“It’s hard to say farewell to a life, but that is life” – Indian Business Forum
Calling him a “landmark personality”, about a hundred people gathered to reflect and celebrate the life of one of Ethiopia’s noted restaurateur, K. V. Desikan, at Sangam restaurant yesterday. The Indian auditor came to Ethiopia to work for Price Waterhouse Coopers four-and-a-half decade ago and found ample reasons to remain in the country long after his contract ended.
He died on Thursday, August 9th at the Landmark Hospital in the capital.
The Indian native became one of the founding members of the Ethiopian auditors–accountants association. During his tenure with Price Waterhouse, he was very active in banking auditing. He mentored the future accountants of Ethiopia and he offered both mentorship and opportunities to many.
He was said to be enticed by the people he met and the opportunities it presented to this ambitious man. He became a noted restaurateur, successful farmer and a valued humanitarian.
In the time he has been in Ethiopia, he saw his restaurant (Sangam)–the first Indian restaurant in the country– become an institution and he was an important advocate for education, founding a school in Adama–named Desangam. He donated generously to the local Rotary Club, specifically to help fight for the eradication of polio.
“When polio was declared in Ethiopia, his door and resources were open to us to help facilitate our needs”, a Rotary representative told The Reporter. “He never said no to our demands”.
As his lasting wish, he asked his last days to be in Ethiopia, a nation that was his home for more than half of his life. His next wish was to be cremated in his native land of India, the sort of second home it became for him. “He was more popular among Ethiopians than Indians,” the acting convener of the Indian Business Forum said.
Desi, as his affectionately known by friends and colleagues was as a man of heart and charity.
“Born in India in 1941, Shri Desikan made Ethiopia his karma Bhumi (a Sanskrit term meaning land of action) through his practice as a chartered accountant”, said Indian ambassador Anurag Srivastava. “He subsequently introduced Indian cuisine in Addis Ababa thorough the iconic Sangam Restaurant which became an institution. He remained involved in various social and charitable activities for the welfare of the Indian community as well as for Ethiopian nationals”.
At the memorial ceremony, many spoke and paid homage to the distinguished citizen. Other speakers were from the Indian Association, the Hindu Mahajan, the Indian National School, the Lions Club of Ethiopia, the Sangam staff and administration and family members. “It’s hard to say farewell to a life, but that is life”, it was said.
It was the now departed tourism magnate Habteselassie Tafesse who urged him to start an Indian restaurant. His skills were witnessed when he was contracted to manage the cafeteria inside the Economic Commission of Africa. Both of these friends departed on the same day.
While he strived to make his restaurant to be an introduction to his Indian culture, he also wanted it to become a hub for a small Indian community to meet and explore how they can become ambassadors to their nation. This was to be to help build strong bilateral relations between the two nations.
In time, Desi became chairman of the Indian Community School as well as the Indian National School. He wanted to make education accessible to as many people as possible. While he did not entirely succeed, he helped move the Ethiopian education goal move forward.
Desi was never married. As a lasting legacy to Ethiopia and Ethiopians and to help Sangam restaurant continue, he made his long-time chef, Shek Sikkander Basha a partner in 1981, along with his nephew most recently.
He is to be cremated in India this afternoon.