Memory of Pranab Babu

Free Thinker *

 President, Pranab Mukherjee, arrived  at Imphal to attend 14th Convocation of Manipur University on 29 April 2014
President, Pranab Mukherjee at 14th Convocation of Manipur University on 29 April 2014 :: Pix - Lamdamba Oinam

Bharat Ratna Pranab Mukherjee passed away on 31 August ,2020 at the age of 84. He was a great Indian politician who served the Nation for about 50 years. He joined politics in 1969 and very soon he became a Member of the Upper House of Indian Parliament. Pranab was the 13th President of this great country from 2012 to 2017.

As an active politician he served the country in different capacities; from time to time he was in the Union Govt. as Minister holding different portfolios like Commerce , Finance, Defence, External Affairs etc.,and at one time he was also the leader of the Lower House ( a position which is normally held by the incumbent PM).

This is the brief bio of Shri Pranab Mukherjee which is available in public domain. There are many interesting things which people are not aware about this great politician. Only a few close aides know; but they don't share the secrets.

Those who were working for him for many years have many things to narrate. They are still loyal to him; they tell us only the naratable parts. They say, 13 is the lucky number for Saheb; he was living in 13 Talkatora Road and remained Minister for many years. From there he became the 13th President of India. So true!

One of his close aides is the brother of a friend of mine; all are Mukherjees. One good thing about Mukherjees was, they never disclosed unpalatable things about Pranab Babu even in close circles. That might be the reason why MK was serving him for about 30 years, even in Raisina Hills.

I realized that loyalty is more important than anything else. Because of aging and health factors he couldn't continue to serve Pranab Babu when he demitted Office and retired in Rajaji Marg. MK once told me that Saheb goes to his village every Durga Puja without fail.

Once we were waiting for Pranabda in the evening; we waited till late in the evening. MK told us "if your matter is urgent wait ,otherwise come tomorrow". We decided to wait as it was urgent. Saheb landed at around 10 and got down from his White Ambassador.

He saw us standing , asked MK what we wanted; then he came to us and said( all standing) "admission time is over, it is late, go to Mr. Nath and make a request for his institution in Ghaziabad, just take my reference"; then he went straight to his room. MK told us that he will not directly talk, go by his advice. We thought that he would speak to some big shots and admission will be done. Reluctantly we went to Nath and took his reference; surprisingly it clicked. Perhaps Saheb might have put a word to Nath.

A boy from Silchar with a serious ailment was not getting admission in AIIMS. He had come all the way from Assam with the recommendation from a local hospital; but no seat was available in AIIMS. He was from a poor family; he could not afford private hospitals. With the reference from a local politician the boy's mother, a widow, went to Pranabda for help. Pranab Babu rang up AIIMS Director .

The Director expressed his helplessness. Pranab Babu asked one of his aides to go and admit the boy in Gangaram. Pranab Babu was ready to bear all expenses for the boy. Thank God the Hospital had treated the boy free of cost (perhaps under corporate social responsibility). Or may be because of Pranab Babu's request.

Many serious readers acknowledge Pranab Babu as a prolific writer. Some of his books are "Beyond Survival", "Off the Track", "The Dramatic Decade, The Indira Gandhi Years", "The Turbulent Years (1980 to 1996)", "The Coalition Years ( 1996 - 2012 )" and so on.

He had published many articles too - many on politics, some on economics and a few on Constitutional matters. He loves reading and writing. I was told that he reads more than 9-10 Newspapers before breakfast.

Pranab Mukherjee was a perennial pipe smoker. Till his 50s he was smoking pipe, 'Dunhill Pipe'. He normally used fine tobacco for this. As a young man we were very much impressed by his pipe smoking. I myself started pipe smoking when I worked as the government journo.

But I discovered that pipe smoking is very inconvenient at times. Then I shifted to cigarettes. Pranabda stopped smoking pipe after getting his 500th pipe.

Once he said to Jaswant Singh while presenting the Union budget that "I have stopped smoking ( pipe) I advise you to stop drinking, take care of the age also". Actually that was in response to Jaswant Singh's request to slash the duties on liquor as the tax proposal was quite burdensome for the punctual drinkers.

In the last 30 years or so, it has been talked about in the political circle that Pranab Babu's memory is terrific. He is just like a moving library or a mobile encyclopedia. Leaders were quite impressed by his memory power.

Anyone in the Congress circle would love to go to him or refer to him for any precedence or convention in Party matters. During UPA one and two he was made the Chairman of more than 50 GoMs (Group of Ministers for specific purposes). He could handle them properly perhaps because of his tremendous remembering capacity.

Sometimes, I strongly feel that eating fish must be useful to maintain good memory. Pranab Babu was taking fish almost every day (sometimes he didn't take fish, for months together). " Fish fasting " is a term used by his close helpers when Pranab Babu was abstaining from eating fish.

Pranabda himself confessed that he is a foodie. In his own words, he said, "after breakfast I used to ask my mother what she would serve for lunch. After lunch, I inquired about dinner". He was a great lover of fish curry. Eating fish regularly is good for the brain, certainly for retention ability.

Pranab Babu made it very clear in the RSS Headquarters in Nagpur that "Soul of India is pluralism, tolerance and inclusion". Sangh was perhaps insisting for a language, now they are talking about 12 languages and likely to be increased to 22 and more; this is acceptance of pluralism.

NE cows are not real cows (different species), this is again a sign of tolerance to people's eating habits. All are allowed to come to Ram Temple in Ayodhya because Ram is not for a particular religious group only. He belongs to the entire culture of this sub-continent; this is going to be the biggest sign of inclusion.

People hardly knew that he was a Sangh advisor. When Mohanji said, in his obituary, the whole world has come to know that Pranab Babu was a guide for the Parivar too.

Adieu to a great son of India.

* Free Thinker wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on September 11 2020.

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