For much of the morning on Friday13 March, I had been on the phone with Dr. Rohitas Batta, speaking as well as texting about an upcoming event. I was supporting an Indian classical dance workshop, and was concerned as the venues were unavailable due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Imagine my shock and disbelief, when I heard the next day that he had passed away in the evening. He had been his usual self as he chatted with me, lively and full of ideas and advice to support my initiative and see it to fruition. He was a selfless community leader and could never say no to a community member, lose hope or give up on an idea or initiative if it was all for a good cause.
I made Dr Batta’s acquaintance only months ago, brought together by Mahatma Gandhi, no less. We served on the community forum that marked the commemoration of Gandhiji’s 150th birth anniversary supported by the Consulate General of India in Sydney, Western Sydney University and City of Parramatta Council.
As an actor, artist, media and PR professional my creative ideas and concepts would inevitably be dismissed, minimised and ridiculed by others based on the sheer fact that I was younger and therefore inexperienced and had no idea of what I was talking about or even fit to speak in the team meetings. But Dr Rohitas was not one of those. He would patiently listen to each volunteer’s ideas and suggestions, and promptly respond to every email, text or call with encouraging words of appreciation and how he could offer support.
Dr Rohitas Batta was a revolutionary, open to new and progressive ideas and concepts without judging or belittling your novel approach or thinking. At the same time he would advise me of the pros and cons of it all from his ocean of knowledge and experience and suggest a roadmap to achieve my goals. He had the compassion and strengths of a true leader and mentor and made each individual feel valued, by respecting and recognising their unique qualities, efforts and hard work. He made us feel important contributors to the process.
He stood out with his boundless energy, ever-ready smile, words of encouragement, and positive attitude. He was the gentleman the Bollywood actor Ayushmann Khurrana describes in the video Gentleman kise kehte hai?
He was the feminist a gender-equal society needs, men who have the courage to stand by women in their lives and in society. Dr Rohitas Batta leaves behind his wife Meenakshi, daughter Shruti and son Himanshu.
Given my own parents and extended family are based overseas, I’m struggling to accept that I lost my guardian angel in Australia, and now have no one to call for advice and counsel. If this was the impact he had on me in a few months of our interaction, I can’t imagine what others who knew him for a lifetime are going through.