Sunset and evening star

Justice Markandey Katju-


One by one all my friends are leaving this world, and soon my number too will come. After all, I am well past the Biblical age of 70 given to man.

Justice NV Balasubramaniam

Today while sitting in the Bay Area of California, I got news that a very good friend of mine, Justice NV Balasubramaniam, former Judge of Madras High Court, has died in Chennai on Sunday while in Kapaleeshwar temple, which he and I would visit together often.

When I came as Chief Justice of Madras High Court in November 2004 he was a very senior Judge in the High Court, and we sat together on the same bench for several months, and became good friends. Thereafter, he retired in April 2005, and I was transferred as CJ, Delhi HC in October 2005 (and later became a Judge of the Supreme Court) but whenever I went to Chennai I always went to meet him and his wife Vijaylaxmi.

It was therefore a deep shock to me to hear of his demise. Apparently he died of a massive heart attack, though he never had a heart problem earlier. It reminded me of the Hindi adage ‘Jitni chaabhi bhari Ram ne utna chale khilauna.’ My wife told me it was the best kind of death one can have, totally painless. I wish for the same when my time comes.

One by one all my friends are departing, and every second month I get the sad news. A couple of months back a close friend and his wife died in a car crash. I am reminded of Rambo in ‘First Blood’ who said to his commander Col. Trautman about his company in Vietnam ‘I am the last one sir.’


I remember the poem of the English poet  Alfred, Lord Tennyson ‘Crossing the Bar’:

‘Sunset and evening star

And one clear call for me

And may there be no moaning of thep bar

When I set out to sea

Twilight and evening bell

And after that the dark

And may there be no sadness of farewell

When I embark’.


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