17.10.69 – 14.02.2017
“Have you met Miller, the Miller of Dee?” asked Mrs Nariman Shadap with a smile. It was my day of joining at the North Eastern Service (NES), AIR Shillong in December 2011. Mrs Shadap, DDG(P) was Station Director there.
It wasn’t difficult to see why Miller Einster Sawkmie, Programme Executive, NES was compared with the jolly Miller of Dee, made famous by that eponymous poem
“There dwelt a miller, hale and bold,
Beside the river Dee;
He worked and sang from morn till night -
No lark more blithe than he…”
That is how I remember Miller. Happy, bright, ready with a song.
But Miller’s “guitar gently weeps” today. The first floor of NES office is eerily quiet. “He is too young to leave this world,” Ferdinand Dkhar, Pex, AIR Shillong messaged me this morning. Ferdy did not take my call. Maybe his voice was choked. Miller had passed away last night. Suddenly.
Anyone who has worked in NES will remember Ferdy and Miller singing “Yeh dosti hum nahin torenge…” lustily during the Hindi fortnight celebrations.
“I am shocked at the news of Miller’s demise,”says Mr C Lalrosanga, former DG, Doordarshan. “I have known him for about 25 years while serving as Director, NES & ADG of AIR (NER) and have been closely in touch with him till a week ago. He was a dynamic, positive, helpful, resourceful person, a valued colleague to work with and an asset for AIR. His contributions to AIR have been plenty and invaluable. I miss him as a personal friend and colleague. NES will sorely miss him.”
“How can he go? It’s unbelievable,” rues Ashish Bhatnagar, DDG(E). Mr Bhatnagar was posted in Shillong for three years. “Miller was so close. We spent hours singing overnight in remote villages, with a guitar in hand and wood fire in between. He was so natural and spontaneous.”
I see from his biodata that he had a Master’s degree in Physics. “Miller was in teaching before he joined AIR,” Mrs Shadap tells me. “And he was a very good teacher. I personally enjoyed working with him. He rose to every challenge. I never heard a no from him. It was always ‘yes, Kong’. Such an energetic, lovable young programmer…such a great loss for NES and the AIR family…Miller of Dee.”(Kong in Khasi means sister and is a respectful way of addressing women).
Scrolling through Facebook this morning, I find many comments from friends, colleagues, talkers… comments like “he encouraged me to go on air”…. “One of my most well behaved and cheerful colleagues…” “ Will sorely miss his jokes and laughter”… “He was such an inspiration to me, to never give up on my singing…”
Miller had joined AIR Shillong as a production assistant (TREX) at OB unit, AIR Shillong on 7 April 1992. He was the force behind the popular radio bridge programmes connecting the entire North East. As well as the several memorable concerts organised by NES. As recently as February 11, he had successfully organized the grand finale of the NE Body Can Sing Contest in Shillong.
Miller Sawkmie is survived by his mother, his wife Rulbiona Synrem and three children.
As I am about to wind up this piece, a message arrives from Krishna Dasgupta, English Announcer, NES: “An enthusiastic and cheerful officer, he was always very polite with his colleagues. Herespected everyone and in turn earned respect… He will be fondly remembered by all at NES & AIR Shillong. May his soul rest inpeace.”
"Good friend," said Hall, and sighed the while,
"Farewell, and happy be;
Such men as thou are England's boast,
O miller of the Dee!
To paraphrase the poem, “such men as Miller are AIR’s boast...” Farewell, Miller and be happy wherever you are.
Basudha Banerji, PEX, DG:AIR, fondly remembers Miller Einster Sawkmie...