22/11/00 - South China Morning Post

Martin Jacques says the light in his life came on the day he met Harinder Veriah on a jungle trek in Asia and went out seven years later when she died within hours of celebrating her 33rd birthday and the New Year.

‘Hari was my life,’ said Mr Jacques. ‘She completely changed my life, and now that she is dead I don’t think things can ever return to what I would describe as normal.

‘I think of Hari every waking moment,’ said Mr Jacques. ‘My love and passion for her was as great on the day she died as when we first met – it never changed.’

The British author and journalist and his young lawyer wife came to Hong Kong with the expectation of starting an exciting new chapter in their lives.

Veriah was on a three-year secondment to the Hong Kong office of her London-based law firm, Lovells. Mr Jacques intended to write a book about Western and Asian modernism, with a view to producing a television series.

‘Since her death, however, I haven’t been able to make much progress on the project,’ he said. ‘I’ve just been trying to survive and to look after Ravi, our son.’

The couple met in 1993 on a jungle trek in Tioman, off the east coast of Malaysia. ‘It was love at first sight, although on the face of it we had absolutely nothing in common,’ he said.

Veriah was an Indian Malaysian and Mr Jacques a European.

She was a lawyer and he was a journalist who was ‘not a great fan of lawyers’. She was Hindu and he was an atheist. Veriah lived in Kuala Lumpur and he lived in London.

‘We were complete opposites, but from the day I met her in those most unlikely of circumstances I just couldn’t get her out of my mind,’ Mr Jacques said.

They saw each other on about four more occasions until Veriah came to live in London in 1994. Two years later they married.

‘I had been in relationships before, but nothing like this,’ said Mr Jacques. ‘Hari completely changed my life; she was my life.’

The intensity of their relationship was evident to everyone they met. Friends of the couple say she transformed him and produced in him a new kind of consciousness of life and a new way of feeling. ‘To watch this process unfold was like seeing the lights come on, one after another, in the rooms of a dark and familiar building, watching it slowly light up from within,’ said a friend, Stuart Hall, in his eulogy at the funeral in London.

Richard Hudson, who worked with Veriah, said: ‘I have never seen anyone as devastated as Martin was at the death of his wife.’ Another former colleague and friend, Allen Leung Chun-yue, said he felt deeply for Mr Jacques’ loss. ‘I totally empathise with him,’ he said. ‘Hari’s death was very, very tragic.’

Mr Jacques said the past 10 months had been a matter of survival for him, if for no other reason than to take care of his two-year-old son and to make a concerted effort to fill the void Veriah’s death has left in Ravi’s young life.

‘Ravi has had a lot of pain,’ said Mr Jacques. ‘He lost his mother, the most important person in his life. He was only 16 months old when she just disappeared, without explanation, from his small and secure world.’

Mr Jacques spent the first weeks after Veriah’s death in London but felt he had to return to Hong Kong and the flat they had lived in. Her presence is almost tangible, punctuated by prominently displayed photographs of her.

‘The memory of our life in Hong Kong and what happened to Hari haunted me,’ said Mr Jacques. ‘I wanted to come back to the home we shared and to pursue the circumstances of Hari’s death, maybe to find some kind of justice.’

– Heike Phillips