Sunday, Dec 04, 2022
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Bangladesh Diary

Bangladesh Diary

“Mujhe do Punjabi chahiye,” he said. To which the shopkeeper retorted, “Kyon, ek Sindhi nahi chalegi kya?”

Man And Moment

At Calcutta international airport, while we wait for the much-delayed Bangladesh Biman flight to take off, my mind goes back to my first-ever encounter with Dr Manmohan Singh—which was at this airport. I was a junior external affairs officer charged with ensuring relief supplies to Bangladesh to enable them to take back their refugees. Over the next few months, I found myself increasingly drawn into the architecture of our economic relationship with our newly liberated neighbour. One of the steps I took was the establishment of a joint study group on jute and since the economic advisor to the commerce ministry had made his name with his doctoral thesis on international trade in jute, I had asked Dr Singh to kindly head the team from our side. I had not, however, personally met him; so was quite excited about making his acquaintance in the transit lounge while we awaited our connection to Dhaka. With the enthusiasm of youth, I enquired whether he had seen the brief I had delivered to his home in Model Town on the outskirts of Delhi University. With that look of sour annoyance I was to get to see so often in later life, he said, No, he had not. I realised then that I had delivered the top-secret brief to the wrong Manmohan Singh—refugees of that name being rife in Model Town! So when my immediate boss, Peter Sinai, and I returned to Delhi, we rushed out to Model Town and a very old man came out doddering and shaking, the envelope unopened, proclaiming his innocence and wondering who was conspiring to get him involved in “gorment bijness”.


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