Maya Khankhoje


Daya Ram Varma: Compassion God Shield. Born with a name like that it is no wonder that Daya turned out to be the man he was, a man of infinite compassion who devoted a large chunk of his life to shielding the weak from the onslaughts of greedy corporations. He never let the world forget Union Carbide and its responsibility for the damage it caused to present and future generations. But he did not invoke God’s help for this task because the word God did not form part of his vocabulary. Daya’s vocabulary was that of science and rationality tempered by a radical humanism that brooked no compromise with the truth.


I had the privilege of being a neighbour of Daya and his companion Shree for many years when they lived in Montreal. Their home was my home away from home. When they moved to Newfoundland his friends, including myself of course, felt bereft. And we also worried, worried about Daya feeling lonely away from his old friends and the park where he walked Mischief, his beloved dog. Worried about his getting bored away from his lab and meetings with comrades. Worried about his feeling redundant after retirement. But we seriously underestimated him.


The house in St. John’s where he lived was located near an even more magnificent park and the friends he left behind were, not replaced, but complemented with new friends he and Shree quickly acquired in their new surroundings.


Now that he has truly left us, I feel truly bereft, but I shall remember him in anecdotes illustrated by an image of an impish smile that soon turns into laughter.


Once I was walking Mischief in the park while Daya was away in India. Missing Daya, Mischief did a sit-down strike on me and I couldn’t get this gentle golden lab to get up and go back home. I tried tempting him with the word “biscuit”, “food”, “home” to no avail. When I finally said “Daya” his ears perked up.  He quickly sprang to his feet and followed me all the way home while I kept calling out Daya’s name.


Friends, when we feel that the struggle is hard and futile, all we have to do is invoke Daya’s name for a shot of encouragement.

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