Memorable meetings

I am glad to be a senior citizen. Just recently, I have crossed the mid half of my 80s with no personal responsibilities. People who know me will tell you that I am no pessimist. I am thankful to have seen many brilliant people, from the days of my early childhood to when I started working with the government.

One such meeting was with “Periyava” of the Kanchipuram group of holy people, who gave solace and spiritual help to ease the burdens of common folk. My father took me to meet him. Periyava wore minimal clothes, ate just a little bit (just enough for his survival), and was a learned man. He spent his time praying and helping those who came to him. His centenary was celebrated with reverence recently, particularly in South India, even though he is no longer alive. Many people believe that he was the greatest saint in South India. I only had the satisfaction of seeing him, and I was too young then to understand the legacy he has would leave behind.

I also had the fortune of obtaining a smile from a great personality. I was part of a batch of new IAS trainees who were put on duty during the Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi. Just before the VIPs arrived to witness the Republic Day parade, I was supervising an employee who was cutting the grass even.

Suddenly, I felt two hands on my shoulders. I looked behind me, a little angry. Guess who had come earlier than the other guests? It was the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. He, on his way to the seat, had stopped to gently move me out of his path! 

And the last experience is the one I treasure immensely, though it was a little disappointing for my brother and me. We were very young when we went to a sprawling maidan in Delhi where Mahatma Gandhi was to speak. We were thrilled to see him, his simplicity and ‘I mean business’ attitude.

It was announced by the organisers that Gandhiji was collecting money of Rs 5 from each of us for the freedom fight, from any person who was willing to give it in return for his autograph. My brother and I were very keen, like all the children there, to get his autograph. Alas, we did not have the required Rs 5 and went home sadly. But we could actually see and hear the great Gandhiji! 

However, I missed meeting Sardar Patel, who died before he could do more.

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