My absence in the previous three editions of Asian Voice did not go unnoticed... I am glad. My family and I went for three pilgrimages to India but more on it later. I landed in the UK last week. I still find myself processing the news as are other friends from the community. As you read Khodidasbhai's son Pradip Dhamecha and Lords Jitesh Gadhia’s and Dolar Popat’s tribute to the fine gentleman, I genuinely believe what was described by Lord Gadhia – “icon of the British Indian community”. To me, Khodidasbhai was a 'Vaishnav Jan' ; the epitome of humility and everything a person should aim to be. I attended the prayer ceremony at the Dhamecha Lohana Centre in South Harrow and saw scores of people entering and leaving the hall and later lingering around the main entrances. I was puzzled to say the least, after all, I was well within the allotted time. I was greeted by the former president of the Lohana Community, north London, Vinod Thakrar, who informed me that over 3000 people were expected. What was pleasantly surprising was the consideration of all these people who came, briefly met the family to solicit their condolences, and departed soon to make sure there was enough space for all those who wanted to bid their final farewell. It was truly a multi-ethnic and multi-racial crowd. In the centre of the hall, there was a nice photo of my Icon, Khodidasbhai. Even his picture radiated his inner self. Three musicians on stage played bhajans and hymns with the backdrop featuring Lord Krishna. The whole atmosphere within the hall was sombre, thousands of people were visibly affected by the loss. Right at 5 PM, Vinoobhai Kotecha, a well-respected spiritual person who conducts such ceremonies regularly, began with the prayers. As I heard the prayers, an excerpt from the Shrimad Bhagwat Gita played in my mind :
वासांसि जीर्णानि यथा विहाय नवानि गृण्हाति नरोपराणि /
तथा शरीराणि विहाय जीर्णानि अन्यानि संयाति नवानि देही// (भगवद् गीता)
As human beings discard worn out clothes and put on new ones, so does our aatmaa ; it discards the worn out body and goes in search of a new one to continue its journey towards MOKSHA.
He was followed by Yatinbhai Davda, president of the Lohana Community, north London. He spoke about the Dhamechas, especially the man we all collectively mourned. Next came Lord Dolar Popat, who had visited Khodidasbhai in Jamnagar in the recent days.
I was particularly touched by Lord Dolar Popat’s personal tribute, who is a close family friend to the Dhamecha Family. Lord Popat reflected on his own recent experiences of meeting Khodidasbhai in his final days in Jamnagar just last month. He witnessed the withdrawal of Khodidasbhai’s senses one by one. The first withdrawal was that of his tongue, as he began to stop conversing. That was followed by the withdrawal of his hearing, his mind and finally his body. As Lord Popat and others mentioned, Khodidasbhai passed away peacefully and without any pain. Such a gracious departure from this earth is only possible for such a spiritual and high soul.
Khodidasbhai was a remarkable human being who will be greatly missed. We shall truly never see his like again.
Next came Pradip Dhamecha, a worthy son of a worthy father. Paying tribute to someone who gave you the gift of life itself, is not an easy feat. Pradip did a beautiful job immortalising Khodidasbhai with his words. He said, “It's difficult to summarise and pay tribute to papa because he has achieved so much in his lifetime with the support of his loving wife, my mother, Lalitaben Dhamecha, and the help of his brothers, my uncles, Shanti Kaka, and Late Jayanti Kaka.”
This was a unique moment for me, as I, along with all other present, got a little glimpse into the unified world of the Dhamecha family. “When I think about papa one thought keeps coming back to me, he was totally selfless and lived with such humility. Family meant everything to him. My wife Veena and our children, Radhika, Ridhi and Anand, and I have been blessed that we have always lived with our parents, both of whom have always had a profound impact on all of us,” Pradip said. The Dhamechas are known for their integrity as a family, so it wasn't surprising to know Khodidasbhai lived with his son and family. While the first generation brothers opened the large-scale cash and carry business, it is now handed over to Pradip and his cousins, who take care of the enterprise and seek to move it forward. A sound entered my mind:
ईशावास्यं इदं सर्वं यत्किञ्च जगत्यां जगत् /
तेन त्यक्तेन भुञ्जीथाः मा गृधः कस्यस्वित् धनम् // (ईशोपनिषत्)
This entire world is enveloped by the Supreme Self. nothing really belongs to us. Enjoy with a sense of sacrifice.You are here only as a TRUSTEE. After all whose is this wealth. Do not covet which does not belong to you in reality.
To me, Khodidasbhai exemplified this message. His principle of simple living, unity, putting his family first and instilling all these values in not just his brothers, but son and grandchildren as well. Khodidasbhai had the fortune of dying without any suffering in a country that birthed him. The kind of death God specially reserves for pious souls. He never let money, nor his stature in society, get to his head, which I must say, is a feat in itself. We all have a leaf to take out of his book.
अकृत्वा परसन्तापम् अगत्वा खलनम्रताम् /
अनुत्सृज्य सतां मार्गं यत् स्वल्पमपि तद्बहु //
Without hurting anyone, without pretending to be humble just to score a selfish goal, without leaving the path of the pious and noble whatever one achieves even though it is not a lot in the eyes of others, in reality that is genuinely great.
Khodidasbhai was cremated at 5 PM on February 14th in Jamnager. His smashan yatra saw thousands in presence. His demise comes at a great cost to the community.
Om Namah Shivay