I wrote ‘Remembering Indira Gandhi’ in my blog on October 31, the day of her assassination. I write again today to remember her on her birthday on November 19. Indira Gandhi was a worthy Prime Minister of India and a great leader.
I have had, as written earlier, good fortune to work in the close vicinity of Indira Gandhi in her office in the South Block and sometimes at her residence at 1 Safdarjung Road in a junior capacity attached to the office of Miss Vimla Sindhi, popularly known as ‘Behanji’ who was the Deputy Director (Govt. Hospitality Organisation) under the Protocol Division of the Ministry of External Affairs. Behanji, having worked with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru at Teen Murti House since the dawn of Independence was personally known to Indira Gandhi from those days. In fact, the office of Behanji was more of personal nature than official to cater to some of the sundry Protocol and General House-Keeping needs of the PM’s Office and attached Committee, Conference Rooms. The approach to work, with a view to pay special attention to PM Indira Gandhi’s tastes and likings, was also more personal. In personal and private interaction, Indira Gandhi called Behanji as Vimi and she in turn addressed her as Indu. In this set up, I was also working as one of the personal staff members of the PM’s office.
I first saw Indira Gandhi from a close quarter in her office when the three leaders of the Tri-partite Meeting among India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – Swaran Singh, Aziz Ahmed, Kamal Hossain – called on the Prime Minister in April, 1974. I was fully impressed by her demeanor and poise. In the process of my duties, there were several occasions to see her in office and Committee/Conference Rooms and also in the majestic corridors and stairs of her office. I was under the impression that Indira Gandhi considered me as one of the security personnel who was hanging around her office. But I was pleasantly surprised one day when her Personal Security Officer Pandit Ram Murti came and asked for Behanji as the PM was calling her. Behanji was not present in office and I informed him accordingly. Ram Murti went back and informed the PM. She (PM) asked to call that boy (obviously she did not know my name) who was working with her (Behanji). I went and attended to some small work in her office. I was totally impressed by her sense of awareness about the small things/happenings around her. She was a great human being too.
I recall these some anecdotes as a tribute to Indira Gandhi on her birth anniversary.