My father, Bhola Seth, who has died aged 85 was a gentle and dignified man who arrived in Britain from his native Allahabad on Guy Fawkes night, 1947. Although he settled in rural Oxfordshire he remained devoted to his Indian roots and his ashes will return half to the river Ganges, the other half to his beloved Lake District.
Born in November 1927 to Basudewa Seth – a lawyer of very regular habits – and his wife Dhanno Bibi, Bhola was one of seven children, just three of whom survived to adulthood. As part of an extended family he had a happy childhood and he excelled at badminton, at one point reaching the top 10 or 15 within India. He received a B.Sc. from Allahabad University in 1945 and two years later, amidst the tumult of India’s partition, he left for Cardiff to study engineering.
Known from then on simply as Seth, he spent three years in Cardiff and a further three in Rugby at the English Electric Co. before moving to Sheffield, where he studied for a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering. It was there he met Ann Delaney, daughter of a working-class Yorkshire family, whom he married in 1960 at a time when mixed-race marriages were unusual. In 1961 they moved south so that Seth could take a job at the Esso Research Centre near Abingdon, where he enjoyed working until his retirement in 1992. He remained a keen badminton player, winning the veterans world doubles title in 1976. He also became increasingly fond of the mountains of the Lake District having been introduced to them by Ann early in their relationship. As recently as 2005 together they climbed 70 separate “Wainwrights”.
As he aged, my father’s thoughts turned increasingly towards his family in India, for whom he had long been the patriarch. He made his final trip there in November last year after which his health started to fail. In the final week of his life, my mother and I were overwhelmed by the generosity, dedication, and support provided by the Marie Curie foundation, Hospital at Home, and all the wonderful carers, nurses, and doctors of the NHS who together allowed him to die peacefully and comfortably at home, as was his wish. We hear too little about these heroes of public service.
He is survived by his wife Ann, by his younger brother Amar and his family, and by me, his son Anil.
Note: This article first appeared in the Other Lives section of The Guardian, on July 3rd 2013.
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