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.
"The VVIP is returning from the border area in 20 minutes. You and the Superintendent of Police have been called to meet her. Please tell the SP and start immediately. Sorry, we should have mentioned this earlier."
His urgent voice did little to put me at ease.
We rushed to the airport and reached it in the nick of time.
With a pulsating heart and an anxious mind, we saw the Helicopter land. The VVIP exchanged a few words of thanks with Air Force officers and started walking briskly towards us. After formal introductions and greetings, the Union Minister of State for Home, who was accompanying the VVIP, beckoned me to walk with her towards the IAF plane waiting to fly them back to Delhi. My conversation with the VIP ran somewhat as follows:
"How is the morale of the people?"
"In general, quite high, Madam."
"Will some leave District in case?"
"I don't think so, Madam."
"What is the position of supplies in your District?"
"Are the prices of essential goods rising?"
"No, Madam. Not really for the present."
"Are you satisfied with your civil defence arrangement?"
"Yes, I am. Except for the ARP* equipment which has to come from ITI. (Indian Telephone Industries), Bangalore."
"How is it coming? How long will it take to arrive?"
"It is coming by road and will take a week at the minimum to transport it here, and another three or four days to install it at various points."
"Then probably, it will not come in time..."
That said, Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi quickly turned back to wave at us. She then rushed up the staircase of the waiting plane. The plane took off within a couple of minutes.
As events revealed later, Indo-Pak War was a week away. Those three or four precious minutes gave me the rare privilege of personally having talked to the Prime Minister, on the eve of the imminent, though uncertain, war.
© I C Srivastava. Published September 2019.
|< Prev||Next >|