The Passing of an Era

I
was to meet him on April 16 at the Nasscom office in New Delhi. It was his
grouse that I had never visited his office. My stock reply was–when are you
there? The last few times that I met Dewang was between meetings, at
conferences, inaugurations or on the phone.

Originally the meeting was to be on April 2, but I could not make it. Then he
was travelling to Mumbai, back to Delhi, then Gujarat, followed by a
presentation at Sariska and then on to Australia where the unfortunate end came.

That was Dewang Mehta. The man who gave all he had and more to the cause of
the Indian software industry. His time, life and maybe the passing away all got
dedicated to a self-determined mission of promoting Indian software abroad. And
he managed the multifarious activities involved with the panache of a skilled
acrobat. I saw him at 1 pm at night heading off to a visit to the Nasscom
exhibition where there were some problems and then at
7 am–looking completely fresh and rested.

At the time he took over Nasscom, the software industry was strong but
under-leveraged. He lobbied hard and long for it, both inside and outside the
country. He lobbied for it at business forums and in schools and colleges. He
contributed to building it up to a level where it became a symbol of success for
the country and a beacon of hope for thousands of software enthusiasts.

As I type this, in another window on the screen is flashing the falling trend
in software stocks. Maybe the stock markets saw this also? The last time I spoke
to him he had lamented "I am tired… just when things are looking settled
this US slowdown starts." I laughed and said, "This is what keeps you
busy, so why are you cribbing?" Maybe he should have taken it easy. But
then that would not be the Dewang we knew.

Now that he is no more, the void that has been left will become very obvious.
Under a big tree other plants cannot grow. And Nasscom will have to struggle
hard to find a worthy successor. The unfortunate part is that the tragic end
came at a time when his dynamic presence was most required and when he had
carved a niche from where he could have gone to many other bigger things.

The one-man band of the Indian software industry is no more. But the music
must go on.

Shyam Malhotra Editor-in-chief, Cyber
Publications and director, Cyber Group

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