In 1912, the 23-year-old Jawaharlal Nehru returned to India after seven years as a student in England, where he was first a schoolboy at Harrow, then an undergraduate at the University of Cambridge, and lastly at the Inner Temple in London for his bar-at-law. His father, Motilal, a towering leader of the Allahabad bar with a flourishing practice, expected that the young and western-educated Jawaharlal would start as his apprentice and eventually emerge as a barrister of national fame.
It was a pleasant morning with the bright sun filtering through the windows of my spacious office. The date was 25th November 1971. At 11 AM, I was settling into my daily work routine as the Collector of Barmer District in Rajasthan when the telephone rang. It was the Base Commander of Utterlai, the airport on the border with Pakistan. He spoke almost in whispers.
Author's note: My father Sri. O V. Alagesan was a freedom fighter, President, Tamil Nadu Congress Committee, Union Minister and Ambassador at various points of time in his political career. Therefore, he had a close association with Jawaharlal Nehru and Lal Bahadur Shastri. While in jail as a political prisoner, he translated Nehru's Glimpses of World History into Tamil. Hence, this piece of writing contains some of his personal recollections about Panditji.
On 16 December 1971, a ceasefire was declared in the war between India and Pakistan. The day marked the end of hostilities and the end of the war.
In 1971, I was the Collector and District Magistrate of Rajasthan's Barmer district (area over 28000 sq. kms.), which has a border with Pakistan.
After the outbreak of Indo-Pak War on 3 December 1971, Barmer witnessed a series of bombing operations by Pakistani warplanes. These planes would usually fly out from Badin Airfield in what was West Pakistan at that time. On the very first day and the night itself, Pakistan Air Force planes destroyed an Indian Air Force aircraft at Uttarlai airfield in Barmer district and martyred one Indian airman. After random and intermittent bombing of Chohtan, a border tehsil town, and the bed of a rural water tank near Parehpadra Tehsil headquarters, Pakistani warplanes mounted an air assault was mounted on the Railway Station in Barmer city on the night of 8 December 1971.