The loss of Guru

Mr. Tiwari, or Guru as we used to call him, passed away today. We always joked that he looked like Mahatma Gandhi, with his trademark round glass, bald head and little moustache.

Like Gandhi, Guru was one of the most brilliant minds around, particularly in the field of international law. And like Ghandi, he was also one of the most humble people around, despite his very senior position as the Principal Senior State Council of the Attorney-General Chambers.

I first met him as a young officer in 2003, still wet behind the ears. I had to staff him and a few senior officials on a trip to the Philippines. I remembered him with his trademark back-pack wandering around the Filipino shopping mall that was selling a variety of pirated DVDs – “Field study”, he told me with a wink. He was then one of Singapore’s lead negotiator for intellectual property issues.

I also remembered him as being generous in spirit. During most occasions, on overseas delegation trips, he will always share his loot of mangosteens and doughnuts, imploring people to eat. Once, as I was struggling with bags of laptops, documents and gifts for an ASEAN Ministers’ meeting, he offered his help. He did not have to. He could have waved us off to check into the first/business class transit lounge.

Oh, and he, with his brilliant legal mind, who not only drafted, negotiated and interpreted agreements, but also had a heart for Singapore. In every negotiation, in every legal interpretation, understanding and safeguarding Singapore’s interests was always on his mind. I remembered working with him and his team, in long-drawn sessions, arguing at some points,on the nuances of an ASEAN agreement, interpreting its language as to what could or could not be done.

My last encounter with him was in 2006 at the ASEAN Ministers’ meeting, where Singapore had failed to push to push through some proposals that was championed by my organisation (ex) and I had worked my ass off for. I was visibly upset, and he shook my hand and said, “Thank you Cindy, you have done well, you have tried your best and that’s all it matters.”

And, yes, Guru, like what you told me then – you have indeed given your best too and that’s all it matters too.

PS: Mr. V pointed out – one of Guru’s last papers, which reads like a short memoir.

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