Obituary and report of recent memorial service…
By Suman Bhuchar
THE BROADCASTER, traveller and general bon viveur Rakesh K Mathur, who passed away in November, was remembered at a memorial service on February 26 2023.
He was 71.
Rakesh Mathur was living in supported accommodation in Charterhouse, in the City of London and his moving memorial tribute was held in the church in the building.
It was presided over by the Reverend Canon Ann Clarke, who began the service by quoting from The Bhagavad Gita: “The Spirit that is in all beings is immortal in them all; for death of what cannot die, cease thou to sorrow”, said then went on to offer her “sincere condolences” to his friends and family.
Mathur was remembered as a person who was never short of advice to offer on which gallery or event to attend on a particular week, and he had a lifelong interest in arts and culture.
“Although his death was a great shock to us all, perhaps there was some comfort in the fact that he was on another adventure when he left us,” added Canon Clarke.
Mathur, who enjoyed travelling had been journeying from the United Arab Emirates, to Indonesia where he suffered a heart attack and passed away on November 26 2022. His body was then repatriated to India, where his family fulfilled the last rites.
Tagore says death is not “extinguishing the light, it is putting out the lamp because the dawn has come”.
So, what of this complex man? Said Canon Clarke. “Rakesh hailed from India, which he proclaimed in dress and manner.”
Originally from Allahabad, he studied at Delhi University, and was a reporter for the Times of India and Indian film magazines.
He then travelled to Europe – he was a fluent French speaker and finally settled in the UK, working as a freelance writer, information officer and filmmaker.
He later moved into travel writing and then presented a radio programme, Sanskriti on London’s Resonance Radio (You can listen to it on the link https://soundcloud.com/rkmathur).
Mathur, who was also a friend to www.asianculturevulture.com, and sent a picture he took of Sailesh Ram, editor of ACV and Suman Bhuchar, associate editor of ACV, at the Cannes Film Festival 2013, talking to Indian acting icon Irrfan Khan. He had come to Cannes that year with the Indian box office smash ‘The Lunchbox’ and Mathur was covering the festival for a radio station and there is also a picture of him interviewing Khan, who passed away in April 2020. (See below) The picture Mathur took of Ram and Bhuchar is on this page.
His friend, Juliet Naylor – who organised the memorial tribute -met Rakesh in Paris, and she elaborated that during his time there, Mathur met and worked with the French author and screenwriter, Jean-Claude Carrière, who collaborated with Peter Brook on ‘The Mahabharata’. Another of his career highlights was to accompany President Francois Mitterrand to India in 1982.
Naylor and Mathur worked on a documentary, ‘Asians in the UK: Aim High’, (1993) which looked at the achievements of the many Asian role models, including Baroness Shreela Flather, the first Asian woman in the House of Lords. (You can see it on the link here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYFs_Yq5wfg)
The documentary featured music by Pandit Dinesh who was a lifelong friend, and he recorded a devotional song to be sung at the service.
In an emotional farewell Naylor said: “Rakesh loved putting people together and gave his contacts freely. Life will never be the same without him. Goodbye my friend and companion, may you keep on flying.”
Other friends also read specially written poems, while his family recalled the “coolest uncle whose travel stories inspired them and a father figure, who lived a complete life on his own terms”.
Another friend, Anita Larkin commented: “I miss his numerous Facebook posts usually selfies. Rakesh was a generous man and his friendship was sincere.”
Brother Stephen McGhee, a resident at Charterhouse, gave a personal tribute and introduced some favourite musical pieces enjoyed by Mathur and played at the service.
These were the songs: ‘May the wind be gentle and the Waves be calm’ from ‘Cosi fan tutti’ by Mozart and another favourite aria was ‘Let Me Weep’ from Handel’s opera, ‘Rinaldo’, sung by the mezzo-soprano, Cecilia Bartoli .
Mathur, who was the first Indian resident at Charterhouse, loved socialising and being cooped up during the covid lockdown did not suit his personality. As soon as he was able, he began to visit local and international destinations.
Despite the warmth and affection, he received at Charterhouse, sometimes, he felt like an outsider which was due to a combination of his ethnicity and global experience, as not everyone understood him. He will be much missed, said McGhee.
The service ended with a quote from Tagore’s ‘Gitanjali.’
“I have got my leave. Bid me farewell, my brothers!”
Rakesh was the oldest of four siblings and is survived by sister Chandni and brother Mukesh. His other sister Rajni pre-deceased him.
Rakesh Mathur, broadcaster, traveller, July 22 1951-November 26 2022.