A Man for All Seasons
The obituaries were replete with epithets: an “iconoclastic”, “formidable” economist, “Mr Economics” personified; “party whip for heterodox economists”; “a diligent tormentor of the established order”, “a firebrand”, “soul of the left”, “a Sikh Castro”; “a stout defender of student rights”; “the most renowned Sikh academic outside India”; Ajit Singh was all these and a thorough gentleman besides. Sartorially elegant and soft spoken, he was a delightful raconteur of delicious gossip dispensed with naughty humour, devoid of malice, drawing laughter but never red. In intellectual or political exchanges, he invariably fought the idea never the person. He was fiercely competitive in sports; passionate about cricket, with “an encyclopaedic knowledge”; and addicted to his Punjabi cuisine, with the proficiency of an amateur chef. When young, he composed poetry in Sanskrit, which he had studied for nationalist reasons; despite the passage of decades, he remained the proud Indian, irrespective of the colour of his passport.
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