A personality we will miss now

Neelu Vyas

murli_deoraOne and a half years ago I met Congress MP Milind Deora at his residence in Mumbai in connection with the shoot of my program IT’S MY LIFE. That’s when I got a chance to know Mr. Murli Deora from close quarters. Initially Milind had agreed for the shoot but he had to rush to Delhi because of some urgency with regards to his ministry. I was in a fix as I had lost my guest for the show and was already in Mumbai with my entire camera team. That’s when I decided to do IT’S MY LIFE with Mr. Murli Deora.

Mr. Murli was not keeping very well at that time, his wife Hema Deora asked him thrice whether he would be able to shoot for the program, and he said one line which really touched my heart. “This girl is on a mission and her purpose will be defeated if I don’t agree to her program, I can’t see people failing”. This is how he agreed for the program. I saw a child’s twinkle in his eyes as he was giving an interview after many months and little did I know that this was his last exclusive interview to any channel.

He took me around his constituency of Mumbai South where people still addressed him as Murli Uncle, for some he was a Messiah as he had helped in getting children admitted to schools, gave free medicines to the poor and the needy, helped widows and youths with jobs. Despite being unwell he moved around with his wife in his constituency. I as a journalist felt guilty but at the same time privileged to know this great man so closely. Throughout the shoot when I was with him in the car, he gave me tips on enhancing my life, to think big, and also think out of the box. After the first segment of the shoot was over he needed rest and asked us to meet him in the second half of the day.

Around 3pm I reached Murliji’s residence at Peddar road where he asked me to switch off the camera and first have sauf wala chai with him, just to give him company because he needed to have his medicine. During that course of time he shared his humble beginnings of his life where he studied under a lamp post and how he spent his early life with just one set of clothes. He talked about how at this age he loves to be surrounded by people, enjoy vegetarian food. It was company which mattered to him and isolation was his enemy. We were getting late for the shoot so he went to change his clothes. Ready for the shoot he came out in a bright pink shirt very unlike the people of his age also donning trousers having suspenders which is the typical Murli style, the panache with which he wore the attire could put many youngsters to shame. He asked me whether he looked picture perfect and retorted “see I know what to wear for your TV program, I love to wear bright shirts”.

Initially very reluctant to talk to us about his personal life, he finally agreed and then we found a melodious singer who sang despite a sore throat. He taught me how to play Bridge and did not have qualms expressing the fact that Bridge was his first love. This episode will always remain etched in my mind for its emotional quotient as I broke down while he spoke about the penury and devastated life of the people on the street. He said he aimed at giving such people a life of integrity and honour and had the same message for the upcoming politicians.

After the shoot was over, I relished those moments with Murliji. He expressed concern as to how I would go back to my hotel as it was quite dark and even offered me a drop. Finally the program went on air and Mrs Deora called me for tea where she was almost in tears after seeing the DVD, she herself told me, “I was amazed how Murli could pull it off for this program despite being ill, I had my fingers crossed”.

After that on many occasions I met Murliji in the Parliament corridor, calling me by the name ITS MY LIFE. He often gave me tips to cover issues as he was a keen spectator of RSTV’s special reports which he personally said he really like them. The unassuming smile, the touch of simplicity, the image of the man next door despite such a tall persona is really difficult to find. His one quality of making a small man feel great endeared him to all.