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Rohit Mammen Alex – A Personal Tribute

Navneet Hrishikesan, Veena Krishnan
12 May 2021 12:53 PM GMT
Rohit Mammen Alex – A Personal Tribute

Rohit Mammen Alex – A Personal TributeBy Navneet HrishikesanRohit Mammen Alex who left us on the 11th of May 2021 was a man of many talents. Advocate, supreme court lawyer, former additional advocate general for the State of UP, arbitrator, cancer survivor, author, painter, music aficionado, spiffy dresser, bibliophile, loving father, husband and son. For me though, he was my...

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Rohit Mammen Alex – A Personal Tribute

By Navneet Hrishikesan

Rohit Mammen Alex who left us on the 11th of May 2021 was a man of many talents. Advocate, supreme court lawyer, former additional advocate general for the State of UP, arbitrator, cancer survivor, author, painter, music aficionado, spiffy dresser, bibliophile, loving father, husband and son.

For me though, he was my classmate and friend. Someone who always remembered your birthday, your anniversary and always kept in touch, in ways I regret, I often didn't.

It is difficult to know where to start while discussing him. If I were to choose though, I would unequivocally say, he was one of the most ethical and unstintingly kind people I knew.

A professional hazard for a lawyer often is that you get requests from people who think, just because you attended law school, that you have deep knowledge of many of the archaic laws that plague our country. So, when someone reached out to me for help on a very nuanced question of law, I went to Rohit.

A second hazard of our profession is that we are trained to never say that we don't know something. Much like the proverbial duck, we are trained to act calm and knowledgeable on the surface while furiously paddling underwater trying to research and give confidence to that facade.

But Rohit surprised me. He said he didn't know much about the topic and hence my friend would be better served going to someone else. Having never heard a lawyer say that to me before, I didn't quite know how to react, except to make a mental note that should I ever personally need a lawyer, this is the fellow I want.

That was Rohit for you, someone who would do the absolute best for his friends and clients even if it meant saying something they needed but really didn't want to hear. It being Rohit however, he would communicate it in an exceedingly polite manner with a sprinkling of gentle humour and a shy smile.

I have never seen him lose his cool even when someone was being aggressive or impolite. He was ever ready to forgive them and respond in a gentle manner. As GK Chesterton put it, "Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly".

Much of his moral core I believe, came from his deep seated, religious, Orthodox Christian values. Rohit was a pillar of his community and often spoke with muted pride, of the role he played in a case which earned him the gratitude of his church. He was very well-read and empathetic and we would often have long conversations on matters of our different faiths, friends and anything else we felt like discussing. He was always solicitous to how I was doing and at no point would he ever complain or bring up any of the problems he was facing.

It is no secret that Rohit went through many tough years. He contracted Acute Myeloid Leukaemia, a particularly aggressive form of cancer with average survival rates of less than 27%. But he fought it like the tiger he was and eventually vanquished it. The effort took a toll though, he battled several complications over the years and eventually, a virus proved too much.

His strength throughout these years was his saintly wife, Raina and his lovely children Manya and Manav. Rohit's voice would brim with affection while discussing Raina. How she supported him through his problems, never asking anything for herself while being completely devoted to his wellbeing. He would in his typical style, which I am going to deeply miss, say: "Eda, if I have managed this long, it's all because of her". He would also quote the Bible while talking about her, one passage remained with me: "God is Love and whoever dwells in love dwells in God." - 1 John 4:16

To Raina and the children, I say: they may tell you that he is at the cemetery and that he left us while too young, but don't believe it, because a part of him will always be here buried in your heart. He may no longer be with you in material form, but his soul is always there with all of you and his principles will continue to inspire and guide you. As long as he is in your memory, he will never go away. Some days will be harder than others, but please never feel that you are alone. We are with you and I know I speak for many of his friends when I quote Rohit's beloved good book to say: "..whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people will be my people, and thy God, my God.."- Ruth, 1:16-17

                                                                                       Advocate Rohit with Professor Sahmnad Basheer

 The loss of Rohit so close to the loss of another classmate (and his closest friend) Shamnad has been a shattering blow to all of us from the NLS batch of 99. To my classmates (many of whom stood with him through these years), I would repeat the words of Peter Gomes, Harvard Dean of the Chapel: "On the day of graduation, your class was complete and entire. The bells tolling today are a sign that your class is at this point incomplete. One day, the bells will no longer toll and your class will once again be complete."

I look forward to seeing my class complete and to seeing Rohit's kind face again. God will welcome you, my friend, and when you do meet him, please do put in a good word for me.

Tribute To My Friend Rohit

By Veena Krishnan 

I am unable to hold my tears or rein in my emotions as I write this tribute to the friend I lost, Rohit Alex. Something that I did not wish to end up writing, especially not this early in life. Sounding like a worst nightmare come true.

