Remembering on his Punya Tithi: Ajit Sinha Mehta, IAS – 5 September 1990
Today 5th September is 27th death anniversary of Shriyut Ajit Sinha Mehta, our – बेहनोइसा Behniosaab (Brother-in-Law). He belonged to 1962 batch of Indian Administrative Service from Rajasthan cadre. On 2nd September 1990, whilst posted as Commissioner Jodhpur Division for nearly two years, was asked to take charge as Home Secretary at Jaipur on priority. He did so, without handing over charge at Jodhpur and a formal farewell. On 4th September, he returned to Jodhpur to hand over charge as Commissioner and official farewell function. For the first time in the history, a bureaucrat was bid farewell at Ramlila grounds by the public of Jodhpur.
Ajit Sinha Mehta was not an ordinary official in a bureaucracy, especially the one who follows a routine in a mechanical, unimaginative way, insisting on proper forms, petty rules, etc. He took developmental decisions and brought in land reforms which were in the interest of common man, regardless of political and peer pressures. He was people’s person as honesty, integrity and service before self was always first and foremost.
After attending public farewell and felicitation at Ramlila grounds, he proceeded for private farewell by Maharaja Gaj Singhji at his residence… he had a chest pain, taken to city hospital and declared dead. The life is short and unpredictable but he died a hero’s death.
He was born on 11th August 1938 at Udaipur and was elder son of Shriyut Chandra Sinha and Suraj Kanwar Mehta and passed away on 5th September, 1990 at Jodhpur, leaving behind his wife (and my only sister) Jeewan Prabha and three daughters, Shalini, Nalini and Vandini.
My dearest Behniosa – बेहनोइसा ,
To write someone’s obituary, one needs to believe that person is no more. With all due regard to materialism, I am not willing to accept that you have gone. It is true that you are not there to answer our questions anymore and it is also true that I can no longer offer you homemade sattu ke laddus made by our octogenarian maid cum mom, late Gopi Bai (she was affectionately addressed as Jeeji), which you used to like very much. Because you have done something new by bidding goodbye to your physical presence, I will also add something new to our relations. I have never written a letter to you, so I am writing one now.
I want to start by telling you some emotional things. I collected several condolence messages and newspaper cuttings, which appeared after your death on September 5, 1990, where instant reactions are more important than substance. My tears roll down my check as I read each message, even now (this year I couldn’t find that bundle of paper cuttings). I guess they are safe at Vishram Kuit at Udaipur.
You, the Oxford (UK) and later St Stephan’s (Delhi) educated Ajeet Sinha, preferred to write Sinha in lieu of Singh. You had penchant for English films. I still remember my first English movie, ‘Come September’ in 1963, that I saw with you in matinee show (Sundays 10 am) at Gem Palace in Jaipur, after your engagement with my sister. You did not have courage to invite my sister, as it was not the appropriate social protocol to meet would be bride in public. Later, we also saw My Fair Lady (Audrey Hepburn), Russia with Love (James Bond) and Cleopatra (Elizabeth Taylor). You knew how to keep a 13 year old lad, a would be Brother-in-Law (Sala) in good humour.
Being an IAS bureaucrat at Jaipur (very few in early 60s), you could have walked into a theatre like a Lord and also offered sumptuous refreshment during interval, but you went incognito and paid for the ticket and samosa for me. You had purchased a second-hand Hindustan 14 (a prelude to Land Master from HM stable) on your first posting as IAS. You would always take your personal car for every outing, then a Hindustan 14. On one occasion after the movie, the car did not start, myself along with some public pushed your car for over 100 yards. Finally, your marriage with my sister was solemnised on 20th November 1964 at Udaipur.
After wedding, you got posted to Abu Raod as Block Development Officer (BDO). The same car pushing was repeated as myself, my sister and yourself at the helm, were going to Mt Abu for a weekend. It was both a joy and pain to push the rickety car now and then. You had an official Jeep parked at your bungalow but it was never used for personal outings. I guess the seeds of pious virtues (संस्कार) were perhaps sown early in the life.
During 1966-68, during your postings at Jaipur, I would spend most of my weekends with you as I was in Vivekananda Hostel (Rajasthan University). It was during these periods, I had received a call for interview to Services Selection Board (SSB) for selection to National Defence Academy. Those days there was no coaching class and neither awareness about such tests. You had rigorously coached me for group discussions, general knowledge and table etiquettes. I guess that was also my foundation, in which I still excel to date. Thank you, Sir! I am ever grateful.
Whilst holding charge as Commissioner of Jodhpur, you were also given additional charge as officiating Vice Chancellor of Jodhpur University, which remained with you for over a year as your performance as an Educator was simply par excellence. You were friendly, firm and stubborn when dealing with both teachers and students. Your engagement with the media was very different, which I observed behind the doors during one of my visits to Jodhpur. You were friendly to young journalists and laughed with them, but would refuse to give them a bite when you thought the issue was not of real importance. You were polite, but also stubborn. I have seen you interacting with intellectuals, with senior officials and with colleagues at one of New year party at Khasa Koti in Jaipur. Perhaps you were straight forward in your responses most times, but you always listened. You were definitely not a yes man and neither the most easily accessible official.
Au Revoir… till we meet again..!