‘ Fading away like the stars in the morning,
Losing their light in the glorious sun.
Thus, would we pass from this Earth and its toiling,
Only remembered by what we have done’
This is the opening verse of a hymn penned by Horatius Bonar to honor men who fell in battle.
People go about their lives pursuing their vocation. However ‘flashy’, meteoric or mundane their respective calling might be, everyone must pass away eventually. This inevitable dropping of the curtain has individuals fade away like morning stars losing their light before the glorious morning sun. But the departed will be remembered for their deeds. Their achievements, and the manner in which they achieved them. These immortalize them.
History is rife with men and women whose deeds, good or bad, ordinary or distinct have immortalized them. Adolf Hitler, Mahatma Gandhi, Alexander Fleming, William Shakespeare, Jesus Christ, Abraham Lincoln, Michael Jackson, Mother Teresa, Madam Curie. Wright Brothers. The list goes on. And on. None of them have ceased to be. There have been however, some though talented were destined to live and toil quietly and unheralded. Just as Thomas Grey describes through his poem, ‘Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard’
‘ Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flow’r is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air’
Two men recently passed away on consecutive days whose lives and achievements had distinctly impressed India and earned them accolades.
Dean Mervyn Jones was an Australian cricketer, coach and commentator. Through late 80s and early 90s he had been the fulcrum around which Australian cricket turned, entertaining India and Indians through technology-driven ‘Television revolution’ ODI games had effected through renewed format replete with the white ball, day-night matches and colored uniforms. He was no pushover in tests either with 3,631 runs including 11 centuries from 52 test matches averaging 46.55. Statistics of his first-class matches reads as; 19,188 runs, including 55 centuries, 88 half-centuries, with highest score of 324 averaging 51.85. But what endeared him most to Indian cricket aficionados is the stupendous innings Jones played in the tied Indo-Australian test match at Chennai in 1986. Extremely unfriendly hot and humid playing conditions had Jones vomit incessantly at the crease. Yet he soldiered on to make 210, the highest score by an Aussie in India. After the folklorish innings Jones received IV fluids to overcome dehydration.
After retirement, Jones made his presence felt in the country through expert commentary, especially through accurate pitch conditions. Jones fell to a heart attack while commentating in Mumbai on 24 September 2020 leaving the cricketing world void. Yet, he will be remembered for what he had done on cricket pitches around the world. Also a fundraiser for cancer patients, Jones was inducted into Australian Cricket Hall of Fame in 2019.
Indians were in for another jolt the very next day through the passing away of Sripathi Panditharadhyula Balasubrahmanyam, fondly called SPB or Balu in Chennai to COVID-19 related complications. This man stamped his superlative influence in Indian cinema as playback singer, actor, film producer, music director and dubbing artist, predominantly in Telugu,Tamil,Kannada, Hindi and Malayalam film industries, winning six National Film Awards as the best male playback singer and six Filmfare Awards South, Padma Shri(2001),Padma Bhushan(2011) along the way. When he passed away, he had sung 40,000 songs- a Guinness World Record for recording the highest number of songs by a singer. No mean achievement for a singer who wasn’t formally trained in classical music!
What endeared him to his fans, colleagues and associates were his humility, humaneness and down-to-Earth persona. What his musical fans was most impressed with was the ease with which he sang mellifluously. The big rotund man with a big heart made singing look effortless. Indian music has been left poorer through the passing away of a naturally gifted singer and a good human being. But he will be remembered for what he had done on numerous stages and recording studios before the microphone. And for his goodness as a human being. Ask the flutist who bungled things up on one of the stages SPB sang, and who was saved from great embarrassment when SPB himself with his improvised voice completed the portion the flutist was to play. SPB after the song explained to the audience the difficulties instrumentalists could face while playing live, leading to mistakes. He will remain immortal through such deeds, and remembered for them. Like the Australian cricketer who had passed away the previous day.