TODAY -

Natwar Singh And Mani Shankar Aiyar – Above And Beyond Parties

Ningombam Bupenda Meitei *



A reply to my phone call came when I called up on his mobile, saying, "I am busy now in an election campaign in my constituency. Sonia Gandhi is coming. I will call you tomorrow.", after which the phone got disconnected. The next morning, around 10 am, a call on my mobile which turned out to be my alarm, came to wake me up while I was sleeping in Dehradun, I picked up the call and the conversation started for a while. Unfailingly, the caller was the same person who promised me to call me the next day, and the person was none other than Mani Shankar Aiyar.

I have met Mani a few times and invited him for a dinner too after which I had to give my handkerchief to wipe his hands. He told me that his wife was so concerned that he should have dinner on time, which was quite evident from the consistent calls made by his wife to him while I was strolling with him. Mani is such a rare and perhaps the only former Union Cabinet Minister of India and contemporary old dosco of Rajiv Gandhi, who can say all the nine districts of Manipur without handling a paper. Mani did it in St.Stephen's College's auditorium.

Mani told me his less liking for the present Manipur's Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh who also confronted verbally with Mani in All India Congress meet in New Delhi by saying that Mani did not know anything about Manipur. Mani when he was the Union Cabinet Minister, had banged the table of the Chief Minister yelling "Mr.Ibobi, talk to me" when the Chief Minister was quiet inside the Chief Minister's Office in Imphal. Mani besides heading other ministries, served not merely as DONER (Development of North Eastern Region) Minister, but he remains even today as a proud Mani who says that Mani+pur is his own place, as Manipur is a land of Mani. Mani to me, is a gentleman with his esoteric philosophy and elitist egalitarianism.

Mani Shankar Aiyar with the writer
Mani Shankar Aiyar with the writer



His senior both in college days and Indian Foreign Service Natwar Singh shaab, is the person whom I have not met so far, yet, I was told that he was a good hockey player (the game that made me proud to hear as I played hockey since my childhood, school days and college days too) in his college days by an old stephanian the then Governor of Manipur S.S.Siddhu. Natwar shaab, the former Foreign Minister of India, perhaps, would have been more complacent if the palace of Patiala had matrilineage enthroning him as the Maharaja to his Maharani of Patiala. Maharaja Bhupinder Singh who would give his head but never his throne, would perhaps leave no stone unturned to incapacitate such royal ascendancy. Natwar's books and writings have made me a living proud Indian.

It was in the year of 2004 May-June, while I was residing in my uncle's official residence at R.K.Puram, New Delhi, I saw a group photo of Mani standing while Natwar seating on a chair, on Times of India ( if I am not mistaken, because ToI was the only paper taken during my short stay in my uncle's residence ) glorifying the rise of stephanians in the then 14th Lok Sabha. A decade later, I tried finding the same photo but remained all in vain. Yet, surprisingly, an article 'A Friend and a Gentleman' written by Mani on Natwar, came recently on Outlook India which has the photo that I have been searching for ( http://www.outlookindia.com/article/A-Friend-And-A-Gentleman-/291561 ). The photo still remains inspiring even today as it was in 2004, and very dominantly, my interest of joining St.Stephen's College, Delhi was much put in an accelerating pace by such graceful photo of the two former diplomats who had served in Indian Foreign Service and also had served the country under many distinguished Prime Ministers. I came to know about the college while I was studying in class 9 in Sainik School Imphal in the year 2000 when an old stephanian in physics got 11 rank in IAS, namely, Rajkumar Dinesh Singh, who was the first one to kick my interest of joining the college. But, later, the photo of the duo ( Mani and Natwar) was so strong enough that I decided to join only and only St.Stephen's and I got through in Physics in the summer of 2004 with RR (residence) in All Nutt North Block to become a member of ANGA ( All Nutt North Gentlemen’s Association) under the block tutorship of Dr.David Baker, when the highest number of stephanians and the highest number of alumnus from any college in India had gone to Lok Sabha - the House of the People, not only showcasing but also proving the world that the corridors of power in India begins from the stroll in the Main Corridor of the college. It often reminded me of a young resident boy studying in Westminster school unlike Harrow or Eton, peeping out through the window of his dorm to look at The Palace of Westminster. The aura of the college became like the winds over Westminster school.

Mani's impeccable and Greek like long sentences' speech and Natwar's witting and merry writing with historical anecdotes, yet dependent on the interpretations of some historical understanding of his, best known to him, have impacted me with a sense of pride and dignity to assert the role and contributions made by our former Prime Ministers namely Pandit Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi for our country.

May my alma mater produce many more such distinguished servants of mankind and twinkling stars of humanity.

Ad dei gloriam.
( To the glory of God )

Natwar Singh And Mani Shankar Aiyar
Natwar Singh And Mani Shankar Aiyar :: Photograph by : T.Narayan






* Ningombam Bupenda Meitei wrote this article for e-pao.net
Ningombam Bupenda Meitei, an author of two books is a writer and poet based in New Delhi.
The article has been published on The North East Today Magazine.
This article was posted on August 22, 2014.


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