
While his extraordinary brilliance, legal skills, court-craft and commitment to human rights make him a legend, he is also noted for his compassion, empathy, generosity, wit, curiosity and mischievousness, often times almost naughtiness. But above all, he was a human being par excellence. His going is a great personal loss for he was much more than a neighbour to my parents and me. He was family. The grandfather that one otherwise missed seeing. He will be sorely missed.
As I write, three things come to mind. First, Mr. Sorabjee loved everything surrounding his birthday. Planning for the annual celebration on March 9 started several months in advance. Everything from the caricature on his invitation card to the menu was personally fine-tuned. Every year, there were many additions to his guest list, never one from the past dropped. Most new entrants were ‘young friends’ he encountered in the year gone by.
Second, Mr. Sorabjee loved a good meal and often times would eat all that his doctor had advised against. It didn’t need to be extravagant. Simple rice and potatoes would suffice. Dhansak (a curry) was optional but dessert was a must. The chocolates used to be hidden between newspapers and his stack of cookies would always come out when Aunty Zena was away.
Lastly, Mr. Sorabjee loved his annual pilgrimage to London, something he was unable to do for the past two years. His trips followed a pattern — place of stay at Barbican, meetings under the Selfridges clock at noon and evenings at his favourite bar in Mayfair. I spent dozens of evenings last year during the lockdown discussing his next trip to London and the plays he wanted to watch.
His life is to be celebrated. So let’s tune in for the virtual all-star 10th anniversary global concert to mark International Jazz Day, which can now also be christened Soli Sorabjee farewell day. The tipple for my parents and me will be Mr. Sorabjee’s favourite Old Parr whiskey and I hope they play his favourite Benny Goodman song Farewell Blues: “Sadness just makes me sigh, I’ve come to say goodbye, Altho’ I go, I’ve got those farewell blues. Those farewell blues make me yearn… someday I will return… Dreaming of you is sweet, Someday again we’ll meet.”
(Satvik Varma is a senior advocate in New Delhi. He tweets @satvikvarma)
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