I was just sitting down for tea this morning when the news cameÖMr. B. K. Boman-Behram was dead. It was like the end of all that is decent and honest in Bombay's civic life.
Mr. Boman-Behram was the last of the gentleman-politicians, a public-spirited councillors, a dedicated citizen, a man of principles rather than politics.
Ever since I can remember, I have seen him in the corporation. He would come straight from the high court, in between briefs, and in the corporation hall talk with the same judicious sagacity and measured logic as he would in the courtroom.
In the earlier years, he would be sitting in the corporation hall with Mr. Dara Vania, another lawyer. There were other decent corporators around, Mr. M. V. Donde (Principla, Donde as he was known), Mr. Saland Varde, Mr. Pranlal vohra, all either lawyers or teachers, the two professions that made the best corporators.
Slowly, one by one, the others left, changed parties, got out of the corporation to bigger things on the political ladder, got out of politics (perhaps, these were the wisest of all, my friend. And Dubash did it, even before his term was up). And some died. But Mr. Boman-Beham continued. Even when he was elected to the corporation.
He always looked the same; well-creased cotton suits, sometimes the lawyer's black alpaca, chubby jowls, an earnest face, a few more pounds (a lot more pounds) and he could have passed off for Mr. Pickwick.
In the beginning, when he spoke, the house listened. He spoke with knowledge and experience, he reasoned and argued, brought dignity to the corporation's debates. Unfortunately, as the years advanced, less people listened to him. The debates had given place to shouting and to shouting down other. Mr. George Fernandes contributed more than anybody else to this. I regret to say this because I am fully aware of his, services to the Indian democracy in other places at other times.
But house, Mr. Boman-Behram was returned to the corporation. Though he had no party organisation behind him, and consequently no party funds, in Colaba and in the Fort, nobody could stand against him. And, in spite of all the power-brokers in the corporation, he was finally elected mayor of Bombay.
That was Bombay's best year. He may not have done much for the city-no mayor has been able to do anything for the city-but at least he brought dignity and decorum to the high office of the first citizen of Bombay.
I had met him few times at this house in Colaba, he would serve me scotch, though he would refrain refrain from drinking it himself, and cucumber sandwiches. But I had not seen him of late.
For over a year now I had been told he was ailing, keeping indifferent heath. For a while he was at the Parsi General Hospital, from where I had got a message from a visitor that Mr. Boman-Behram would like me to see him, but he did not want to call me because he felt I was a busy man and would be wasting my time. Often I thought of calling on him, but kept postponing. Now it is too late, I can postpone it for ever.