The following family story illumines the greatness, the innate goodness and polite nature of Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India. This is reflected in his meeting with my eldest brother, Vishnu Chandra who went all the way to Delhi to have darshan (glimpse) of and draw inspiration from the head of the newly declared Republic of India.
This memorable event took place in the summer of 1950. At that time, Vishnu, 19 years old, had appeared for his B.A. examination of Allahabad University. During the holidays, he decided to travel to Delhi to meet Dr. Rajendra Prasad, who had already inspired him by his speeches and sacrifice made for the freedom of India. It was also to overcome the dilemma arising from the immediate prospect of unemployment on the one hand and the suppressed desire to pursue higher studies on the other.
After boarding the train, Vishnu was immersed in thought whether his decision was right or wrong. Judging by his looks, a fellow passenger who looked like a well-off Sethji (trader), asked him the destination and the nature of his journey. The young man revealed his determination and purpose to meet the President of India. The trader's empathy prompted him to offer his hospitality to young Vishnu who readily agreed to stay with him for the night. Sethji did not dissuade Vishnu. Instead, he guided him to Rashtrapati Bhawan, as the Viceroy's Palace came to be known soon after the declaration of the Republic. Vishnu 'somehow' managed to reach the gates of Rashtrapati Bhawan.
The security arrangements for the Rashtrapati (President) then were not so tight and scary as they are now. The security man accosted the young man and tried to prevent him from going ahead but in a flash, the young man ran towards the steps of the open platform opening before the front main hall of the Bhawan and started going up. The policeman ran after him but, by then, Vishnu had managed to reach the upper steps.
Hearing the noisy conversation, Dr. Prasad who had just finished his morning Puja (worship and prayers) came out on the wide platform, his wooden slippers making clicking sounds as he walked. He saw the young man and asked him politely, “Tell me where are you from, and what has brought you so far, young boy?" Vishnu bowed and touched Dr. Prasad's feet for charan sparsh. Overwhelmed with emotion, he spoke fearlessly and clearly, “Sir, I have come to meet and draw inspiration from you I come from Allahabad where my family lives. But I have not told anyone in the family about my travel to Delhi and its purpose.”
Having listened to the youth, Dr. Prasad, a picture of humility and courteousness inspiring confidence and trust in the visitor, blessed him with words, “Go back home, young man. Whatever you aspire to become or achieve in life, my blessings will always remain with you". The young man imbibed and as if drank profusely from the fountain of his inspiration. He cherished and treasured the memory of his unforgettable audience of the first President of the Republic of India - the Great Dr. Rajendra Prasad.
© I C Srivastava. Published January 2020