Rest In Peace Sushmaji

Many important and known people will write obituaries on Sushma Swaraji.She was a much loved leader and her admirers cut across caste , creed and party lines.Her strength was her accessibility and she took a complex issue like foreign policy to grassroots and made it look simple.She democraticised foreign policy and converted Twitter into a helpline!!

I met her thrice – met her twice and saw her once to be precise.Let me explain a bit about my meetings with her.

Sushmaji was about 3 or 4 years elder to me and hence , we were at our prime and aged more or less together..After finishing my University studies at Delhi , I shifted to Chandigarh in a futile and foolish attempt to get into the the IAS – nothing like that happened because you cant expect a kangaroo to climb a tree !

I started teaching at the DAV College for Men in Chandigarh and at the same time started  preparing  for my exams ( it was the standard practice ).At the same time, in the afternoons I would go to the Punjab University where I was enrolled for my MPhil at the Institute of Gandhian studies.

At the DAV College ,I made good friends with Inderjit Singh( who was also teaching History at the same college) , and who was also enrolled for MPhil with me ( It was Inder who motivated me to join MPhil ).

Inder was a local lad and a product of Punjab University who dabbled in poetry , politics , drama and philosophy.He was a cut sardar ( he did not wear a turban), and smoked like a chimney.His father had ostracized him.He was a brilliant man – with a dazzling mind and with a flair for poetry in which he freely indulged after  his rum with coke! He would quote and narrate poetry of Shiv Batalvi with great feeling and passion.He was overweight – perhaps too much rum , butter chicken and smoking.He died very young in the late 1980s.I attended his funeral.

He was well connected in academic circles and among his friends was Balwant Gargi of the” Naked Triangle” fame and Professor  Gupta ( if I haven’t mixed up his name) who was a don at the Law School which was a stones throw away from the Gandhi Bhavan where we were doing MPhil.

This is where Sushmaji comes in .She had done law, and once when we were there chatting with Guptaji , she walked in.She was effusive – and Inder told me that she was the youngest MLA in India – she had won the Ambala State Assembly seat at the age of 25 !!

She had come to meet her Professor and also to seek some advice.She exuded charm and beauty.She had oomps of confidence and knew Inder by name.That was my first meeting with her – I was awestruck and did not speak a word.I kept looking at her.She was short but extremely attractive  .She wore a salwar kameez.

The second time I met her was when I went to her as a member of our schools teachers delegation.( I had left DAV College and joined Rai School )I was the Secretary of the teachers association and we felt we had been ignored by the govt in the 4th Pay Commission as far as our salaries were concerned .We had knocked on the door of the Secretary Education for justice , failing which we approached  Chairman of the Anomalies Commission – but to no avail .At that time Sushmaji was the Education Minister of Haryana.

I asked Inder to fix up a meeting with her which he did.He had run into health problems and had started teaching History at the Punjab Public School , Nabha.

I  along with 5 other teachers reached her official bungalow.We were ushered in immediately.She walked in briskly ( I always compared her brisk walk with the labored saunter as she grappled with disease of late ).

She showed her class at the meeting.We had been waiting for 15 minutes or so and asked very melodiously  

“nashtaa karaa aap sabhi neh”?.We told her that we had been offered water which was all that we needed.

She was livid! She called one of the attendants and berated him

“ Chai aur nashtaa hyo nahin karwayaa.Aap koh pataa hai yeh adyapak haih?” ( why have you not given them tea and snacks.Do you know they are teachers ).

And then the sentence I will never ever forgot – “ Agar Devi Lal ji hote, toh sirf paani pelaateh” ?( Devil Lal was the legendary Haryana Chief Minister)!!

In one sentence , she had equated us with the Chief Minister !!

I am writing this as I watch the tv announcing her passing away.Some deaths make you reminiscence ,some make you feel sad , some leave you wordless , and some make you feel gutted.Sushmajis passing away makes me feel all of these.

I was listening to a song just now -I do that before I sleep.Amitabh Bacchan was saying

“Yeh sochta hoon main kabse gumsum

jabki mujhko bhi yeh khabar hai,

Ki tum nahi ho, kahin nahi ho

Margar yeh dil hai ki kah raha hai

ki tum yahin ho, yahin kahin ho.”

 

I still feel she is around – just around the corner.The heart just does accept she is no more .And I can see Inder in the distance ,wiping off a tear.

Rest In Peace .Om Shanti .

 

 

 

 

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