View: The importance of being (like) Arun Jaitley

We should all strive to follow Arun Jaitley's private maxim, “If you’ve got it, don’t just flaunt it but use it to help others.”

Arun Jaitley’s way of life can be emulated by all of us at our own levels.
These days we hear a lot about billionaires giving away most of their personal wealth. We read about Hollywood stars donating millions to fight fires in the Amazon forests. Do these tales of philanthropy and generosity really touch us? Hardly. Because, we reason, we are not billionaires or millionaires; we need to make our own lives better, then we can think about the rest of the world.

It has been a week since the passing away of Arun Jaitley. He was not a billionaire but he was well off. Very well off. Thanks to a stunningly successful legal career, he had acquired a beautifully appointed home and wonderful array of watches, pens and antique Jamewar shawls. But he also accumulated a far more valuable and rare collection: friends and well-wishers from all strata of society. A point to ponder is why he had such a priceless collection of devoted friends, all of whom today feel a huge void in their lives. Many powerful and famous people have equally powerful and famous ‘friends’, plus hangers-on who gravitate towards influential people. Only a lucky few have real friends. But those grieving Jaitley’s passing now were drawn from all walks of life.

While the rich, famous and powerful filed past his casket at his home on Janamashtami, one man stood transfixed in grief and disbelief for hours on end. Not a famous face but his bearing indicated a military background. A thin, simply-dressed girl wept quietly and continuously in a corner. Not a famous face either. But Jaitley had clearly touched both their lives in an unforgettable way.

His generosity of spirit is what tied those two with all the rest of us milling around in our silent despair that day. His principle of lending a willing ear and a helping hand is what made his success and power so different from many others. How many such people do you know who are ready to use their capabilities to do what is necessary, but never for someone undeserving or without merit?

As the bright son of a moderately successful lawyer, Jaitley had to earn his laurels by dint of his talent. And like most of us, he did not abjure the good things of life that prosperity made possible, though he was a lifelong non-smoker and teetotaller. He loved a good argument and intelligent repartee, but he also loved nice clothes and accessories, holidaying with family and friends, gossip over chai.

In other words, he was endearingly human, even though most of the fond memories recounted by friends almost imply he was godlike. And that is why learning from his life is easier than say, a Gandhiji at one end or a Bill Gates on the other. All too often, the examples that are foisted on us are so removed from most of us that we can get away with not really feeling any pressure to follow suit.

But Jaitley’s way of life can be emulated by all of us at our own levels. The sheer diversity of those gathered at his home made it so obvious that mere acquisition of things did not blind him to what really matters on the mortal plane: people. In a city that fervently believes in the motto, “if you’ve got it, flaunt it” he also lived by the private maxim, “if you’ve got it, use it to help others’.

One of his closest protégés—like his eldest son—told me a few days ago that his guru had said anyone with ‘raj yoga’ must always use it to benefit the less fortunate. I don’t know if that axiom was what guided Jaitley’s everextended helping hand but there is a lesson in it for all of us who are not of the billionaire-millionaire bracket but do have the wherewithal to help in our own ways.
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