“..his life was gentle; and the elements so mixed in him, that nature might stand up and say to all the world ‘This was a man’…”
Mark Antony in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar Act V Sc 5
Professor Tehemtan Nasserwanji Daruwalla , the prima donna of Indian Intellectual Property lawyers, suddenly passed away on the evening of 13th August 2013 leaving behind a huge void, impossible to fill. He was known globally as the doyen and pioneer of intellectual property law in India, having had the distinction of being an active part of intellectual property jurisprudence in India, as well as a great teacher and professor at the Government Law College and the Bombay University (for LL.M.) for around three decades. He was also the global face of Indian Intellectual Property Lawyers, being the president of the Indian Intellectual Property Lawyers association and giving seminars and discourses on the subject all over the world. Many of today’s eminent Intellectual Property lawyers and sitting judges have had the good fortune to be taught by him / trained by him. However, these were merely his best known facets of his kaleidoscopic personality and those knowing him could not but marvel at his impeccable integrity and other qualities of head and heart, his terrific wit, his deep knowledge of English literature, his fantastic sense of humour and his musical and histrionic abilities.
I had heard of Mr. Daruwalla earlier, but my association with him started in 2003 as a freshly minted LL.B. and seeking to switch professions from Chartered Accountancy to Law, he graciously accepted me into his fold, thereby providing an oasis amidst the desert of career confusion. He was my senior as well as my professor in LL.M. and I had the good fortune of interacting with him in his chambers as well as the classroom. I can honestly say that the time spent in his chamber was the most intellectually fruitful as well as one of the happiest times in my career.
His intelligence and powers of legal analysis had no equals. His swashbuckling appearances in landmark cases along with his impeccable integrity would certainly make him the D’Artagnan of the Bombay Bar. A real life instance illustrates these facets well. In a complex trademark matter, his opponent (an eminent senior counsel and a former student) chose to make a point relying on a prominent treatise on Australian Trademark law. Mr. Daruwalla immediately distinguished the same from his almost photographic memory, referring to a paragraph in the same treatise that his opponent sought to rely on. His opponent gallantly conceded the point and also acknowledged Mr. Daruwalla’s genius by saying, “Sir, you have taught me all I know”. Mr Daruwalla , with his sharp wit immediately retorted, “Maybe, but I haven’t taught you all I know!” I have also witnessed sitting Judges in the midst of a hearing in an Intellectual Property Law matter seek his advice as an amicus curiae on a complex point of law in open court if they saw him present, awaiting his turn.
Despite having several MNCs as his Clients he would often take up matters for a small litigant against other MNCs even without fees, if, in his opinion, they were using the law to harass small litigants. His masterly analysis of the Trademarks Act 1999 (which superceded the Trade and Merchandise Marks Act 1958 as well as its pitfalls) even before it came into force, remains fresh in my memory even to this day.
He was also a teacher and professor par excellence choosing to fan the flame of knowledge in a student rather than merely give boring discourses. He once observed that teaching was like oil prospecting. If oil was not struck in the first 5 minutes, a speaker must stop “boring”! To this end, all his lectures and seminars had plenty of literary quotes, sound and film clips, visual aids and similar illustrative devices (and I even recall him demonstrating a toy dog resembling Elvis holding a guitar, singing “Hound Dog” to illustrate the concept of Character Merchandising). The combination of his encyclopedic knowledge, ready wit and superbly effective teaching made him a very sought after speaker, both in India and abroad amongst academia as well as professional associations. I would actively seek his advice in preparing my presentations and his advice enriched them and built up my knowledge and confidence. As a matter of fact, at Intellectual Property seminars people would immediately recall him upon hearing my name, since we share the same surname. When I had once told him about it, he jokingly encouraged me by saying that if I would continue in the vein I was doing, he would bring an action against me for passing off!
Though he was an intellectual property lawyer he was extremely free in sharing his knowledge and his library and even long after my leaving his chambers he would help me out with a key draft, a suggested course of action or a word of advice. (He gave me the confidence to take on complex matters since I knew that if I were entangled in thorny issues I could always seek his help, which I had done on many occasions). He would remark that knowledge must be a fast flowing stream with new knowledge coming in and old going out and should not be hoarded since it would resemble a stagnant pool and breed mosquitoes!
He also treated all his Office staff and juniors with the utmost kindness and respect, almost as an extended family. When I had informed him that I would be leaving his chamber (to seek a higher paying assignment) he shook me warmly by the hand and wished me well quoting from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar thus, “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune….”
Besides the above, he had a tremendous sense of humour, the rare ability to lighten up a stressful situation and would sometimes say, “This is too serious to be taken seriously”, and putting a whole new perspective on what would have otherwise been an impasse. He was also a very talented singer and guitarist, a facet of his personality not very well known, despite sometimes breaking into a snatch of song in his rich melodious voice, in the midst of a copyright or trademark lecture to hammer home a point to his audience.
No subject was too serious to be out of the purview of his humour. One of his repeated lines when we were stymied was “Expect the unexpected”. His abrupt passing away was certainly very unexpected and shocking! He had even once joked about death saying that every Sunday, before getting out of bed, he would first read the Jame (a Parsee weekly carrying the weekly obituaries of Parsees) and only if his name was not in it, would he get up!
Prof Tehemtan Daruwalla’s untimely passing will leave a large void amongst all those who knew him. May the Almighty give his loving wife, Aloo, the strength to bear this great loss.
The immortal words of Nehru would well bring out our sentiments:
“the light that shone …….was no ordinary light. The light that has illumined for these many years will illumine ….for many more years...”
Dear Tehemtan, you will continue to live on in our hearts.
Freddy is a former student and junior of the late Prof.Tehemtan N Daruwalla, practising Cross Border Tax and Intellectual Property Law and is a partner of Nasikwala Law Office Advocates and Solicitors. He can be contacted at email@example.com