Vijay Mukhi was never ‘Late’…. Rather he would be the first one to arrive at the venue with open collar shirt and jacket. Would be impatiently checking if guests are coming on time, would quickly ask me to ensure who should speak and who should not, with a slimy wink and an innocently cunning smile. He would go down to the porch area to welcome and escort key guests. Mukhi Sir would insist being at the door to receive guests, and would tell me, “Rajiv, stand with me as I will not recognise half the people as I’m too bad with names and you know the whole world.” He would call me ‘Mr. Vaishnav’ when he was in a teasing mood and wanted to pull my leg.
Pandyan was trying to reach me at 1.58 am on the 9th January night / 10th morning, but I missed the call. In the morning, when I woke up and as a reflex checked messages… … … I was stunned. Mind went blank and time just stopped.
As if someone was flipping the pages of the memory book from the day we met for the first time. That was 17th February 2000, when a TiE Silicon Valley delegation was in Mumbai at the then Hotel President at Cuffe Parade. Harishbhai (Mehta) introduced me to Mr. Mukhi. He was a man of chemistry and I was lucky to “click” with him in the first go. Since that moment, he was “Sir” to me and I was “Rajiv” & occasionally “Mr. Vaishnav” to him.
There is a tsunami of thoughts crossing my mind at this point. So many interactions, events, discussions, meetings, crises and moments that I feel like sharing here….alas!
Sir was a teacher par excellence as he was a student par excellence. He was always ready with challenging ideas, was continuously evolving. He was one of the handful of visionaries who would foresee technologies. Picked up one important area after another and became the champion. Even at his age and stature, he was curious as a child and excited to seek knowledge even from his own students and mentees. He was deeply passionate about propagating technologies before they became mainstream, starting with the Internet in 90s to AI and Bitcoin today. He always kept learning and sharing it with academia, students, police, media, judiciary, corporate and whoever was willing to learn.
Sir was a ‘Go to’ person for every tech journalist. For many journos of the 90s and mid-2000s, Mukhi Sir was the one to demystify technology and give understanding of cyber security and cybercrime. He was always helping not just close friends but whoever called him for any cybercrime related issues, would patiently talk to them, guide them and connect them with his circle of influence.
As Harishbhai mentioned that ‘Vijay has done so much for the technology industry that it would run into pages. The idea of forming NASSCOM was seeded at his house. He used to throw a party every month for IT industry. At one such party, some of us — Saurabh Srivastava, Shashi from Dataquest, Prakash Ahuja from ComputerPoint discussed formation of an association for software companies. Each one had a different motivation and decided to meet the next day at Taj Mahal hotel to continue the dialogue. From then on we had meetings with software companies in Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi. Seeing a critical mass of 35–40 software companies, we decided to formally form the association.”
He was one of the key organisers of the Bombay Computer Club — which later became the Bombay Technology Club. These no-agenda informal gatherings were popular with Mumbai’s tech enthusiasts.
Harishbhai said, “Yesterday, (9th January 2018) we (Harishbhai, Raj Saraf & Vijay) had met at Willingdon Club along with PR agency to develop a launch plan to promote two books that he has written recently on Artificial Intelligence and Bitcoin-blockchain. When asked about the target audience to focus on, Vijay said “everyone”. He would like to see every Indian owning a crypto currency and every Indian to be familiar with AI technology. Amazing passion to see India transforming through the use of technology.”
Shomiron Das Gupta who was a student of Mukhi Sir and later Founded NETMONASTERY — specializing in Real-time Cyber Defence Platforms for Managed Security Service Providers, sent a heart-touching message to me — “Dada, you have seen how Mr. Mukhi would take me around and make me meet people way beyond my stature and way before my time. What a start I got, thanks to him.”
Whether it was IUCI with Shammi Kapoor, NASSCOM, TiE, Bombay Computers’ Club, or Cyber Labs, Mr. Mukhi never claimed any credit for his contribution and I have always felt that the industry also did not acknowledge it enough.
Pandyan, Tilak Shetty and I were talking about fragility of life outside the Shivaji Park Crematorium when Pandyan put it so well — Life should be like a floating feather and death should be like an arrow.
Amit Khanna, famous lyricist, Chairman, Reliance Entertainment and friend of Mr. Mukhi responded on Facebook and said “An Internet pioneer departs. Stay online wherever you are Vijay”. This reminded me of a couplet he had told me many years ago.
हरा पत्ता हुवा पीला तो खिला,
कोई अपना जुदा हुवा तो मिला l
Hara patta huwa peela to khila
koi apana, juda huwa to mila.
Mukhi Sir was always ahead of time….and he departed also in that hurry.
At the end of every gathering, Sir would insist and announce, even if I requested him not to, he would say, “Mr. Vaishnav, no event will end till the fat lady sings!” and I would be forced to say a couplet — Let me sign off as Sir would like….
दीप से जलना न सीखो, दीप से मुस्कान सीखो
सूर्य से ढलना न सीखो, सूर्य से उत्थान सीखो,
देखना है इस पथ पर हम कहाँ अंकित खड़े हैं?
राह पर चलना ही न सीखो, राह का निर्माण सीखो
Deep se Jalna na seekho, deep se muskaan seekho
Surya se dhalna na seekho, Surya se utthan seekho
dekhna hai, ees path par hum kahan ankit khade hain
raah par chalna hi na seekho, raah ka nirmaan seekho.