By Sanjay Gopaul
He was the beloved husband and father, and the respected friend for many. Yamadat Gopaul passed away peacefully on the 29th of May at the age of 72. He was a regular contributor to this newspaper, and some readers will probably remember his short and insightful articles. I understand he supported this paper because he felt it was a forum for independent minds.
My name is Sanjay. I am the eldest of his two children. This note is long overdue because I dreaded the day I would have to write it. That day was unfortunately set to happen sooner than later. For the past three years, my father was prone to sudden fall attacks, but doctors could not pin down the causes. Every thinkable test done in Mauritius revealed nothing.
We finally took him to Singapore in April 2008, where he was diagnosed with a degenerative neurological syndrome known as PSP (Progressive Supra-nuclear Palys). It is a terrible condition for someone whose life revolved around intellectual endeavours. In the final stages of PSP, a person remains lucid but cannot move and communicate. This is how my father lived his last year. Death probably graced him with relief and liberation.
His prolonged absence from this newspaper was not for the lack of interest, but for the inability to continue writing. In fact, his last article was published after we returned from Singapore. He was already having difficulty structuring his thoughts, and I helped him finish the article. I wished we had co-authored more often, but my professional obligations and repeated consultancy work overseas did not allow it.
As a father and an elder of the family, he leaves behind a legacy of moral values and good conduct. He was an engaging person who was equally at ease with people from all walks of life. I always felt he had an inclination for the youth. Despite the senior offices he held for many years, he remained an accessible person with a keen ear, and a willingness to offer advice and guidance.
My father joined the civil service in 1958, and retired as Permanent Secretary after 40 years of loyal and dedicated service to the country. He left a marking impression on many fellow colleagues and friends, many of whom visited him or asked about him till the end.
He travelled extensively in Africa in the early days of the Preferential Trade Area, the precursor of COMESA. As kids, we were horrified to hear the name of unknown countries and territories he visited because of images conveyed by the media. I recall rare occasions where he was part of the more “glamorous” missions to the fancy countries. He said the future of Mauritius lies in Africa, and we had to share lessons with the Continent, as no country can be a tiger in an ocean of poverty. Ironically, I am treading in his path now.
My father had a rich and fulfilling career, at times with humps and bumps, but he never lost composure or held grudge against anyone. He belonged to that group of people who would do their job equally well irrespective of who was in command. My father said Government changes, but the business of the State goes on, and this is what civil servants should be concerned with. At least one person recognised that aspect of him at the near end of his long career, and it made a real difference. A few years following his retirement, my father was also awarded a Presidential medal in recognition of his contribution to the Public Service.
As his children, we feel privileged to have been under his wings in difficult and trying times. He taught us how life is a Shakespearean scene, where all kinds of characters and agendas are at play for and against one another. We have to acknowledge the drama but not be entangled in it; we are to pursue the more purposeful quest of perfecting our trade. In time, success and reward will not be the end, but the by-product of perseverance and knowledge. The quest shall prevail over everything else. His advice serves us well.
Those who knew him will certainly remember his good humour and gentle manners. Those who read him will remember how his interests went beyond all religious, social and national boundaries.
I don’t know what is in store after death. There are many respected and revered beliefs. But I wish it be a higher order where dear ones are reunited. It would be comforting to know he is now with our grandfather, a person for whom he had the highest respect and admiration.
On behalf of my mother, sister and brother-in-law, and his grand sons, I would like to thank all relatives, colleagues and friends who have been a supporter of him at work or in life. He is gone, but his memory will live on in our hearts.
* Published in print edition on 23 July 2010