(1 October 1942 – 9 July 2020)
His friend Malcolm writes:
Daya asked me to contribute a few words when Sandesh left his body some days ago, after a long, almost two-year final dance. He had a body that slowly and gradually let him down, yet a spirit and mind full of life energy until close to the end. He passed very peacefully.
I have known this funny, warmhearted, generous and wonderful man for over 14 years, since our first meeting at Croydon Hall, Somerset; then through the many extended stays that he and Daya blessed my daughter and me with in Totnes, and finally, the last 7 years in Corfu, and Devon.
I can only guess at the enormous life-force and energy he must have had as a younger man, through being with him, the stories that I have heard first-hand from him, and from others who knew him well. We became friends after he decided for health reasons to pass on WildQuest, the swimming-with-dolphins programme that he and Daya created and founded in Key West, Florida, then in Bimini, Bahamas and Samana, Dominican Republic.
Although physically very different – he much shorter and stockier, we bonded easily through the similarities of our respective journeys from our shared working-class backgrounds (he, a true Cockney – me, from the industrial NW of England); our love for soccer that went beyond simply supporting our different teams – his beloved Spurs – my Man U; and my always-ready appreciation of his dry wit. He was never short of a quick riposte or sharp one-liner, and I was a very good and welcome audience.
I needed a couple of years to really begin to appreciate the depth and wisdom that was often hidden behind an unassuming exterior. He was not one – certainly during the time that I knew him -to blow his own trumpet. He had no need – his actions spoke volumes, especially during the years that I was able to observe him closely at work. Whether managing Corfu Buddha Hall, looking after the running of Palms in Arillas, or offering through advice the decades of business experience that he had accumulated. Young or old, Greek or foreign, sage or sinner, he had time and patience and a helpful word for all. Many local Greek businesses have profited from implementing suggestions that he made, and he will be missed by them.
Sandesh was privileged to come of age in the 60s in London, a time of experimentation, of drugs, in the capital city of a nation freeing itself from the post-war shackles of rationing and austerity. From running a restaurant frequented by iconic pop figures such as The Stones or The Beatles, to driving a Jaguar E-type convertible, or partying, this was the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll era he embraced, and then discarded, in search of something more meaningful. That search brought him to a squat in London, where he met a tall, beautiful model and her young son. Together founding a commune in France, the idea was spawned to travel overland to India to test the resolve of the community. Why not? The Beatles were finding their Guru, why not Sandesh and Daya?
The mode of transport chosen was rather unusual, namely two old double-decker buses. They were kitted out; and 3 months, many breakdowns and adventures later, they arrived in Pune, India. Here S & D “found” Osho, stayed, and like many others, found their lives changing in so many ways. He was never one to make a great deal out of what was clearly an extraordinary period in his life. When in the mood and encouraged to do so, he would tell the occasional story, yet in a self-deprecating manner.
He had a real knack of dealing with people, and a sense of what each person needed. I was fortunate to have him staying with me when one morning I had an “awakening” moment. He had quickly “clocked” my tendency to let “talking” take me from the moment, and gently led me out into the garden – I stayed the whole day. Seven years ago he casually suggested that I visit him in Corfu – he felt it was right for me, and time has proved him right.
His last two years he faced his unexpectedly early approaching death with dignity, yet the longer this period lasted, the more he strived to ensure that loose ends were tied up. As the body gradually failed, his mind was still stubbornly trying to solve problems – sometimes those that only he could see. He approached the end with increasingly quiet calmness. Like many others, I will miss him as a brother, friend, and mentor, and am hugely privileged to have known him.
Rajendra, who met him on that infamous three-month drive to India, and with whom Sandesh enjoyed reacquainting that friendship and their chess matches, wrote these words after his passing:
From the Tipi-Tent in Teheran
Through the deserts of Afghanistan
I remember it was really fun.
Though at times we had to run
Playing music on the road
Living life without the load
Of it’s everlasting sorrow
Living now, and not for tomorrow
You made deals and held conversations
With clan chiefs and men on the stations
Who would know then much later on the beach
Of Arillas, we would meet again and reach
To a friendship with astonishment
As crazy as those chickens in your tent
Frying for Christmas in an Iranian park
When it was late and getting quite dark
Now you have left us with your passing
Into the universe ever lasting
I will keep with me your smile
On this planet for a while
Until I also leave this mess
Into timelessness I guess
Thanks to Malcolm, Rajendra and Daya for text and photos
I didn’t know him that long but got close to him when Prateek and I made our first trip to Corfu.
Sandesh helped us with almost all the details on how to get to Corfu & what places to visit etc. He was so kind and generous, and had a fantastic knowledge of so many things.
And funny, he was a jokester and had me laughing out loud so many times (which pleased him no end I felt)!
I shall miss him; I already miss him – but I feel so much gratitude for the time I knew him… short but very sweet.
Blessed to be your friend – to get close, especially in the last year or so. I loved your hugeness, your heart, your stories, your sense of humour – we enjoyed a great repartee.
He surprised us all – himself included I imagine – by seemingly not being far from death on several occasions – going to hospital with the expectation of not living long, catching flu and getting over it! Coming home… for quite a while longer. Such a strong body and spirit.
At times unable to walk so well, then somehow managing to get the right treatment and off again!
Loving community, loving to create it, be in it, play silly games with his friends, gift his big laugh to the world.
I got to know him better when he invited me to Corfu and also towards the end of his life, when he was longer in the area I live and we visited each other; he took me out for a coffee, walked me to his local Singing Kettle teashop when he could hardly walk. He liked to spend time my partner too, and would have a talk and a laugh with him while Daya and I were banished to another room.
Would love to have spent more time with him but my own situation and lockdown prevented it. Happy he is released from the body and its failings… what a gift to the world, what a difference he made.
Thank you so much for all the support you have given me especially in my first years in Corfu. I will keep your stories that you told me and Alex on the van, on the way to Corfu town. So crazy and wonderful experiences you and Daya had while traveling to India, crossing so many places, being so wild and free. I love your spirit and that is eternal.
So long dear friend!
It’s already five years ago that I was in Corfu and you and Daya so lovingly ran around for me to help my stay at Palms as beautiful as possible.
Dear one… We occasionally bumped into each other in Pune One – and now you’re gone.
Fly well and full of joy.
Daya, dear one, be strong.
So sad to hear of the passing of this lovely, wise and gentle man. I hadn’t heard of him in over 20 years but remember well our brief time together in the early 90’s. He was delayed in his return to the States after a visit to Poona and stayed with me in my house in Muswell Hill and we enjoyed long walks and talks together. He was unrelentingly calm, wise and avuncular in the feedback he gave me in what was a time of transition for me.
Less than a year later I spent a few days with him in Santa Fe where he had managed to return to the home he’d made there by walking through the Mexican border post as if he was just returning from a day trip. We had a couple of trips out to the Mesa where I helped him put the finishing touches to a couple of off-grid houses he built out there in the arid cactus-strewn landscape.
So sorry we never stayed in touch after that, but I get the impression I was but one of many, many amiable encounters he made over a lifetime of adventure and joy. Congratulations on a life well lived.
Peter McCaig – formerly Veetgyan