Ambassador K.S. Bajpai – A Humble Tribute
Ambassador Katyayani Shankar Bajpai, worthy son of the legendary administrator and one of the finest diplomats Sir Girija Shankar Bajpai passed away on August 30. It seems an era of Indian diplomacy has come to a silent closing. I, as a junior and a humble member of the IFS fraternity of India, am in no position to say much on the professional and intellectual prowess of Ambassador Bajpai except the well documented fact that he played an important role in the integration of Sikkim to India. He served as India’s High
Commissioner in Pakistan, Ambassador to China and the USA in quick succession, all the three important countries in the diplomatic edifice of India. If my memory does not fail me, he was the first serving Indian career diplomat to be appointed as Ambassador to the USA. Bajpai Sahib proved his mettle fully as an excellent diplomat.
I will venture to write about his qualities of head and heart as a concerned boss, particularly to the juniors down the line and an excellent human being with a golden heart. I worked with and under Bajpai Sahib in Peking (Beijing) in 1980-81 as an Attaché. He was approachable and communicative with the staff members as a fatherly figure. On festive and social occasions like the national days and festivals, he, along with his wife, Meera Madam and occasionally their two young sons, would join and mingle with the members of the staff and their families and make them feel at ease. His legendary hospitality with a variety of cakes and other snacks were always at play on such occasions. I distinctly remember that at one of the Diwali celebrations at the Embassy compound, he was fully involved with children in exploding crackers and making them
|Diwali at Peking|
happy. He even, towards the end of the party, invited everybody to play a couple of card games with small monetary stakes to “ward off the bad spirits” in his own words. Another touching anecdote which I vividly recall depicts his humility even further while dealing with his junior staff members. Bajpai Sahib came back to the MEA as one of the Secretaries. I was already back in MEA. One of our staff members in Peking Vinod Saxena was in Delhi for his marriage. He had invited Bajpai Sahib to the marriage but I didn’t know. On the day of marriage, around lunch time, I bumped into Bajpai Sahib at the main gate of the MEA by chance. We greeted each other. Bajpai Sahib enquired whether I was going for the marriage of that boy (he could not recall the name) who was working in Peking with us? I said yes Sir, Vinod, I would go. He made me follow him to his office and gave me an envelope to be handed over to Vinod Saxena and asked me to convey his good wishes and congratulations to him. I myself felt humbled by the gesture of Bajpai Sahib. Bajpai Sir was a great man.
Bajpai Sahib was an officer of unimpeachable integrity, to my mind. On his joining at Peking on transfer from Islamabad sometime in 1980, as Attaché Accounts, I told him, as per the rules, that he can draw some percentage of Representational Grant of the Ambassador in addition to his own Grant for the period for which there was no Ambassador in Peking before his arrival. He did not agree and was rather surprised and argued how can it be when he was not in Peking? I showed him the IFS (PLCA) Rules. But still he was not convinced and advised me to ask Delhi. The matter was referred to MEA and prompt came a reply that our interpretation of the rule was correct and Ambassador can draw against expenditure, of course, a fixed portion of unutilized RG of the Ambassador. Any lesser man could have availed of the grant as advised by the Administration at the first go but Bajpai Sahib was a different man. Bajpai Sahib was very kind to me and I must register my sense of gratitude here. On my transfer from Peking, in spite of my lowly position in the hierarchy of the Embassy and as it was not the practice, Bajpai Sahib invited me and my wife Vidya for a personal dinner at the Embassy Residence that too after checking with me whether we would like to come home or go to some restaurant, besides the routine official farewell at the Embassy. We were overwhelmed by the hospitality and generosity of Ambassador Bajpai Sahib and his gracious wife. Later I briefly met him in Prague in the office of Ambassador P.S. Raghvan sometime in 2006 on one of their touristic visits.
With these anecdotes of humane grace, apart from Ambassador K.S. Bajpai’s professional impact and contribution to Indian diplomacy which is well documented and known, I close it as my humble tribute to the great man, Bajpai Sahib.