“To know Jim was to know fervour, he was the personification of ambition to live spectacularly, he was precociously wise but managed to maintain a childlike optimism, and a remarkable sense of humour throughout his life,” wrote Jonathan Zalepa. James Lawler (Jim) passed away in the early hours of May 28, 2010, without accomplishing his aspiration to visit India and practice yoga at Rasa Gurukul.
Jim suffered a skull and eye socket fracture while playing polo, and was in coma for weeks. In his last email to me, I found him a changed man. “No more madness in life anymore, I am doing yoga everyday, stopped drinking and almost fully vegetarian. I want to start a whole new spiritual journey and spend my life to promote Rasa philosophy.” This was Jim, an American who disliked his country and loved the world!
Let’s go back a few years and a sluggish winter in London. Pushing away the soft darkness of a late afternoon, Jim walked into Rasa in a flurry and our long friendship. He was part of a business meeting with smartly dressed English gentlemen but Jim was unusual in his terrific casual look, colourful shoes, long black coat, even darker sunglass and a nice little cap, he looked more like a rock star. It was his first experience of Indian food and culture, later our crunchy prawn karumuru and Kerala fish curry became his favourite food.
Something must have happened that day. Jim got captivated with our concept, power and story. Jim had great ability to communicate, avalanche of world changing ideas and genuine concern for people; it made him gallant as a global citizen. He was one of the first people who felt our potential. Jim took feeling and fluorescence of Rasa to people and places; we met and talked countless times to undertake a combined mission to enrich awareness of Indian food and culture around the planet.
Restaurants in Northeast, working with children in schools, a TV series, exploring meditation and yoga retreats were all Jim’s notions. He never ran short of creative thoughts and always revitalized himself with new brainwaves to unite people. Jim connected brilliant people across all continents using his networking skills and galvanised friends everywhere.
He didn’t have the gift of long life or strong heart, knowing his dark humour he never wanted to hang around for too long. Nevertheless Jim was like a river, kept on flowing at a lively pace. He never looked back at life or worried about what people thought of him. Sometimes I wondered why Jim did so much for friends like me when we had nothing in common and obviously no reason to associate. Jim brought lot of freshness to life and added power to noble thoughts, with him around we felt tremendous agility and opportunities.
I began speculating what was the light Jim’s blue eyes saw in us, which we couldn’t find. Sometimes a complete stranger could open the doors to wonders and they disappear without telling, like Jim, his entry was a surprise, so was his exit. I am sure echoes of his life will continue to be heard in my journey ahead.
Now finale to the shore!
Now, land and life, finale, and fare well!! Now voyager departs! (much much for thee is yet in store)
Embrace thy friends—leave all in order;
To part, and hawser’s tie, no more returning
Depart upon thy endless cruise, old sailor!
At a time when friendships are bought and replaced like smartphones, people like Jim rise up from far away Atlantic and cross English channel to bring sublime sweetness of harmony and clear ambiguity in society.
Good-bye Jim, thanks for beautiful seasons and never ending sunshine!
The author is a London-based restaurateur who owns the Rasa chain