DH or NH? Years ago, scribe tracks down George

DH or NH? Years ago, scribe tracks down George

George Fernandes. File photo

More than a decade ago, my news editor at Deccan Herald P S Phadnis gave me an assignment to interview veteran socialist George Fernandes. The interview was to be carried on the op-ed page.

However, George, who was then unceremoniously removed as JD(U) president, was cut off from the media as much as he was cut off from his protégé Nitish Kumar.

Interviewing George was not difficult. But getting an appointment for the interview was an arduous task.

Angry with Nitish for shabby treatment, George would not stay at a government guesthouse or government accommodation during his Patna visit. He would reside at a private residence at an undisclosed location in the state capital whenever he flew down from New Delhi to Patna.

Unable to locate him, I informed my news editor, who, in turn, said: “Keep trying.”  

Eventually, I sought help from one of my relatives who was a three-term legislator of the ruling party but had shifted his allegiance from Nitish to George.

He took me to the outskirts of Patna where George was staying in a two-storeyed building. Aloof, isolated and completely cut off from the mad world of politics, George entered the drawing room in his crumpled kurta-pyjama.

Before entering the house, I was told by his aides that “George Saheb has been afflicted with Alzheimer's,” so I should not probe much as there may be some memory loss on his part.

“So you are from Deccan Herald? Please come and sit,” George said, as his German shepherd also sat next to him. “My private secretary told me someone from National Herald has come to interview me….I was also wondering why a Congress newspaper-wallah wants to interview a socialist like me who has berated the grand old party throughout his life,” he continued, even before I could respond.

Throughout the one-hour conversation, I realised he still had a razor-sharp memory (contrary to what his aides said about memory loss) when he spoke of Deccan Herald and Prajavani. “Do you know, Vajpayeeji, Advaniji and Madhu Dandavate (former finance minister) used to read Deccan Herald and Prajavani when they were lodged in Bangalore jail in 1975-77 during the Emergency,” the Karnataka-born veteran socialist said once the interview was over.