NEW DELHI: Friends and admirers bid an emotional farewell to former Union minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday, remembering him a leader without the pretensions of his high position who helped many in need and loved to talk about cuisine at length.
The 66-year-old passed away at AIIMS here on Saturday and was cremated with full state honours at Nigambodh Ghat on Sunday afternoon.
Scores of people thronged the cremation ground with wreaths and flowers in their hands, hoping to get one last glimpse of the leader.
While some knew him since college days, a few said they grew up learning the nuances of public speaking from him.
"We have lost a great parliamentarian. I would participate in debates in college days and would listen to Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj to learn from them," a government employee said.
Jaitley held high positions but it never came in the way of him helping others, he said.
Many others also shared stories of Jaitley helping people in their hour of need.
H N Sharma, 74, political adviser of former prime minister Chandra Shekhar, recalled how the senior BJP leader had come to the rescue of a freedom fighter who was ill and whose family did not have the money for his treatment.
"I belong to Ballia. Jai Prakash Narayan introduced me to Jaitley. I have known him since then. Once a freedom fighter fell seriously ill and his family didn't have enough money for his treatment. I requested Jaitley, who was then the finance minister, to help him," Sharma said.
"Jaitley made all the arrangements. The freedom fighter was brought to AIIMS and Rs 2 lakh was given to his family the next day," he added.
Joginder Prakash, 70, who knew Jaitley since their college days, said, "I had campaigned for him when he contested the student union polls. I was jailed during the Emergency. Behind my back, my shop was demolished. Jaitley fought my case in the high court and won. He didn't ask for a penny."
BJP workers also remembered Jaitley as a "friendly person" who always helped them.
"I used to go to his house with a party leader. He was a very decent and friendly person who hardly said no to any request for help by party workers," said Dildar Hussain, a BJP worker from the Jama Masjid area here.
Waiting outside the BJP office to pay homage to the "sober politician who never hurt anyone with his words or deeds", Raj Kishore, a party worker from Jharkhand's Giridih, echoed the sentiments.
"His (Jaitley's) conduct and his manners were impeccable. I have heard several stories about how he helped ordinary party workers whenever they approached him," Kishore said.
K N Srivastava, 83, who owns a restaurant in Naraina, recalled Jaitley's fondness for food and said the former Union minister often came to his eatery to have paranthas.
"He loved food and would talk about local cuisine at length. He would offer free legal advice to the needy and would accompany people to government departments if they faced any problem," he said.