One such person was the former Indian Ambassador to Bahrain M P Muralidharan Menon. He is perhaps the first among the first Indian ambassadors to this Kingdom of Bahrain, who had made Indians proud of their work and of their standing in society, here.
The news of his passing away two days ago in New Delhi came as a shock to me even though I knew he was ailing for a while. But immediately,on phone calls with my compatriots, I got to know how much they loved this man who served India, and served Indians in Bahrain during 1986 to 1989.
Though it was more than 20 years ago that he left his official position here, he had been in regular touch with many of his old friends from here, even until recently.
He had this strange uncanny memory of people’s birthdays that he used to remember and call or send messages to them without fail. Even though, many times I forgot his birthday, there was never a birthday of mine in the last 25 years that I missed receiving his birthday greeting.
Late Tariq Almoayed, Bahrain’s Information Minister for 22 Years, once
said the same from a public stage in late 80’s, at a church function
where he was invited as the chief guest. The minister said that for
the last three years or so, the Ambassador always remembered his
birthday, called him, or sent a message to wish him well.
The late diplomat Menon was close to the royal family and particularly
to the former ruler of Bahrain, the late Amir HH Shaikh Isa bin
Salman Al Khalifa. But, most importantly, he never missed an
opportunity to highlight Indian concerns to the then ruler. He always
worked with dedication serving the needs of the large Indian
expatriate community here.
Baboo Kewalram, a prominent Indian businessman here said to me that
he once told the former ambassador about the problems Indian traders
faced related to the ownerships and sharing of businesses; which were
all strictly in the format of 51% by Bahraini sponsor and 49% by
Indian businessman then.
In the next meeting with the late Amir, at a function on a large
private yacht, Ambassador Menon mentioned this to the then ruler.
Just a day later, a call from the then Commerce Minister Habib Qassim,
came to Babu Kewalram’s later brother Sundar saying he would like to
discuss the changes needed by Indian traders. Very soon, a
restructuring was done not only in favour of Indian businessmen but
also in favour of the business in Bahrain, as a whole. Such was the
impact of this late Ambassador’s influence.
When it comes to his service to the Indian community here, he has many
achievements to his credit. He was the first to have created a
registration of Indians, long before computers made it easier. Bahrain
had then become one of the first countries to have had an accurate
census of Indian workers during his time.
He also initiated the formation of the Coordination Committee of
Indian Associations (CCIA) in Bahrain, so that the numerous social and
cultural organizations of the large Indian community can be brought
under one umbrella, and so that more organized relief work can be done
for Indian workers.
His wife Shanta Menon too, as the patron of Indian Ladies Association
of Bahrain was always available for activities supporting the Indian
Every time I was in Delhi, I used to find time to meet this diplomat
and gentleman, at his IFS Officers’ residence. Now, it is sad that
this great role model left us this week.
I know I will not receive his message, on my next birthday. Because
his death-day has cut him off from his loved ones.
But then, none of us can avoid our appointment with death. So, like
Ambassador Menon we must just make our lives worthwhile.