Rohit was one of my closest friends, we were classmates at National Law School Bangalore and graduated in 1999. Rohit was my buddy, my close friend, who would hang out with me at the canteen, give me company at the movies and generally be there as a sounding board and a shoulder to cry on too. I cannot forget this incident during our final year, when he wanted to take photographs of anyone and everyone and dragged me along. These photographs form part of my cherished memories, although I have not met many of the subjects in the photographs after I graduated.

Rohit used to specially plan his trips to Bangalore so that he could meet me and a few of my batchmates he was close to. He would unfailingly bring us gifts, flowers and similar tokens. His first gift to me after graduation was a book of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales which contained rare fairy tales that are not commonly found in other fairy tale books.

He loved all the good things in life, particularly when it came to his appearance-cuff links, formals, blazers, Montblancs, Parkers, watches…the list is endless. Rohit was the go-to person for anyone who needed a luxury product at dirt cheap rates in Delhi. He knew Khan Market like the back of his hand and could charm shopkeepers into offering deep discounts for any person who professed to be his friend.

There was a time in my life when due to my personal and professional preoccupations, my general reading took a backseat and my knowledge of current affairs was woefully low. Rohit used to be my guide to update me on current affairs and undercurrent in Indian and international politics. His capacity for reading, analysing and disseminating information was incredible.

Rohit and I saw each other through milestones, our marriages, the birth of our children, birthday parties and the like. Despite him having settled in Delhi, he used to frequent Bangalore and meet our batchmates pretty regularly. Meanwhile his career was growing from strength to strength and all of us were overjoyed when he was appointed Additional Advocate General for the State of Uttar Pradesh.

I still remember the day he was diagnosed with Acute Myeloblastic Leukaemia. I had called to wish him as it was his 40th birthday, only to be greeted with the news that he was at Columbia Asia Hospital and was diagnosed with this disease. None of us had any opportunity to meet him at this juncture as he immediately left for Vellore to begin his treatment; treatment that would consume the rest of his lifetime.

Rohit initially seemed to be doing well and was in good spirits when a few of us friends met him at Vellore. He promised to return soon to Bangalore after his treatment was done. Unfortunately, the treatment brought his immunity down to such an extent that he ended up losing an eye. But being the braveheart that he was, this loss did not stifle him or bring down his vigour and zeal to get back to a normal life. And yes, he did resume his normal life in Delhi, practising, resuming his earlier workload, all with one eye. The only activity he could not resume, as he regretfully told me, was his driving. He even travelled to Bangalore for a Christmas break and the two of us once ended up visiting Law School and spending an entire day. The visit was a cherished memory and he would recall the visit often, with nostalgia.

The disease relapsed and Rohit was advised by his doctors to undergo a bone marrow transplant. This was a particularly hard time for him as he had to be in complete isolation, having left behind a thriving career to manage his health issues. Once the transplant was done, the isolation continued but when I met him in Cochin (as soon as he was permitted by his doctors) he still nurtured hopes of getting back to Delhi and resuming his practice at the Supreme Court. However, with the immunity complications brought on by his body trying to adapt to the new bone marrow, this was not to be; and he finally settled in Bangalore, much to the relief of his family.

Acute Myeloblastic Leukaemia and a newly transplanted bone marrow still fighting to adjust to his body could not tame Rohit who was nicknamed 'TIGER' in Law School. Whenever I met him in Bangalore, he would constantly speak of wanting to get started with his legal practice and express his doubts if Bangalore would be as welcoming to him as Delhi was. And he did get started, balancing his niggling health issues and his professional commitments. His practice actually took off well and two lawyers introduced by me became his juniors. They looked up to him and he spent long hours with them, giving them the benefit of his rich and varied experience. I recall one of his juniors telling me that he would have prepare for hours together to brief Rohit as he would rip him apart with his legal acumen and zeal for perfection!

Notable among the litigations Rohit handled was a public interest litigation filed on behalf of a six-month old child, seeking to implement a traffic ban inside Cubbon Park. This was a path breaking litigation which brought to focus the need to protect Cubbon Park and its greenery as a heritage structure.

Covid-19 acted as a spoke in the wheel, and it became impossible for any of us to meet Rohit frequently given his immunity issues. Finally, when we plucked the courage to meet him, it was with a lot of distance and our masks firmly on. Despite this setback, he still continued his practice and acquired a good reputation among his clients. I firmly believed that it was only a matter of time before his practice would grow and expand and acquire the same sheen and standing as it had in Delhi.

Unfortunately, despite all precautions, he tested positive for COVID and was hospitalised with oxygen support. All of us hoped that his body would bounce back with the required O2 support, but this was not to be. He was shifted to the ICU and was given treatment that goes by the unpronounceable name of Hemoperfusion, but none of it helped and finally his body gave up, having lost the battle.

Our batch has lost two of its strongest members and closest friends, Shamnad and Rohit, in a span of two years. All of us are hoping that the two friends are reunited in the other world.

Rohit leaves behind a family, his wife, Raina who has been his pillar of strength and two children, aged 13 and 9. Having been one of his closest friends, I can promise this to Raina that I will strive to be as close a friend as I was to Rohit.

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