Along with thousands of innocent lives world over, last year also took away several leading lights who inspired generations and left indelible mark on history. We will forever be indebted for their immense contribution to their chosen fields. Here’s remembering some of the luminaries…..
Veteran Congress leader and former President Pranab Mukherjee passed away on August 31 at the age of 84. He died due to post Covid complications. In his long career as a minister, he handled everything from finance to commerce, defence, and external affairs, and was also deputy chairman of the Planning Commission.
He became the 13th President of India in 2012.
Mukherjee, a Congressman all his political life, was not just an astute politician, he also earned respect for his encyclopedic knowledge of history and the Constitution.
Music legend and the doyen of Indian classical vocal music Pandit Jasraj passed away at the age of 90 due to cardiac arrest in New Jersey in August.
Born in Haryana, Pandit Jasraj was recipient of various prestigious awards including Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan.
His musical career spanned more than 80 years.
The great civil rights leader and Georgia congressman, died of pancreatic cancer on July 17. One of the “Big Six” leaders of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, John Lewis continued to fight for people’s rights since joining Congress in 1987.
He grew up in an era of racial segregation. Inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. he joined the burgeoning civil rights movement. Lewis was a Freedom Rider, spoke at 1963’s March on Washington and led the demonstration that became known as “Bloody Sunday.” He was elected to Congress in 1986 and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Ginsburg was a women’s rights champion who became the US Supreme Court’s second female justice.
She was a rockstar to her admirers as she spent her final years on the bench as the leader of the court’s liberal wing.
She was often called the ‘Notorious RBG’ for her defense of the rights of women and minorities, and the strength and resilience she displayed in the face of personal loss and health crisis.
She died September 18, 2020 due to complications from metastatic pancreas cancer.
Son of a railroad conductor who rose to chairman and CEO of General Electric, Jack Francis Welch Jr. transformed GE into a highly profitable multinational conglomerate and parlayed his legendary business acumen into a retirement career as a corporate leadership guru.
During the 20 years he led the conglomerate, its market value grew from $12 billion to $410 billion.
Fortune magazine once called him “manager of the century,” but he also was known as “Neutron Jack” for slashing tens of thousands of jobs.
He died on March 1 at 84 due to renal failure.
Iconic French fashion designer Pierre Cardin, hailed for his visionary creations but also for bringing stylish clothes to the masses, died December 29th at age 98. Pierre Cardin, who was born to a low-income family in northern Italy but became a France-based fashion superstar.
A licensing maverick, Cardin’s name embossed myriad products from wristwatches to bedsheets, making his label among the worlds most famous. In the brand’s heyday in the 1970s and 80s, his products were sold at some 100,000 outlets worldwide. A savvy businessman, Cardin used his fabulous wealth to snap up top-notch properties in Paris, including the Belle Epoque restaurant Maxims. He was inducted into the Fine Arts Academy in 1992..
Social activist, scholar, politician and Arya Samaj leader Swami Agnivesh passed away at the Institute of Liver and Billary Sciences (ILBS) in New Delhi, in September, after he was hospitalized due to liver cirrhosis.
He stayed on the ventilator and was monitored by a multi-disciplinary team.
Agnivesh, a former MLA from Haryana, is known for his work against bonded labor through the Bonded Labor Liberation Front, which he founded in 1981. Agnivesh became president (2004–2014) of the World Council of Arya Samaj, which is the highest international body of the Arya Samaj. He was also an advocate for dialogue between religions and remained involved in various areas of social activism including campaigns against female feticide and the emancipation of women.
S P Balasubrahmanyam
Legendary playback singer SP Balasubrahmanyam breathed his last on September 25 in Chennai at the age of 74.
Balasubrahmanyam, fondly called as SPB, was known for his prowess of singing in 16 Indian languages, especially in all four southern languages besides Hindi.
The six-time National Award-winning singer’s contribution to Indian music is nonpareil. In his career spanning over five decades, SPB recorded more than 40,000 songs for which he held a Guinness World record.
Actor Irrfan Khan breathed his last after he lost his battle with a rare form of cancer on April 29 in Mumbai. He was 54.
Irrfan Khan made his mark in both international and Indian cinema.
Khan won the best actor National Award for his performance in 2012’s biographical drama ‘Paan Singh Tomar.’
Irrfan was also globally recognized for his performance in films like ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, ‘Inferno’ and ‘Life of Pi’.
Sushant Singh Rajput
Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput was found dead at his Bandra apartment on June 14. He was 34.
Before making his debut on the big screen in 2013 with ‘Kai Po Che’, Shushant was already a household name.
His performance as Manav Deshmukh in the TV show Pavitra Rishta won millions of hearts.
He earned accolades for his performance in ‘MS Dhoni: The Untold Story’, ‘Sonchiriya’, and ‘Chhichhore’, among others.
Ace Bollywood actor Rishi Kapoor passed away in Mumbai on April 30 following a two-year-long battle with leukemia. He was 67.
A third-generation actor, Rishi Kapoor, was the second son of actor Raj Kapoor and grandson of Prithviraj Kapoor.
His first on-screen appearance was in ‘Shri 420’. This was followed by ‘Mera Naam Joker’ in 1970, for which he received the National Award.
Rishi made his debut as an adult actor in Bobby which became a blockbuster.
In his career spanning over four decades, Kapoor acted in over 90 films.
Football legend Diego Maradona died of a cardiac arrest on November 25 at the age of 60.
He became a global icon after he dragged Argentina to glory in the 1986 World Cup where he scored the ‘Goal of the Century’ against England — as well as the infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal.
Maradona is considered the greatest footballer of all time alongside Brazil’s Pele.
Basketball icon Kobe Bryant died on January 26 in a fiery helicopter crash in Southern California. He was 41.
The crash also claimed the life of his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others.
Bryant was a five-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers and two-time Olympic gold medalist.
Legendary actor Sean Connery, best known for essaying the iconic character of James Bond, passed away at the age of 90 on October 31.
Connery made Ian Fleming’s dashing secret agent alive in seven Bond films. Six-foot-tall Connery, with an element of rugged masculinity became a popular culture icon.
The Scottish actor, who was knighted in 2000, won numerous awards during his decades-spanning career, including an Oscar, three Golden Globes and two Bafta awards.
He played Black American icons Jackie Robinson and James Brown with searing intensity before inspiring audiences worldwide as the regal Black Panther in Marvel’s blockbuster movie franchise. He died of colon cancer at 43 on Aug.28.
Renowned astrologer Bejan Daruwalla passed away in May at a private hospital in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. He was 89.
Daruwalla was a well-known astrologer who combined various methods of predictions like Vedic astrology, Numerology, Palmistry, Tarot. Born in July 1931, he was known to offer advice to Prince Lakshyaraj Singh Mewar of City Palace Udaipur and former Maharashtra Chief Minister Sushilkumar Shinde. Bejan Daruwalla was a practicing Zoroastrian. He had predicted election victories of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Narendra Modi, among others.