A Eulogy for Rasik Davé

Thank you all for coming. I know it’s a difficult time for anyone to be out of the house so I appreciate your being here all the more in these circumstances. I’d like to take a moment to talk about what Dada meant to me, how he shaped mine and my sister Shivani’s life and how I’ll remember him.

The days after a person passes have a disquieting quality to them. It’s an unavoidable truth that our loved one is no longer with us, but it’s been such little time since they’ve gone that the waves of their motions still carry through the world. Their messages still filter through. In some cases, quite literally.

As I sat down to write this, I didn’t really know how to begin so I was grateful, as all dawdling writers are, for the interruption of the postman knocking at the door. He handed me a stack of delayed letters within which was an envelope with familiar handwriting. Dada’s handwriting. A Diwali card arriving a month or so late. The blood drained from me when I saw his words. Once I settled myself though I thought about how he had impacted my own words, how he kept a hold of all the juvenile stories I scrawled out at his kitchen table. How he was the first person that my writing felt meaningful to. Looking at that card again, I took it as a sign that even in death, he was pushing me to put the pen in my hand and my bum in the chair. So let me properly begin my words here with talking about his.

The first memory I have of Dada’s handwriting was when, I think for my 6th birthday, he bought me and Shivani a copy of a book and wrote his best wishes to us inside. That book was Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. Even at age six I felt this was a little on the nose.

But while great expectations might have been what he had for us, as children, visiting him and our Ba felt like the opposite of pressure. Coming past the frosted glass of the sliding porch door and into their home was like entering a palace of peace. A place where there was warm rotli and cool Ribena. Where we knew there would be a stack of VHS cartoons recorded off the telly with great effort. And hardback Readers Digest story anthologies to get lost in.

However, as a well-travelled man, Dada would not be content with home comforts being all that we came to him for. He was always keen for us to understand more about this city we lived in and that he had helped shape during his time working for the Greater London Council and beyond. So he taught us how to fly kites on Wandsworth Commons. How to pay for the bus and to always say thank you to the driver when you got off. He took us on glorious trips to Kew Gardens on the river boat. He would bring us to feed the geese by the Thames, laughing only very briefly when they would chase a petrified Shivani who was always reluctant to give up her bread. Dada himself was never scared of the geese. In fact, he rarely seemed scared of anything, perhaps because he was and remained throughout his life, the tallest Asian man I knew.

It’s not because he never felt fear or expressed it. He’d often tell me the story of how, as a one year old, I’d stopped breathing while in his care and how terrifying the drive to the hospital was. It was more than he never let fear overcome him. As I grew older and came to understand him more fully as a man and what great trials he’d been through in his life, that resilience felt all the more like magic to me.

Especially since it never blunted him or made him cynical. Far from it. Dada was always sharp, curious, considered. He had that paradoxical quality of all great minds – a self-confidence that allowed him to question himself. I knew I could pick up the phone to ask his opinion about anything and we might agree or we might argue, which we did a lot, but I never felt that he was taking my opinions as any less valid than his. Those conversations gave me my political consciousness, both in the way he would talk about being part of a union and how there were those on the other ‘side’ of his beliefs who he also respected and sought to understand.

In that effort is where independence and community – two things that meant a lot to Dada – come together. It is to absolutely know oneself, to never push others to follow you but to stand up for them, to help them find their own way and to do it with tenderness. He made motions. He made waves. But always so as to take others closer to the shore. If Shivani was here, she would say that he was a man who gave both excellent hugs and excellent advice and I don’t think anything more neatly encapsulates Rasik Davé better than that.

I wanted to finish by telling you that maybe we are the waves of the motions that our forebearers made. We are the expression of all their efforts to seek a better life and a promising future for those who came after them. It feels poetic. Humble. But I don’t think that’s what Dada would want the lesson of his life to be. Instead I see his story as a compulsion to understand that it is not ever enough to pull your dignity from outside of yourself – not from your family, not from your name, your race, your religion, your gender, your caste, your country. Dignity lies in your deeds. It is your actions. Your motions. And what feels like a terrible, unrelenting world is there to be shaped by that dignity if we dare to make it so just like Dada always sought to.

I am so proud of him. I am so proud to be his grandson, part of his legacy and I know my sister feels the same. I also know he’d be far happier if we could say that we were proud of ourselves. Because of him I can say that I am. I am proud of who I am. I am proud to have weight in this world, just as he did. And also because of him I know that that weight is a responsibility and a privilege that one should take seriously. Though he would, with a cheeky smile over a beer, tell you that that seriousness should not extend to one’s self.

More than anything, I’ll remember Rasik Davé as a man who was always excited about what was to come. Even if it was only a person ringing his doorbell, waiting just on the other side of the frosted glass where, in my heart, he will forever be now alongside his wife and eldest daughter. 

He understood that the future was not about bearing the past forward but in forging something new. So if we can take up that challenge, if we can demand better from ourselves for the sake of others, if we can keep hold of his Great everyday Expectations then we will keep him with us too.